One of your first wedding planning decisions will be to select your ceremony site/venue and your wedding officiant. Since the ceremony is the heart of any wedding, it should set the tone for the entire day.
A wedding ceremony can be held anywhere from a church to your reception site to a judge's chambers to a remote mountaintop. Whether you're starting your search from scratch or you have an affiliation with a particular church or synagogue, you need to check on some details before deciding to hold your ceremony there:
- Is it available for the date and time you want? If there are any weddings or other services booked for that day, how will that affect your event?
- Is it large enough to hold your guests? Is there adequate parking?
- Does the wedding officiant have any requirements you're unwilling to satisfy, such as couples counseling classes?
- Do you like the wedding officiant and feel that he or she is the person you want to join you in marriage? If not, can you bring in someone you're more comfortable with?
- Does the location have any restrictions concerning music or photography? For example, some churches require you to use their organist, which can limit your ceremony music selection.
- Will the ceremony site provide any services, such as pew decorations or aisle runners?
- Who is responsible for cleaning up the ceremony site afterwards?
- What are the costs involved? Many sites are free or available for a small donation, but others may charge a fee or require a permit. Officiants may expect a donation (often in the $100 to $250 range). Services such as clean-up and parking may cost extra.
- What does the wedding officiant's standard service consist of and how much freedom will you be given to personalize your wedding ceremony?
- When can your florist start setting up any pew or altar arrangements?
- Will the ceremony site be available for a rehearsal at the time you want to schedule it (generally the evening before the ceremony)?
- Think carefully about every aspect of your ceremony site tomake sure it won't create problems or regrets. Will an August ceremony in an un-airconditioned church lead to sweaty guests and fainting bridesmaids? If you hold it in a botanical garden or other public spot, will the presence of strangers bother you? Will exchanging vows with the sunset as a backdrop mean poorly lit photographs? Consider all of the variables before committing (to the site, that is!).
- Some clergy members resent what they perceive as "church-shopping" and won't agree to perform ceremonies for couples who aren't part of their congregations, so don't assume you'll be able touse the prettiest church or synagogue in town if you're not already associated with it.
Securing Your Wedding Ceremony Site
If the answers to all of these questions are satisfactory, you may want to go ahead and reserve the site, even if that means putting down a deposit. Then you could continue looking for an even better place (and weigh forfeiting your deposit in order to trade up), but you'll have the peace of mind of knowing you have a site locked up.
Now that you've secured a location for your ceremony, it's time to find your wedding reception site.