We know wedding planning is tough — from flowers, decor and dresses to invites, seating arrangements and menus, there is A LOT to think about. But nothing will impact the feel of your wedding quite like your officiant. Lisa Francesca, professional officiant and author of The Wedding Officiant’s Guide, has some fab advice for brides-to-be. Lisa is not only Martha Stewart-approved, she’s also the officiator chosen by wedding planners, so you know she’s good. Today, she’s revealing wedding mishaps, her favorite DIY wedding touches and the best kind of wedding ceremony for any couple.
What are the three main concerns you think couples should ask themselves when selecting an officiant?
The person you select should be both reliable and committed to your happiness with the wedding. Your friend/family member might consider selecting an alternate officiant to have on hand, just in case s/he runs into any conflicts or road blocks. They should be organized enough to become properly authorized to marry you and to witness and file your wedding license with the right county office. It’s not rocket science, but it does require a little research and follow through. Finally, your officiant should be very comfortable with public speaking and also have a flexible attitude, so that it’s okay if a plane suddenly flies overhead or a groomsman faints. Things happen!
You’ve officiated some really gorgeous weddings. Can you tell us a few of your favorite DIY touches that couples put on their special day that made them memorable to you?
One couple worked in Hollywood, and they both loved the movie, The Princess Bride. At the wedding, they put their vows in a little wooden box the groom had made, shaped exactly like a magic book, with a map of the Princess Bride landscape painted on it. My favorite DIY aspect is when the couple write their own vows, which happens about 80% of the time. I help them get started, because it is an easier process than it seems. They are always wonderful, drawing laughter and tears from the assembled guests.
Any tips on keeping things calm / collected, as a bride OR as an officiant?
It takes a little planning to set yourself up for success on the wedding day. Try not to drink much alcohol the night before, and drink plenty of water, juice or tea on the big day. Maybe you can’t handle a solid breakfast, but make sure you have light and nutritious food on hand all day. Find little pockets of time to breathe deeply and relax. As the bride, notice what’s going on with gratitude. Pay attention to the funny little things that happen, and what people are wearing. Express your affection to the people you care about. Doing these little things keeps you in the present moment. As an officiant, if your mind is racing, try to get to a quiet place and literally come to your senses. What can you see? What sounds do you hear? Can you smell or taste anything? Are you feeling cool air on your skin? Try to feel the solidity of the ground under your feet.
If you could recommend one kind of wedding (big, small, religious, outside, inside, etc.) is there a kind? Why?
Just try to have the wedding that is most true to who you (the couple) are. If you are urban, theater people, then your setting, readings and rituals will and should be completely different from a couple of Quakers who stand up at their Sunday meeting, marry with a few words and then have homemade breakfast afterward.
What are the best resources available to brides-to-be and officiants?
Wedding couples and new officiants are so lucky to have a wealth of information about weddings on the Internet. But if you are looking for wedding readings and vow ideas that are really special, you’re better off in the wedding section of your bookstore (new or used). That’s because what is shared on the net is most common and not always true to its original form, whereas book writers hunt around for what is best and they have to do a lot of fact checking. As I was writing my book, I learned that one popular wedding poem/blessing that is frequently attributed to various Native American tribes was, in fact, written for a Hollywood cowboy movie.
What’s the ONE THING you wish you could tell all brides-to-be?
Speaking as a former bride, it can be a little nerve-wracking getting ready to walk down the aisle. No matter who accompanies you, no matter what all the circumstances are that surround you, take a moment to remember this: You used to be a princess, but now, as you choose to join your heart, your body and your life with another person, you become a queen. You are responsible for your destiny, and soon you will be responsible for supporting the well-being of others, whether they are your children or your extended families. Take a deep breath and walk tall, walk proudly. Be fully present at the transformative ceremony.
Think any of your friends could handle a fainting groomsman, pocket of bees or other calamity best? Let us know in the comments below!