Thursday, December 13, 2012

Wedding Etiquette

Being that I officiate weddings 7 days a week in Las Vegas, I have the pleasure of seeing some of the most beautiful moments in a couple’s life. These moments are what make my job the most exciting. I actually look forward to going into work to meet these people, to hear their stories, to feel their emotion. It is what feeds my soul. I am probably one of the very few people who can say “I love my job”.

I can write an entire post about the wonderful times I have while being a Wedding Officiant, and trust me, there are many already, however this particular article will be about all of the things that I see that should NEVER be done. You may not believe it now, but trust me, there can be some really terrible actions that some individuals do without thinking that it can ruin someone’s wedding. Most of these do not pertain to the Bride or the Groom, this is their day, and you know that they want it to be perfect.

Below you will find a list of what not to do at a wedding. This list is not meant to offend anyone, it is simply an expression of knowledge that can be useful for educational purposes, a precaution if you will. Some of these items listed have split up friendships, families, relationships, etc… So if you are attending a wedding anytime soon, please remember what you have learned about Wedding Etiquette.

1.       Power Off All Electronic Devices: This is the very first thing that you should do upon entering the location where the ceremony will take place. Whether it being in a church, a Wedding Chapel, a private residence/function, it does not matter if you are in a large open area and sitting in the very last seat far in the back, someone will still hear it if it goes off. This goes for any and all electronic devices (or anything that makes noise for that matter), cell phones, cameras, video cameras, pagers, smoke signals, homing Pigeons, and so forth…

Now, I recommend to power off the device and not just set it to vibrate. Even on vibrate the annoying humming noise can easily be heard. Also, some phones can be put on silent and the alarm can still go off if it is set. I made this mistake when I just got a new phone. I just silenced it and my alarm went off while I was in the middle of the ceremony. I checked the settings, but unlike my old phone, there is no option to automatically disable the alarm if the phone is in silent mode.

You have to remember that once the ceremony starts, you can hear the slightest noise. This is very rude and distracting. Not only will the attention be taken away from the bride and groom, but it will ruin any videos that may be recording and can easily throw off the Offciant. I cannot stress how important this day is to the couple. There are no re-do’s. The couple will live with that memory for the rest of their lives.

2.       Stay Seated: Some guests like to get out of their seats to get a better photo of the bride and groom and others just like to be stubborn and not sit at all. The purpose of sitting is quite simple to understand. You need to stay seated the entire ceremony, unless instructed otherwise by the Officiant, because the Photographers and Videographers will be all over the place trying to get the best view of the bride and groom. They were hired by the bride and groom to document THEIR memories as THEY wanted.

Sometimes the pews have candles fastened to the edges closest to the aisle. I have seen many people grab the pew in front of them to help them stand up. Doing so can shift the pew and knock the lit candle on the aisle. I have saved several weddings because no one will notice what they have done (or want to admit it) and the candle is simply burning away. Yeah, I’m a hero…

Overall, standing will affect the outcome because the hired professionals are being forced to capture their emotions another way without you in the frame. Keep in mind that the bride and groom are probably going to share their footage with the rest of their family, now and in the future. Don’t take their moment away.

3.       Keep Alcohol Consumption To A Minimum: Out of all the days you have to drink and get drunk, this should not be one of them…not yet at least. Save it for after the ceremony. I know that the bride and groom can get nervous at times and may want something to take the edge off, but know your limits. The Wedding Officiant has the right to not marry you because he/she may think you are too inebriated. Even if you haven’t had very much, the smell of alcohol will throw red flags. This is a law and it normally will state it very clearly when you go to get a marriage license.

Even worse, if your guests have been drinking and making too much noise, the facility can ask them to leave. If it is a place like a chapel in Las Vegas, then they have weddings one after the other. Having to deal with someone who is drunk and being difficult will just delay the ceremony. The chapel will not risk pushing back the next wedding because they cannot control themselves, and they will not hesitate to reschedule you. You have the rest of the day after the wedding to party and drink. Don’t risk being turned away.

4.       As Quiet As A Mouse: Once the wedding ceremony has started, everyone in the room should be absolutely quite. For the same reasons as explained in silencing your electronic devices, but also because most weddings have some sort of audio recording device to capture the bride and groom as they say their vows. These devices are very powerful and it can pick up the slightest whisper, and your most inner thoughts. You would be surprised how many times I have played a video back and you can hear nothing but the people in the back row whispering to each other. It’s just plain rude. All the attention should be on the bride right now and not what you have just read on Facebook.

5.       Find A Babysitter: Now this one can be a bit touchy for some. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love children, however unless they are involved in the wedding, i.e. wedding party, flower girl, ring bearer, then they should be left at home. If the wedding is out of town, it may be a good idea to bring someone who can specifically watch the child somewhere away from where the ceremony is taking place.

I don’t necessarily mean all children. I mean come on now, use your judgment. They are your kids and you know them better than anyone. If you know that they will not sit quietly, then you should already have your answer. If you know your child will be well behaved, and it has been approved by the bride and groom, then dress the children for the occasion and enjoy the wedding.

Now, if children have been allowed to attend the wedding, and you have no choice but to bring them, please make sure that you get a seat at the edge of the pew or seat. You want to be able to easily walk out of the ceremony the moment your child starts to act fussy (this includes children in the wedding party). I cannot tell you how many times I have performed a ceremony and have politely asked prior to starting to leave the room if that happens and they stay in the room trying to get them to stop crying through the whole ceremony. The problem with that is, now not only can everyone hear the crying of the child, but now we have to hear “SHHHHHHHHHH! No, crying. Don’t cry”.

The Wedding Officiant is not going to stop the ceremony because someone is talking or making noise. You are an adult, and you should know that it is rude to do this to the bride and groom. You know exactly what everyone in the room is thinking, just like if you were in a movie theater.

6.       Photography: Depending on the event, there may or may not be personal photos allowed. This means camera phones as well. Some find this absolutely ridiculous, but you have to understand the business.

If the bride and groom have hired their own photographer, chances are they spent $1000 or more on the photos and prints. So, if you are trying to take a photo while the Professional Photographer is trying to, then your flash will affect the quality of the image. The Photographer has the camera set just perfect for the lighting and area where the ceremony is taking place. A flash is simply adding additional light which bounces off the walls and stationary objects to make their photos overexposed and washed out.

Some places will allow the talking of your own photos. Normally they will ask that you refrain from using your flash to avoid an obstruction towards the Photographer. I would recommend that you alternate turns, waiting for the photographer to take his photo before taking yours. Also, just because you are allowed to take pictures, you should still abide by the rules of keep seated and keeping the camera function silent. You can find that function in your camera settings. Normally it will be listed as the “Shutter Sound”.

If you are attending a wedding in Las Vegas, you should ask a few days before the wedding about their policies on personal photography. I can tell you now, 99% of the Chapels in Las Vegas DO NOT allow personal photography. This is mainly because the photographers are not employees of the chapel. They are an independent contracting company which the chapels are contracted with to allow the taking and selling photos in their establishment. This means that the bride and groom had to sign a contract with all of the chapel policies, including a “No Photography” policy.

If any of the guests take any photos anywhere on their property (inside or out), then the BRIDE AND GROOM will normally be charged a fee on the card they have on file. I have seen this fee go as high as a few hundred dollars, but it normally is never less than $100. As a courtesy, the chapel will tell you once or twice if they see the cameras, but if it continues, they will charge away. It is not a good to find out that they have been charged because their guests cannot follow the rules.

On top of being charged a fee for breaking the contract, the wedding can be canceled and you would not be able to receive a refund since that too is in their contract. Since all the ministers are independent contractors too, we are instructed by the chapel that if anyone does take a photo, then we have to stop the ceremony and wait until the cameras are put away. I really don’t like doing that, but I also don’t want to lose your spot at that chapel.

7.       Dress For The Occasion: This is pretty easy. You are going to a wedding. Just dress up. I see so many times where the family of one side is dressed up and then family from the other side come in with jeans and a t-shirt. “Awkward!” You don’t have to go out of your way to look decent for the wedding. A button up shirt and dress pants will be fine. No prints, just solid colors. Tie optional.

The bride and groom, in my opinion, should always dress up. My ceremony is very romantic and I put a lot of emotion and compassion into it. When people come not dressed, it is kind of an insult to me. Not to mention, to others it looks like they really don’t care and aren’t taking this seriously.

Since you are dressing the part, I may as well mention to smell the part too. Please make sure you take extra measures to make sure you have proper hygiene. This includes showering and brushing your teeth. I meet many people throughout the day, and occasionally I am appalled of smells that drift my way. Even from drinking alcohol the night before will make you very “ripe” the next day. You may not be able to smell it, but it will seep through your pores and be very overpowering. Don’t be ashamed to smell pretty.

8.       No Food Or Drinks: You can probably imagine why. In my case, there are weddings one after the other. If someone from a wedding brings in and food or drinks and it spills, there isn’t enough time to get it cleaned up. We certainly will not be able to remove a stain the same day either.

You may be able to bring in a water bottle with a lid. This way it cannot spill and in it happens to spill a little, it can easily be wiped without leaving a stain. Alcohol will not be permitted inside the place of service.

One other item is gum. For adults it is fine, but please do not give it to children. The gum will always end up on the seats and in the carpet and floors. That is something that is really difficult to attend to when you are being rushed to get the next wedding in and situated. Instead of gum, bring some mints.

9.       Be Happy: Come into the establishment where the wedding is taking place with a positive attitude. If you come in thinking you are not going to have a good time, chances are you are not going to have a good time. Be kind to everyone, as well as the staff, and you will have a wonderful time and remember this moment for the rest of your life.

 I get so many people (mainly the Maid of Honor) who think they have to be controlling in order for everything to go as planned. They start bossing the chapel workers around and think they have to find something wrong. First, if you come in looking for something wrong, then you are really going to end up making the bride regret ever making you her Maid of Honor. The Officiant and staff do not want to deal with anyone other than the bride and groom. As a maid of honor, you should set the tone among the women in the bridal party, not the staff. Trust me, they already know what they are doing and have done it several times before. Stay cool and never out shine the bride.

10.   Respect The D├ęcor: There was a lot of time and money spent on decorating for someone’s wedding. In a Las Vegas Wedding Chapel, there is the daily maintenance of having to fix, alter, or replace something that one of the guests broke during a ceremony. These items are not toys folks. Please do not try to pick any items up or remove them. They were added on by the bride and groom, and I am sure they wouldn’t want you breaking what they had to pay for.

Also, please, once you see the aisle runner down the aisle, do not walk on it whatsoever. Once it is laid out, you can tear it or snag it and make it wrinkle and move. If it does tear or move, you put the wedding party and the bride at risk for tripping over it and falling upon entering. Rule of thumb is, once you see the aisle runner rolled out, the candles are lit, and rose pedals are down, then the ceremony is about to start and no one should be out of their seats from that moment.

Remember, this is the bride's day. It is your job is to assist the bride by following any rules given as to help her day be as carefree and special as possible. One day it will be you at the altar hoping your guests know the Wedding Etiquette.

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