More On Wedding Beauty…

… yours, that is, as you calmly retain your composure while someone else (Wedding Coordinator, anyone?) does their level best to turn the ceremony or you into a veritable mess.

Erika writes in with this doozy of a comment, just CHOCK full of hard-earned wisdom:

This topic is as juicy as a summer peach, PB! I don’t dare begin share horror stories, lest I never stop. However, having received more than my share of wedding battle scars, here are 3 of my personal “musts,” which I make clear to couples in a very gentle, pastoral, steel-fisted kind of way as soon as my services are procured:

1. I receive half of the professional honorarium up front, “to hold the date on my calendar,” even if we’re 6 months from the wedding. (Thank you, Silicon Valley engineer and his fiancee who didn’t speak English, for teaching me that by calling off the wedding after the rehearsal dinner.)

2. If the couple has engaged the services of a wedding planner or coordinator (and *do not* get me started there….), I require the couple to communicate to her that she will not have a role in the wedding rehearsal. The minister leads the wedding rehearsal. (Thank you, horrible, nasty lady in Napa, for teaching me that by screaming at me in front of everyone because you wanted to send the ring bearer down the aisle first.)

3. If anyone in the wedding party shows signs that they’re under the influence of alcohol/drugs when I arrive at the ceremony, I will wish the couple well and leave the premises without conducting the ceremony — AND: see Rule #1! (Thank you, Saratoga couple, for teaching me that on an extremely hot summer day when you plied everyone with bubbly for an hour before I showed up.)

True, true, right, right, and RIGHT. Let PeaceBang contribute her favorite Wedding Planner story:

It was a hot day in Washington, DC. I drove into the city (45 minutes) to the Swanky Hotel to lead the rehearsal.
Pause here to note, kittens, that YOU LEAD THE REHEARSAL. This is a religious ceremony and you lead it. The Wedding Coordinator does not lead it. The Mother of the Bride or Groom does not lead it. The retired priest uncle does not lead it. The rehearsal does not start when someone else starts it. The rehearsal is not over when someone decides that it’s over (even if dinner reservations loom). You are running this event. Gird your loins before you go in, study your Jerome Robbins, Harold Prince, Bob Fosse or Michael Bennett moves, do whatever it takes to bring out your most Large-And-In-Charge persona and do NOT be steamrolled. Got it? Be there ON TIME. Be prepared to the last detail. If grandma complains that you have the bride on the right and the groom on the left (or vice versa) and she’s NEVER SEEN IT DONE THAT WAY, reply with a smile that you’d be happy to switch the couple around if she’d like to hear you call the groom “Susan” throughout the entire service. Do NOT engage with control freaks. Assign bodyguards to highly anxious, intrusive types and ask them to keep Aunt Dottie or Uncle Vern at the back of the church or at the bar until you’re through with the rehearsal. You are not there to please everybody. Don’t try.

Back to Washington, DC: Wedding Coordinator hovered with clipboard, trying to round up the wedding party, which I appreciated. Then, as I stood up front to introduce myself and begin the rehearsal, WC began barking out her orders regarding who would stand where, in what order attendants would enter, etc. I had already instructed the bride to let the WC know that the ceremony would be entirely my concern and that she would be most helpful in a runner/stage manager function. Bride looked non-plussed as WC soldiered on, obviously determined to consign me to a purely ornamental role.

I don’t. think. so.

I stepped to Wedding Coordinator and put my hand on her clipboard. “Thank you, Janice, but I’ll take it from here,” said I. Janice looked daggers at me. Girl was TERRITORIAL! Glaring at me and clearly plotting her next move, she moved a bit to my right.

I introduced myself to the group to begin my spiel. “Thank you so much for being here. I’m Victoria Weinstein and I’ll be officiating at the service tomorrow. I know you all have a dinner in an hour, so my job is to make sure that you all know exactly what you’re doing tomorrow, how and where, so that you can really be present for the moment and not worry about when you enter, where you stand to read, or any other detail. A wedding is a religious ceremony but it does have more than a bit of stagecraft to it, so I’m going to ask for your rapt attention for the next 45 minutes or so so that tomorrow will be as enjoyable as possible. A wedding isn’t a show, so we never expect things to run perfectly, but we do want to prepare as well as we can. So for now, if you could turn off your cell phones, hang in there with me as we go through the service, and make sure to ask any questions that occur to you — there are no stupid questions! — we’ll be able to get through this more quickly and get right to the fun part of the evening.”

Wedding Coordinator steps in front of me. “Thank you, Reverend. Now, if you can all please line up according to…”

Me, sotto voce, to Janice. “Janice, may I see you for a moment over here?”
To wedding party: “We’ll be right back!”

Over by some rose bushes, this is what I said to Janice:
“I want you to listen to me and listen closely. I don’t know what your deal is, or what kind of training you received, or how you wound up under the impression that it’s your job to run a wedding rehearsal that’s being officiated by a clergyperson. But let me make this clear: even if you did think it was your job to run this rehearsal — even after being informed that it was not — you should always speak privately with the officiant to make sure that’s the case instead of marching around barking orders and shoving them out of the way. I don’t have time to train you or to collaborate with you. I don’t like your attitude and I don’t get your style. So here’s your choice: either you make yourself scarce right now or I am getting in my car and driving back up to Columbia. I will leave it to you and your clipboard to explain to the couple and to their guests why I have gone home for the weekend and you will be conducting the service. Oh, and good luck getting certified to solemnize a wedding in the District of Columbia. You’ll need a certificate of ordination, a clergy witness to go with you to the office and vouch for you, and a check for $30. I hope that helps you make your decision. People are waiting, so make it snappy.”

The next morning, I bid Janice a good morning and told her that it would be extremely helpful if she would do three things to help the wedding ceremony flow more smoothly. She graciously agreed, did those things very well, and I can only hope that she had a long and successful career as a Wedding Coordinator.

The service was completely ruined after all because of the incessant screaming of a 3-year old niece of the bride. I considered stopping the ceremony so that the parents could take the demonic tot off the premises but I thought at the time that if the family chose not to manage the situation themselves, I shouldn’t try to. I had already been warned that super-permissive parents from Europe were bringing their indulged kinder to the service and that they were likely to be disruptive, but I had no idea how much.
I regret my decision now. If the same thing happened today I would stop the ceremony, look directly at the parents (who were absolutely grinningly immune to the looks of horror that were coming at them, oblivious to my stumbling over words because I literally couldn’t hear myself speak, and blind to the bride’s angry flush under her floral wreath) and say, “It seems as though Little Mathilda is having a difficult time today! Maybe she would be more comfortable taking a supervised walk down there by the fountain. Mathilda, would you like that?” Smile and hold until someone takes action. Prepare to hold big, cheery, fake smile for a good two to three minutes. Resume ceremony when child is elsewhere by saying, “Now, dearly beloved, where were we?”
Wait for laughter to break the tension, and possible applause. Believe me, you’ll get both.

Sometimes we do have to bring on a little bit of spiritual karate, gang. This ain’t all bunnies and kitties.