The best of weddings make us cry…and it takes one darn good officiant to make that happen! Lately, more and more of our couples are turning to their friends and family, asking them to officiate over one of the most important moments of their life. We love this! One more way to personalize the day and have someone close to them really compliment who they are as a couple and reflect their love story…. but it is no easy feat! Often those that have been honored with the responsibility are left wondering where to begin. This is where one of our favorite officiants J.P. Reynolds comes in! We were so excited to learn that he has written a new book..to help all those novice wedding officiants and first timers out there to conduct the ceremony!
As one of the best in the business, he officiated both our twilight inspired wedding and our dog beach inspired wedding. His expertise really shines through during the ceremonies he is involved with and we are thrilled he has shared his knowledge and wisdom for others to learn from. You can purchase his book “How To Officiate a Non-Denominational Wedding Ceremony” here.
So what are some wise ceremony suggestions from the talented J.P. who after orchestrating 1000 ceremonies has nearly seen it all? We asked J.P. to share a little more advice that we could pass on to all of you!
Here’s what J.P. had to say:
Give thanks for the past. Celebrate the present. Honor the future.
People often think that if they’re not having a religious ceremony, then they’re left with a vaguely imagined “civil” ceremony. However, there is a third alternative––a ceremony that honors the couple’s life in a way that’s warm, personal and has meaningful ritual.
In creating a ceremony I’m guided by three beliefs.
1. The ceremony should be simple, have flow, and not bogged down with rituals needing lengthy explanation.
2. The heart of the ceremony is the vows. Whatever is done prior to the exchange of vows must lead up to that moment.
3. My job is to welcome, cheer, and encourage all present. A ceremony is not a place for a PowerPoint presentation on marriage!
There are many simple moments that can be incorporated into your ceremony, making it personal for you and uplifting for your guests. Here are some of my favorite touches.
Reading: The bride and groom invited another married couple to do a reading together—this couple had set-up the bride and groom on their first date. They looked to this couple as a role model for married life.
Vows: Most couples are uncertain if they want to write their own vows. Many are afraid their vows will sound “cheesy.” Rather than writing “vows,” I suggest you write a “note” in which you tell your partner what he or she means to you. You’re not writing a lengthy letter; rather you’re taking a moment to express something of what is in your heart. Prior to the couple repeating the traditional vows, I invite them to read aloud their words of gratitude. Then, after they’ve each spoken from their heart, they repeat after me some variation of the traditional vows. Many couples like this option because it relieves the stress of writing “vows,” yet gives them a moment to say something personal.
Rings: The couple had a very close relationship with each of their mothers. They wanted to include them in an intimate way and so they had their mothers present the rings—a poignant symbol of blessing and love.
Unity Ritual: This is a twist on the “sand ceremony.” When guests walk up to the sign-in table, they are each invited to place a scoop of white sand into a clear vase. Before the ceremony, the vase is brought up front to a table near where the couple and I will stand. On that table are two bud vases each filled with different colored sand. At the appropriate time, I remind the guests that in ways known and unknown to them their love brought the couple to this moment. The couple then pour their own sand atop the sand already in the vase–symbolizing that their life is built on the love of family and friends.
Music: Although the couple had processed in to music, they asked all their guests to sing the recessional song a cappella—the Beatles’ classic “Will You Still Love Me When I’m 64” (lyrics were printed in the program). Oh, and the bride and groom were each sixty years old!
Lace your ceremony with touches that have emotional meaning to you as a couple and you’ll have a ceremony that reminds guests what life is all about––love, loyalty, family, and friends.
Do that and your guests will head off into the reception excited to celebrate you and the promise of your life together!