Notes from an experienced wedding officiant

This entry may offend some couples who have poured much energy in their wedding day– keep in mind that it is only one day!  I do not mean to offend anyone.  My intent is to be honest.

Notes from the wedding celebrant:

Now do keep in mind that I do create unique wedding ceremonies.  In fact, I’ve posted samples of personalized ceremonies on this blog.  If you ask me to draft your ceremony from scratch, though, it will cost you — to be blunt.  And it will come with stipulations, such as I must have your anecdotes and love story at least one month in advance and I will be the writer –not Aunt Jane or Cousin Mark– because (a) not everyone can write a cohesive ceremony (b) not everyone is familiar with proper grammar –not typos, but grammar (c) I still have to speak the words: your phrasing may be very awkward for me to speak–usually due to (b) and sometimes because the language would be simply unprofessional.  Having made those remarks, you will have general control over the revising!  If you dislike one of my word choices, I’ll change it.  If you think of something you’d like to add, I’ll add it.  And you can veto the inclusion of a certain memory or anecdotes.  Add personalized rites.  Et cetera.

But a standard ceremony is not in any way a personalized or customized ceremony.  It is a service written by me: it is absolutely not a cut-and-paste job by the couple.  And I will not change phrases.  Often times, I recite the entire or almost entire standard ceremony by memory, which is ideal for surprise/guerrilla weddings: memory is fickle when it comes to remembering to say “loyal” versus “trustworthy” after you’ve used “trustworthy” within a particular context one hundred times.  I do not post examples (choose one of three) because I do alter the standard ceremony.  Sometimes, I think of a new and better expression to include.  Sometimes, I switch spontaneously between components when it’s clear the part is irrelevant to the couple’s personality or wedding.  And *sometimes* when the couple has sent their love story *in advance*, I add a few pieces from it.

Besides the ceremony itself, do remember that I cannot choose your wedding ceremony site for you.  Suggestions abound on this blog.  But ultimately, the decision of whom, where, and how to marry belongs to you.

If these notes are discouraging, keep in mind that my honorarium levels are very, very competitive for the New York Metro Region.  Also remember that all other *professional* officiants, celebrants, and certainly ministers have identical policies.  (How do I know?  Just like forums for brides exist, so do wedding pros and ministers have their own forums.)

Notes for the photographer

First, one must learn analog (film) cameras–35mm and 120/220 medium format.  Secondly, training or refining the gaze is necessary.  Thirdly, digital photography must be learned.  Then the actual purchase of the great camera –the one that meets the needs and vision of the photographer.  And, perhaps even more importantly, is the purchasing of lens or lenses.  Also, the little tools, such as lighting, must be secured.  And at some point, a back-up camera too.

We are sixty percent of the way to fabulous weddings photos.

The last forty percent is your job.  If Liam advises not marrying or having photos somewhere because it will be very crowded, he is not lying: he is worrying about all the strangers that will be in your images and the time spent dodging them versus taking photos of you.  If he asks you to smile, it is because you look angry or bored or nervous, and the emotions are showing in your photos.  Serious faces have their place.  Playfully making funny faces is totally okay.  But some emotions do not mix well with the concept of “wedding.”

If you only receive thirty images per hour, do remember that you received one image every two minutes (60 minutes per hour divided by 30.)  Liam was obviously working.  But asking you to smile, moving around to avoid getting other people in your photos or to get the right angle, walking / moving to another site, and adjusting the camera or lights have taken up the rest of the time.  It is also possible that family and friends were huddled around you, and he could not get a clear shot.  And maybe he needed to drink some water because it was ninety degrees and climbing outside.

It will take 14-21 days to receive your image.  No professional will immediately give you a memory card.  No-no-no.  After all, do you really want the test shots?  The time frame varies.  On very, very rare occasions, the couple receives their photos immediately: generally this is because the session was especially short or Liam is budgeting his time to prepare for an especially busy week of editing to go on a mini vacation.  If you feel concerned that ten days have passed since your intimate wedding and you “still” haven’t seen the link in your e-mail inbox, do not worry.  Maybe Liam had seven sessions the same weekend as your own.  Maybe he got sick or decided to actually take a real day off from working (most people do get two days a week to relax with family!).  And maybe he is having fun with editing your images—he often “saves the best for last.”

Finally, never forget that photography is an art form.  Some photographers are very commercial in their approach.  Liam is not one of them.  He retains the copyright, although the couple is free to print and share the images (versus watermarked and buying prints only through him).  Yet, while he has only photographed weddings for three years, he has been a photographer for ten years.  And if a vision comes to his mind, he will strive first and foremost to realize it.  At the same time, he will do his best to capture particular moments/images *when you request them.*  But he is not a mind-reader.  And certain situations, including poor weather and demanding guests, make focusing on the couple impossible.  Also when couples are late (if the session is one hour and the couple is thirty minutes late, that leaves only thirty minutes for photos, especially if Liam has another obligation that day), it makes it even more difficult to get in all the shots desired by both Liam and the couple.

Notes on Cost

The Off-Beat Bride Package, which ran as an advertorial on back in May 2009, is only for true elopements.  Yes, that does include two witnesses–or the photographer can be the witness.  But not twelve or twenty or thirty guests.  Why?  Family and friends add both fun and possibly extra demands (for photography and other issues, such as being late).  Every year, we strive to convey that the very cheap OBB package ($350) is for off-beat elopements held in a convenient and interesting location.  And every year, about forty percent of our couples ignore the underlying meaning of “off-beat,” “elopement,” or “sweet and simple.”  This is why we are working to stress the meaning of the OBB package or retire it entirely.

Kindly remember that we do need to pay for our taxes (28%), advertising, equipment, shelter, food, clothing, and all the other stuff to be able to officiate or photograph your wedding.  And let’s not forget the time factor.  Even an elopement may result in dozens of exchanged e-mails, one or two phone calls, some ceremony practicing, traveling (we take the subway/train because it’s cheaper), and the wedding itself.  For Judie, most of the work comes before the ceremony.  For Liam, most of the work is in the post-production (deleting test shots and using photoshop to whiten teeth or brighten eyes, et cetera).

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