YOUR CELEBRANT AND YOUR VOWS

Your wedding vows are the focus of your entire wedding ceremony – they’re an affirmation of your relationship and a declaration of the promises you make to your partner. Writing your vows can also be one of the most difficult parts of wedding planning.

If you’re not naturally gifted with words, it can be impossible to articulate your feelings without coming across like a bad romance novel. Don’t worry – writing your own vows doesn’t have to be as difficult as you thought.

Brainstorm with Your Partner Like every other major aspect of wedding planning, writing your vows should begin with a discussion with your partner. Grab a pen and paper and jot down some ideas. Talk about the principles and ideals that have guided your relationship, and the promises you want to make to each other. Write down all your ideas – even if they seem silly, cliché or soppy.

Writing the vows Go over everything you’ve written down and pull passages and fragments to incorporate into your vows. You could do this together, or separately, keeping your vows secret until the wedding day. Your vows don’t have to be a work of art. All that matters is that you’re sincere – and that you don’t waffle on for pages! You can express a lot with a few well-chosen phrases.

Ask your celebrant to look over your vows and help you express your ideas. They can fix clumsy wording and suggest alternative phrases to make your vows truly beautiful.

Exchanging Vows Most couples read them aloud during their wedding ceremony. When you declare your vows to each other in the presence of your friends and family, you’re making your commitment public and official. Ensure you give your celebrant a copy before the ceremony. It’s not recommended that you memorise your vows – with all the emotion of the day you’re liable to forget them! You’re better of reading them.

Writing your own wedding vows can be a tough creative challenge, especially if you’re not good at expressing yourself in words. But when you’re standing before your family and friends and looking into the eyes of your partner, you’ll be glad you took the time to create vows that reflect your own ideals and relationship.

And remember, your celebrant has good experience with this aspect and will be more than willing to help you!

PEARLS OF WISDOM

There are many ways you can create memories at your wedding. I’ll start by saying this is not my original idea. I came across it many years ago in some training material and it also features in Peter Merry’s book “The Best Wedding Reception Ever”. On a side note, if you see something you like for your wedding, look for ways you can make it even better and more reflective of your personalities.

Here is my take on this activity. There is often time to fill between orders being taken and the entrées being served, or between the entrée and main, and at many other points for that matter. This activity can be a great way to fill that time and also provide you with a great personal guestbook.

At a recent wedding, I went around each table and asked “who will be responsible for this table’s pens? ” I then handed over a couple of pens saying “I’ll let you know what they are for shortly.” Timing for explaining the activity will vary, based on the timeline and flow you require.

When the time is right, explain that you would like guests to place their “pearls of wisdom” on how to live a long and happy marriage on the back of their name cards (if there aren’t cards, ensure you have bits of paper handy). Let them know what happens next.

Option 1: Have the MC collect the completed cards and sort through them, picking ones that go well together and link to speeches or other activities they will be announcing. Have them read selected quotes at various times throughout the evening. This works particularly well if you have a talented MC who can create these links and relay the messages with emotion or the appropriate comedic delivery.

Option 2: Have one person from each table share their “pearl”. Those at that table get to decide which one will be read out. In this scenario, you need to be confident that the chosen wisdom will be fit for the entire audience!

Don’t forget to collect all cards, whether the’re read out or not, and place them in an album or scrapbook as a memento.

Other variations on this activity:

• Have guests come up with names for your first born child

• Ask guests “What does love mean to you? ”

• Use a blackboard or stiff cardboard with sharpies for them to write on rather than name cards. Have this framed after the wedding.

CHOOSING YOUR CELEBRANT

Your celebrant can make or break your wedding ceremony, so it’s important to choose wisely!

You need to feel comfortable in their presence as you’ll be discussing some of your most intimate details with them. There needs to be a definite level of trust.

If you haven’t seen a celebrant in action that you adore or had one recommended to you by someone whose judgement you trust, then head to the Celebrants Association of New Zealand website. Choosing a celebrant from amongst their members will ensure you of their professionalism and legal registration … after all, you do want it to be legal, don’t you!

How many times you meet with your celebant prior to the actual wedding day can vary. Obviously there’s the initial consultation, either in person or via Skype. They’ll need a good hour of your time so that they can learn your story and find out what makes your union special and unique. This will help them to define the type of service they’ll offer.

If you need assistance writing your vows, ensure you seek advice from your celebrant. Remember that they’ve done this for many other couples and know the pitfalls to avoid.

A busy celebrant will likely know your venue, but it’s still a great idea to have them present at the rehearsal. They’ll run through your time frames, organise the best places for your bridal party to stand, and generally be able to assist you with any tricks that spring to light at the last minute.

These days, there are celebrants who stay on after the ceremony and take the role of MC for the night. Given that they’ve likely got to know you as a couple and understand your dreams for the rest of the vent, they’re a good choice if you don’t already have an MC chosen.

As for cost, it varies greatly from person to person. In fact, we’ve heard figures bandied around from $200 to $700. Ask their fee upfront if it’s not listed on their website! Sometimes it’s worth paying more for a celebrant you adore – skimp somewhere else if you have to!

Pre-dinner

Pre-dinner You may want to carry on the cocktail hour playlist or go for something more upbeat. Bear in mind that this is still a time for background music in terms of volume, but your guests will be feeling in a more jovial mood so reflect that in your song choices.

Dinner If you haven’t yet made an upbeat background playlist yet then this is the time. Food is being served, speeches are being made and guests are chattering away, the music should reflect the mood, but be kept on the down low.

First dance As with the processional/recessional music choices, a romantic or comical first dance song is usually chosen – sometimes both! You can also add in more specific songs here for a father-daughter and mother-son dance.

Dancing Now it’s time to crank it up and get the party started, upbeat fast songs are best to keep guests on the dance floor, but throw a slow one in every so often too for the lovebirds, and for the oldies to catch their breath. If your guests span a few generations, as most weddings do, give consideration to that by mixing up the genre – a dash of Elvis, a splash of hip hop, a little rock … and a bit of roll.

Other opportunities for a signature or meaningful tune include the cake cutting, the bouquet or garter toss and, of course, the last song.

MUSIC THE GREAT UNITER

Music seems to either be a couple’s top priority or their last decision. Since it’s role is so important in terms of atmosphere, it’s really important to get it right.

Pre-Ceremony If you’re not having a live musician for your ceremony, you’ll need at least an hour’s worth of soft and casual music on your playlist. Good background music will make your guests feel comfortable and what you play reflects their mood, so consider that when selecting your songs.

Processional You will generally only need one song as you walk down the aisle. Most couples pick a romantic number, but this is a good opportunity to pick a song that reflects you as a couple.

Recessional When the ceremony ends and the newly wed couple make their way out, everyone is in celebratory mode, which is why couples tend to choose an upbeat song, usually something comical or fun.

Cocktail hour Your can use your pre-ceremony playlist again here. Casual background music will keep the mood alive but allow your guests to converse easily and not get distracted by the music.

Bridal party entrance It isn’t essential to have a specific song for your entrance, but some couples use this moment as an opportunity to inject some fun into the evening by choosing a funny song.

IT’S ALL A GAME

Something to consider, especially for fine weather day time outdoor weddings, is amusements for your guests. Evening weddings will tend to fill the reception hours with music and dancing. While this isn’t out of the question outdoors, you’ll need to perhaps consider hiring a dance floor.

The alternative is to dot the venue’s ground with games, and you can’t go wrong with giant chess or jenga, lawn bowls, crochet or toss-the-hoop style games.

You could also think outside the square and order up a few carnival themed amusements, such as a kissing booth, coconut shy or even a fortune telling booth!

Companies such as Vintage Amusement Co offer hand-painted signage and a full design and consultation service. In fact, they can create an entire carnival for your guests’ enjoyment!

SONGS OR MUSIC YOUR CHOICE!

Gone are the days when your only option for your grand entrance was a bridal march. While this traditional piece of music still has its place, today’s wedding music selections are extensive. Songs do tend to have their own expiry date, with favourites like Beautiful Day finishing every ceremony in one wedding season. A great combination of songs can make or break a wedding, the lyrics setting the tone for the celebration and reflecting you as a couple.

Where do you start if you don’t have a special song that means something to you, the one you both listened to when you first met or a tune that reminds you of a key milestone in your relationship? We often suggest our clients think about what songs they’ve heard at other weddings that stood out. Perhaps there’s a special song your parents had at their wedding. You can search Top 20 wedding songs on the internet and, while you do risk generating lists from everything including Celine Dion to Elton John, there is plenty of inspiration out there to help with what’s current.

Another important thing to consider is whether the music is appropriate for the style of your wedding; does it fit your personalities and who you are as a couple; are the songs long enough to get everyone down the aisle or do you need two separate pieces of music?

There are usually four key pieces of music selected for a wedding:

• The bridesmaids’ and bride’s entrance – a meaningful and slow piece is usually chosen. There can be two songs if the bride would like her own entrance song.

• Signing of the marriage licence – often two songs at least due to the length of time taken for everyone to do the officials.

• Procession at the conclusion of the ceremony – this should be upbeat and set the tone for forthcomnig celebration.

• First Dance – well, there are no rules for this one – it all depends on what magically choreographed routine you’ve managed to perfect!

Some couples also opt for a song announcing their arrival at the reception, however this is not always a must have.

Memorable photos

Memorable photos Guests at weddings loooove to take photos … and what better way to provide them with that opportunity than with a photo booth. In 2017 you can forget about traditional photo booths and say hello to some slomo booths, GIF booths other interesting options that will entertain your guests for hours. Plus, you can program your booth to text photos and videos directly to your guests’ phones, so they can share and upload fresh images from your wedding and take many amazing memories home with them.

Couples are also going crazy for interesting and imaginative photos in wild locations, poses and themes. If you want your wedding photos to be memorable too, you can consult experts in wedding photography who will no doubt add their own amazing ideas and then bring it all to life with their skills.

Unique menus Many couples choose to tell their unique love story through food. They often choose to serve dishes that represent their culture, match the venue or remind them of the place where they met and fell in love. Wedding caterers are working closely with couples in order to create unique menus for their special day. Your guests will still get their standard fish, beef and vegetarian options, but this time with an interesting twist. Many couples also opt to go local, serving traditional meals made with local ingredients that are in season.

Drink up Same goes with drinks. Serve your guests your favourite drink or cocktail. Interesting and imaginative drinks are great conversation starters and often cheaper than an open bar. You can even turn your cocktail into an ice pop – perfect for summer ceremonies. Rosé wine will be present everywhere. Expect to see rosés in the wine selection, in a champagne form or during the cocktail hour. You can’t go wrong with rosé, especially for the colour it will add.

Naturally you don’t have to incorporate all of these into your wedding, but feel free to spice it up with some of these new 2017 trends to blow your guests away.

FIRST DANCE

If a choreographed first dance is good enough for Justin Timerblake, surely you should consider it, too? Just like Justin, you can keep your lessons a secret from everyone else … and then blow their socks off on the big day!

Sophie Day, author of The Secret Quintessentially Weddings Guide, said at the time that Timberlake could revolutionise the stereotype of a quick shuffle around the floor for first dances.

“While even the likes of President Obama and even Mick Jagger have been described as ‘dad dancers’, a little coaching can get your groom up to Timberlake standard in no time,” she said. “It’s all about confidence and the best way to grow confidence is with lessons.”

Karen Hardy, Strictly Come Dancing champion, put together the following top tips for grooms looking to avoid ‘dad dancing’ and err on the side of smooth.

• Move naturally and with confidence to start with. Don’t risk your more unbridled moves until the cheers say you should.

• A drink or partner in one hand is often useful as then you only have to think about the one other flailing.

• If you’re going for natty older rocker, think Bruce/The Boss rather than Jagger for tight shoulder shrugs, standing with your legs slightly apart in an upturned V shape, and tap alternate legs. Perhaps lace it with the odd hip wiggle and nod of the head.

• Footwork should be sophisticated and light, but not fey. When you get to the point where you want to add a flourish, go with a subtle spin with your right foot tucked in front of your left, and propel with the balls of your feet. You want Astaire rather than Fagin here.

• Keep your core strong, and your knees relaxed to stop you looking too rigid.

If in doubt at any time, just think “what would Tom Ford, George Clooney or Bryan Ferry do? ”

TIME TIPS

Whatever you do, on the day, be prepared so that you can relax and enjoy it all. One way to do this is to have a time line of the day prepared, and ensure that everyone who should know has a copy. Don’t sell yourself short by cutting things too fine, and then panicking because you’re running way over time! Give yourself plenty of leeway.

Getting ready should be a fun time with your maids and mum. Allow plenty of time for your hair and makeup artist to work their magic. If your photographer is in attendance during your prep time, allocate a few precious minutes for them to get close up shots of your dress, shoes, hair, flowers, rings and other important accessories. It’s also fun to have a few photos taken during the hair and makeup stages.

While the bridal party photos may be heaps of fun, they can drag over on time. It’s awkward for the guests to wait around for 2 or 3 hours, even if you’ve plied them with drinks and nibbles and provided a little entertainment. They’re there to share the day with you – not a fire eater or musician!

If you’re planning on a first look with your partner, allocate a decent amount of time. It’s such a special moment for the two of you, and the last thing you want mid-tears and heartfelt emotions is to be nagged to leave!

If your venue is in an area renowned for fabulous sunsets, and your wedding is scheduled for mid to late afternoon, ask your photographer if they’d like to shoot while the sun is dipping. If the answer is yes, plan for this in your schedule well ahead of time – you might need to shift a few things around to make it work, but that romantic shot may make all the juggling worth while.

Don’t let speeches drag on. Have your MC or DJ prepped to keep things under control. Running late could spoil the timing of food coming out of the kitchen. Plus, if you have set a cut off time for your photographer, videographer and DJ, you may well find they’re ready to leave before you’ve had your first dance!

Talkng of food … make sure you allocate time for yourself to actually eat. So many newly weds don’t!

Lastly, envisage this … everyone is having the time of their lives and the party is just revving up at 10pm, but the DJ and photographer are getting ready to leave because that’s the time you agreed. To avoid situations like this, discuss with the venue and any essential suppliers how much extra they would charge if you did want them to hang around for another hour or two.