It may just be 30 minutes, but your ceremony is the heart of your wedding.
And, quite apart from the etiquette surrounding it, there is a surprising amount of practical detail that can make all the difference on the day.
Continuing our theme of ceremony choreography, check out our tips on seating, photography, music and more.
WHO SEATS THE GUESTS?
It’s useful if one of your ushers remains towards the back, encouraging guests to avoid gaps. Usually, there is a specific number of seats for guests. So you don’t want to find that there is not enough space for everyone. And if there are surplus seats, ushers can help to avoid gaps between the reserved seats and the rest.
SHOULD WE (THE COUPLE) SIT DURING THE CEREMONY?
This is an important aspect of your ceremony choreography. We suggest that you stand during the ceremony. Some venues offer chairs or a bench. However, this creates a difficulty about where your celebrant should stand.
If she or he is behind you, this always looks odd. And it means there is less connection between you. If your celebrant is in front of you, they will have their back to the guests and this will also block your photographer/videographer. However, if you sit side by side at right angles to the guests, they won’t be able to see you both.
Sitting at 45 degrees between your guests and the front of the ceremony area it can work- just about. But it’s not easy to make this work smoothly with the microphone for your vows and exchange of rings. So we suggest that you both stand during the 30 minutes of the ceremony.
CAN OUR GUESTS BRING DRINKS INTO THE CEREMONY AREA?
In general, we find that taking drinks into the ceremonial area isn’t a great idea. Glasses can get knocked over and smashed. This can cause some danger from cut glass around ankles or on seats, especially if there are children present. And we have had red wine or sangria in glasses on the floor near the aisle which is not great as the bride approaches in her white dress complete with train! Your ushers or groomsmen can suggest to guests that they leave their drinks outside the ceremony area.
PHOTOGRAPHS DURING THE CEREMONY
Should the guests take photos during the ceremony? The professional photographer will find it more difficult working around hands with phones in the air, people just popping into the aisle for a moment or Uncle Jim standing all over the place but always in the way!
If you decide that you want to discourage your guests taking photographs, you’ll be part of the trend for ceremonies being “unplugged”. In this case, there are no guest cameras in use and all telephones should be switched off. If you do decide to go down this route, tell the guests in advance. Your celebrant can also make an announcement at the start of the ceremony.
Another announcement some couples request is “We’d like to ask that there is no posting of any photos on social media until the bride and groom have posted first.” Your celebrant can announce your decision on this too. But it can be less intrusive to the flow of the ceremony if you have mentioned this to your guests in advance.
HOW MANY PIECES OF MUSIC DO WE NEED?
You will need two or three pieces of music. The bridal party walk in to the Processional piece which should be a minimum of 2.5 minutes long. If you are signing a ceremonial certificate, we need a piece of music here too. And it’s a pleasant change of pace for everyone to catch their breath after the ceremony. The Recessional piece is played as you walk back down the aisle.
If you have opted for live music, your celebrant will consult with you or your planner and agree cues with the musician/s. Check with your planner that they will have a sound-check beforehand.
If they are not used to doing wedding ceremonies, we find that the timing can be a bit more tricky. If they are not quite sure if it’s the end of the ceremony, you can find yourselves half way back down the aisle by the time they get fully underway.
Take care with your choice of music too. You want something that has a good punchy, happy beat, right from the start of the piece.
Saxophone can be brilliant. Harp music? As it’s such a delicate sound, it’s best to save it for the cocktail hour.
What about having a live singer (perhaps a talented friend has offered her services) with a backing tape? This can be great. Make sure you have discussed this with your sound technician in advance. That way they can download the right (instrumental-only) version of the song you want.
MICROPHONES, PA AND SOUND SYSTEM
This crucial element of your ceremony choreography is often overlooked. If you have a wedding planner, they will generally have arranged with you that there is a sound engineer and sound system for the ceremony.
As you will be needing sound equipment for most parts of the wedding, it makes sense to have the same provider supplying this.
They can move different parts of the equipment to the different areas of the venue. And they can give you a price for the whole day. Make sure you have sent them your music choices for each part of the wedding well in advance. Then the sound team will download them ready to play.
Your celebrant will normally use a handheld microphone. He or she will move this nearer to you when it is your turn to speak. You don’t usually need to take the microphone in your own hands. The exception is if you have decided to read your own vows.
We always recommend the use of a microphone, even for small gatherings. This allows the celebrant and the couple to speak with normal volume and inflection. And they can then still be heard by everyone present. And of course, a PA system is also needed to play your music for your arrival and walk back down the aisle.
So- vows made, readings read, rings exchanged; what happens now? After your celebrant pronounces you married, you and your wedding party will walk back down the aisle in what’s called the Recessional.
First, as the bride, make sure you remember your bouquet. It might have been placed on a table in the ceremony area. Or your chief bridesmaid may have been looking after it.
She will now pass it to you. She might also rearrange the dress, ready for your walk down the aisle.
As your recessional music ramps, up, you, the newlyweds, lead the way down the aisle. If you are having a petal shower, your guests will now do their thing. (Bear in mind that in Mallorca, petals are fine but confetti or rice aren’t usually allowed).
Usually, at this stage of the ceremony choreography, there is a bit of a gap to allow the photographer to capture the happy moments.
Then come the flower girl/s, followed by the bridesmaids, singly or in pairs, and then the best man.
If you have a lot of bridesmaids and groomsmen, they can walk back down the aisle in pairs.
After that, the parents and close family members will generally follow. Then come the rest of the guests, exiting row by row from the front. Generally, we find it’s best if you (the couple), keep right on walking after you reach the end of the aisle. This allows space for the guests to exit.
We suggest you go to where you are having drinks and then mingle with your guests there. If you get stalled in the ceremony area, guests can end up standing for ages in the aisle. This delays the start of your cocktail time which can have a knock on effect on your dinner also.
So, that’s it! We hope these tips about your ceremony choreography have hit the spot. If there is anything we haven’t covered or that you have questions about, drop us a line in the comments section and we’ll get right onto it!