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Tips from the Altar

How to wed happily


     For the many couples committing to marriage this year, I offer some tips that I have learned in the past 10 years of officiating at weddings. These are not the words of advice from popular bridal magazines, but rather practical suggestions that will make your day go a bit smoother. Let’s begin with …

      It’s not your wedding: If I had a nickel for each time a couple told me that they want a ceremony that’s “short and simple,” I could buy a car. Of course the name Matchbox would be stamped on it, but still. You may want your ceremony to be short and sweet, but your relatives don’t. Your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles want to see something special. Moms and aunts want to dab their eyes, fathers are already crying about the expense and grandparents want to find the bathroom. Your friends want a party, but your relatives want a wedding. 

     Get contracts for everything: Every vendor you hire should have a contract specifying, in detail, what is expected of them. The florist, for example, should list the type and color of flowers in the bouquet down to the floral arrangements throughout the venue. The officiant, venue, photographer, D.J, caterer and anyone else you are paying should have a contract. If they don’t, find someone else. And speaking of contracts …

      Ask if you can pay, in full, with a post-dated check: Once you walk down the aisle as husband and wife, you will be pulled in 20 different directions throughout the day. The last person you want pulling on you is someone with a hand out for a check. I ask my clients to pay, in full, at the rehearsal, with a post-dated check. If the wedding is on Saturday, the check will be dated for the following Tuesday. If something happens to me on the way to the wedding, the couple can cancel the check. If you ordered mini-crab cakes for your reception and the caterer delivered weenie-tots, you can cancel the check and renegotiate the price later. It’s always easier to renegotiate than get reimbursed. 

      Professional dress is a must: I have seen D.J.s and photographers arrive at weddings wearing T-shirts and torn jeans. Yes, that may be the style the kids are wearing today for school, but not for a wedding. Insist, (again, check your contract) that they arrive in appropriate dress. You don’t want your guests thinking that panhandlers are drifting through your reception. 

      Don’t stress over the small stuff: I had a bride so upset over her floral arrangements that she bought flowers from a local grocer and made her own arrangements. Since she did not have a commercial refrigerator, all of her flowers were wilted on the day of her wedding. Had she gone with the original flowers, no one would have noticed and she could have dealt with the florist later. (See post-dated check.)

      Just assume something will go wrong, from the groom wearing one brown and one black sock to misplaced rings to wandering children. No one will remember. The only thing some people may remember is if someone in your party spontaneously bursts into flame. Even that depends on how generously the bartender is pouring. 

      Your wedding day will be a marathon: If this is your first wedding, you will feel overwhelmed. I compare it to an Olympic event where the guy with the starter pistol is at the foot of your bed. Instead of an alarm, he fires the gun, and you’re off! The day will go by in minutes rather than hours.

      My advice: During your reception, take the time to talk to your relatives you don’t see very often and those who traveled a good distance to be there. You can see your friends anytime, but at the end of the day you will find yourself wishing that you had given more time to Uncle Ed and Aunt Rose. 


     I could go on, but I have laundry to do. I will leave you with the words of my wife the day after our wedding. She told our guests, “If we get divorced tomorrow, the party was worth it.” That was 13 years ago and we’re still married.

     Enjoy your day; enjoy the moment.