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Planning the Ceremony

Planning_Ceremony_0The most important part of your wedding day is the wedding ceremony itself, period. No matter how nice everything else might be, it's all just icing on the cake -- expensive icing, sure, but icing nonetheless. The only reason it's all there is to dress up the ceremony. That's right: the wedding singer, that huge reception hall and all that food, the dancing, the honeymoon night; all that's for naught without the ceremony. Though you can be sure that all the vendors will want you to pay for it anyway, no matter what happens.

In our modern society, you have plenty of choices when it comes to the type of wedding ceremony you want to experience. An informal wedding may be the simplest to plan out, though of course most brides want to go through the whole white-dress church wedding thing that's been traditional for lo these many centuries. For most of us, it's like that old-time religion: if it was good enough for our ancestors, it's good enough for us. Then there's the high-falutin' new practice of the destination wedding, where you run off to somewhere like Hawaii or Paris, dragging along your entire wedding party for a truly unique and unforgettable experience. Whichever option you choose -- as long as you're not planning to pop in at the Justice of the Peace or a chapel in Las Vegas -- you'll need to sit down and spend some time planning the ceremony itself. There's a reason why the average wedding takes 250 hours to plan, and this is one of them. 

Your marriage should reflect your personalities, as least to some extent. On the other hand, if you're strongly religious or simply wish to hew closely to family or religious tradition, you'll need to make allowances for other factors. You're unlikely to be able to mix the free and easy aspects of an informal wedding with a traditional Catholic wedding -- or for that matter a traditional Jewish wedding, a traditional Chinese wedding, or, really, any traditional wedding at all. Some weddings involve special ceremonies that are a required part of that tradition; for example, Catholic weddings are celebrated with a Nuptial Mass, and similar practices may be part and parcel of other types of traditional weddings.

At some point, you'll need to meet with the other involved people -- especially your wedding planner or organizer, assuming you have one -- and sketch out a rough outline of the ceremony. You'll want to come up with a smooth structure, in which the various components of the ceremony flow smoothly from one to the other. The idea is to make your guests, and you as the major participants, feel like you've all experienced something special -- the kind of event that's unlikely to ever happen again. Otherwise, you might as well just elope. The ceremony is the place where you stand up in front of your friends and family and exchange promises, making a commitment to each other; and equally as important, it's where the legal compact of marriage is completed and made official.

Once you've got a general idea of what you want to do, you'll need to meet with your marriage officiant (sometimes called a marriage celebrant), whomever that may be. Often, it's a priest of whichever faith you and/or your beloved belongs to. Expect the meeting to take at least an hour and a half, perhaps longer. A good celebrant will help you with the details, will offer you a choice of the wording used during the ceremony (assuming you haven't already decided on something), and will collect the personal details they'll need to complete the preparations. Depending upon the celebrant and the location in which the marriage occurs, they may also ask for a formal Notice of Marriage, as well as various paperwork showing that you can legally marry -- for example, birth certificates, passports, any decrees of divorce, and even death certificates of spouses if you've been widowed. At some point, they may also ask you to sign a notice that there are no legal impediments to your marriage. While these requirements may seem intrusive, they're absolutely necessary for the celebrant's legal protection. You'll need to meet again with the celebrant before the ceremony, which will be a good time to take care of the final details, including the fee.

A very important part of your wedding ceremony preparations will be your wedding rehearsal. This is one rehearsal you don't want anyone to miss, because America's Funniest Home Videos aside, nothing's funny about a flubbed marriage ceremony. You may want to schedule one or more informal rehearsals prior to the actual formal dress rehearsal, so that you can iron out all the details. Traditionally, the final wedding rehearsal should take place the day before the ceremony, on that action-packed day when you'll have to take care of everything else, too. It may be a pain, but it'll be worth it in the end, when you get married without a hitch -- except the new one between you and your husband.-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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