I’ve been performing weddings for nearly twenty years. I’ve performed ceremonies underwater, helicoptered to the top of a mountain, in labyrinths, on beaches, beside streams, on a boat, in a shark-filled aquarium, and on a ranch in a lightening storm. I’ve been to nude weddings, bathing suit weddings, wetsuit weddings and formal ones.
During certain ceremonies, as I stand across from the couple as they repeat their vows, I get goosebumps and feel the love the couple is sharing. This discovery was an unexpected and welcomed benefit of the role. However, it doesn’t happen every time. So I started an informal inquiry as to when it does, and when it doesn’t. Even with the wide range and scope of ceremony possibilities, I have found a few common tips for a goosebump wedding:
Know what you are agreeing to do.
Prior to a wedding ceremony, I am asked a myriad questions, but almost never does someone ask me what the vows are that they will be repeating. I then encourage them to read the sample ceremonies I offer, pay specific attention to the vows and write or edit them to reflect the truth. If you aren’t prepared to stay with your partner if they get seriously ill, gain or lose weight, have an affair, lose their job or go into debt, have obligations and relationships with children from a previous partner, take note that that is exactly what you are agreeing to when you say, “For better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health.” Even in non-traditional vows saying, “In good times and bad” really means the same thing. While I’m not suggesting you say, “Until sickness, debt or infidelity, I will stay with you,” I do suggest you be thoughtful, honest, and reflective on exactly what you are agreeing to, why, and for exactly how long. If you don’t mean what you are saying, either change what you are saying to reflect what you truly mean or rethink getting married. When the vows are real and meaningful to you both, you will feel their power as you say them—as you will if you break them.
Give yourselves the gift of being present during your ceremony.
I discovered that the goosebumps almost never happen when there is an audience, and almost always happens when the couple is sharing this sacred ceremony between just the two of them.
Consider saying, “I do” alone and celebrate in public. Whenever feasible, have a private ceremony between just the two of you for saying your vows, exchanging rings and kissing like you mean it—not like your new father- or mother-in-law is watching. Then have a reception to include friends and family, and reenact the vows for the audience, if you want. You can even pull your immediate family together outside before the formal wedding and share a sweet “pre-ceremony” with of your partner before walking the aisle, but I have found when there is a large audience, the couple is not present. They are thinking about whether the ceremony is going according to schedule, what is supposed to happen next, how the pictures are coming out, if their divorced parents are causing a scene, why the sister-in-law isn’t controlling the child running around, if their hair/makeup are okay, and so on. What they should be thinking about is how they are feeling, noticing the love-light in their partner’s eyes and being present to what they are saying. These are vows before God and to another, and are powerful to say and hear—if you are paying attention.
Ignore the plan and the people.
Before every ceremony I remind the couple, “This is a sacred ceremony between you. It is not a photo shoot or performance. Be present. Take a deep breath, forget about all the planning, and all the events that led up to this moment.” Just before the ceremony begins, I invite them to take a moment to look out at their audience, if there is one, breath in all the love surrounding them, and then, with all due love and respect, for the duration of the ceremony completely ignore and forget that the other people are there—including the photographer.
Let your photographer know that you want candid photos during the ceremony, and that any of the things that were not done well for photography can be reshot afterwards. The photographer will likely be relieved to know there is a second chance and you can focus on your true intention of the day, love.
The photographs will remind you of the day, the rings will remind you of the vows, but the magic of the moment will be captured by the goosebumps. The magic happens when you are present at your sacred ceremony.