Sunday, July 14, 2013

Involve the Minister Early in the Wedding Planning Process

A Good Rule of Thumb ...
Once a couple has determined the most desired dates for their wedding, checked with key family members and friends to assess their ability to be present, and  talked to their favorite venue as to availability for the dates ... THEN it is time to talk to those ministers (or other celebrants) with whom there is a comfortability. Ask if they are also available for those dates. Quite frankly, with notes in hand and dates established with a venue THAT is the time to press on and make contact with all participants. Too often couples linger too long for completing their list of key personnel. Regretfully the minister is often near the bottom of the list. 

An Important Reminder
I am aware that many couples have limited exposure to ministers who seek to personalize a ceremony, making it intimate to them and their special audience. However, that is what my husband and myself do, and it is indeed different than so many very defined weddings. The intimacy  of a relationship and its depth of meaning to a couple will be fully expressed, whether a religiously oriented or a non-religious ceremony.

The Ceremony is the HEART of a Wedding Plan
I say it often and I mean it sincerely ... this is THE most important ceremony in a couple's life.  It is that time when two people face each other, before their most cherished friends, and declare to each other that each will be the support system totally committed for the well-being of the other for a lifetime.  The audience in a wedding is coming for that special memory when this relationship reached a new plateau. They did not come for the food,  the music, the dancing ...  those are the party elements which they can find at home. They come for the serious celebration, and then enjoy the other opportunities to celebrate openly with a couple.
But -  never think for a moment that the words that a couple will speak to each other, and have expressed by their minister, are not important. They are vital expressions which last with all who are present for their lifetimes. It is a precious gift when a couple shares this sacred happening.

Both Partners Need to Feel comfortable with their Minister
Several prior phone conversations or e-mail exchanges, perhaps even a meeting, will allow for a couple to establish a comfort zone. For some that will involve a trip to Charlottesville, Virginia, while distance or work schedules simply prohibit many from a visit.  Only about half of the couples we marry are able to meet personally before the wedding date.

A Meeting Before or After an Agreement has Merit
The personal meeting has never been a determining factor in preparation for a ceremony. Yes, a personal meeting does allow for easing the minds of many couples, but our use of questionnaires for each partner has provided a significant route through writing for knowing so very much. Each questionnaire is e-mailed separately to each partner with a request of no discussion with the other partner. I know the answers are indeed coming from each partner without the influence of the other. These questionnaires are NOT a test; they are a tool for learning of hopes and dreams and other matters of the heart.  The core theme of all my weddings is the love of two people. When each partner offers candid, open feelings about their relationship and goals for this journey, I will have the ingredients for a true reflection of their love affair.

Remember - professional wedding ministers are constantly receiving inquiries
When I provide a response to an inquiry, it is always based on a specific date(s) and time of day. The venue may change, but as long as it is within reasonable distance from the initial site, that is not a problem.  Date, time and town location are key items for an agreement. I also say that "at this writing I am available for your wedding date." Promises cannot be made until I receive a request for my participation, check again for availability, make sure that the couple has reviewed details from which to make a decision, and then I e-mail the wedding agreement. Initially,  I dispatch a detailed attachment to an e-mail with some initial questions, costs, suggestions, etc. In other words, a couple is immediately provided enough details for securing my services. DETAILS are important and in writing to the degree possible.  I will then hold the date while awaiting the return of the wedding agreement with a deposit for return by regular mail.  There is no obligation until a couple e-mails a specific request for my participation.

Some Final Thoughts
This posting is not meant to be a list of do's and do not's. It is an opportunity for a couple to consider the importance of the ceremony and the start of something really big!  It is a chance to think about the importance of this choice in life, and by writing about it in some small degree may awaken an even deeper appreciation of the words and phrases to be said.  Use these ideas as a guide, and once you have selected a minister, please remember to acknowledge the input of other ministers and celebrants.  No explanation is necessary as to why a couple is going in another direction. Perhaps it is a sense of needing a representative of a particular faith, or trying to honor some wishes of parents. Whatever reasons for a decision, it is a couple's joint collaboration, and that is what is important in maintaining a marriage. Within a week of receiving all details, and having conversation, and certainly after a personal meeting, it is so very respectful to simply contact a minister and relate your decision.  Just sharing.