Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Q & A: Wedding Transitions

Reader's Question: Thank you for your site! It has by far been the most helpful resource for our own wedding planning. I have a question: my fiance and I are having a backyard wedding (ceremony and reception) in my mother-in-law to be's backyard. It will be fairly small about 30 - 40 guests and we are having an awesome BBQ for our reception. So obviously this will be very informal, but I'm stumped on how to transfer from the ceremony to the party? After we say our I Do's it kind of just needs to turn into a bbq in the same yard and I don't want it to be like an awkward segue on the evening news y'know? :)

I know exactly what you're talking about! Matt and I had to work around a less-traditional (and therefore potentially more awkward) setup for the start of our wedding. Since our reception was outside by a lake and there was really nothing else around, we couldn't do the traditional aisle-walk thing (since there was nowhere to hide before the big reveal). Plus, I didn't really want that for myself.

We decided that we would just pull up in our car about 15 minutes before the ceremony was scheduled to start, get out, and start mingling with our guests. To mark the start of the ceremony, we had someone fast-forward to our specific song and turn up the volume. That was the wedding party's cue that it was time to assume our places. (As a sidenote, once we were all standing in our places and the ceremony began, I realized I forgot to grab my bouquet! I had to jump out of place to go grab it. Oh well...more comic relief).

At the end of the ceremony, after everyone cheered, we had our officiant give some announcements to the group. Here's what he said:


· Thank you so much for joining us today.

· Please stay seated where you are so we can take a few photos of the entire group.

· Those of you who have been asked by Katy to stay for pictures, please gather in your groups over in this area after the whole-group photo.

· If you would like to recycle your programs, there’s a box over there.

· After we take the photos, the celebration will continue six miles down the road at Sunshine Mountain Lodge.

· See you there!

You could consider doing something similar. At the end of your ceremony, the officiant (or you and your partner) could close the ceremony and explain to people what they should do next, such as, "Thank you so much for being here to witness this proclamation of love and commitment. Now it's time to celebrate! Please move your chair over to the side and then start helping yourself to drinks and food!" (or whatever it is you actually want your guests to do...)

We found that folks were fine with our non-traditional format, as long as we gave them lots of information about what was going on and when. We started to get them prepared with information on our wedsite. We also sent out e-mail updates leading up to the wedding. At the Welcome Picnic, we had a big sign explaining the weekend's events. We also wrote the information on the ceremony program fans. Finally, we had our officiant review the information. As a result, everything went pretty smoothly!

I'd love to hear what other advice you all have! Please comment away...

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Sarah said...

We have this same issue-- we need folks to (a) know that the ceremony is taking place in the garden out back and (b) to settle down when we start since there is no aisle, but it's more like a circle. We figure we'll have our officiant make an announcement like you mentioned in this post to get folks back inside to celebrate!

Elizabeth said...

We had this problem, too - during the ceremony our guests were actually sitting at the tables where they'd be eating! We didn't even think about how to do the transition, so after the ceremony, we kissed, everyone cheered, and there was about a half second of "uh, what do we do next?!" before someone shouted "let's party!" and everyone rushed up to us to hug, while some other friends set up the buffet. I wouldn't worry about unscripted moments - they let the originality of you and your friends shine through!

Brite Lines said...

We had sancks and drinks with our guestts for about an hour before the ceremony, then our officient gave sort of a 5 minute notice. We only had 65 people and everyone just sort of stood around us when we took our places. At the end a song was supposed to play, but the stereo burned out, so after the applause, we addressed everyone together and thanked people for being there. That gave us the opportunity to let people know what was happening next - more mingling, dinner served in a half hour, etc. It was all pretty organic, but not awkward luckily. I think its MORE awkward when weddings are so staged and practiced, but that's just me.

Meg said...

YICHUD. Seriously. The best gift you could possibly give yourself is some time alone after you say your vows. It's big. It's personal. Give yourself some time to drink it in before your party.

Logisically, you can walk back down the "asile" or through the crowd after you kiss (Everyone was singing Siman Tov u Mazel Tov for us, but for you I assume they will just be cheering). And then go in the house, or go take a walk. Let someone else manage the logistics of transitioning to the party (presumably your Mother In Law) and then come back when you are ready.

Seriously. It was one of the best things on our wedding day. I can still remember what our yichud felt like, exactly.

Angie said...

This is something we worried about as well. We felt like if we didn't have some sort of flow or transition, guests would feel lost. We'll be finishing set up by the time the remaining guests (most of them will help us set up. love them!) arrive and join them for a bit of mingling before our ceremony starts. I'd like for our celebrant to round everyone up to parade into the open field next to the park pavilion we rented for our reception. After our ceremony we plan to have our celebrant kick off the party by letting everyone know they can head back to the pavilion.

Sara- I'm hoping our guests feel like they can participate in our ceremony- I'd really like for them to feel like they can cheer, applaud, etc! Any ideas on how we can create that type of atmosphere for our ceremony?

Sara E. Cotner said...

@ Angie: I'll talk about how to encourage people to cheer/applaud in the post I do about encouraging them to dance. Great idea! I remember writing something about it a long time ago, so I'll dig around and try to find it. Happy Wednesday!

Anonymous said...

We're getting married at the family farm with the reception at a nearby hall.
As it will be in the country and people will have to travel I've arranged for the old milking shed to be a gathering area where light refreshments (champagne, punch, cold hors d'ouvres)will be served and music played prior to the ceremony. We've enlisted the services of many of our friends to act as ushers, with one of them acting as Master of Ceremonies. Our plan is to have a couple of "meetings" prior to the wedding to get our crack team of helpers all on the same page. A bit like a dress rehearsal. I'm sure there'll be wine and some lively discussion. The plan is the MC will announce the time has come to be seated for the ceremony and the ushers will take groups of people to the ceremony area, which is down by the creek. After the ceremony the MC will ask the guests to return to the milking shed (whilst we have a VERY brief photo session) and the ushers will assist them to get there. We plan to serve hot hors d'ouvres and cocktails along with possibly some light entertainment. After some time together we'll join our guests in the milking shed and eventually will all make our way to the reception site. All of these transitions will be announced by the MC AND our ushers will also know the plan so that all of us have a great day.
I guess I'm lucky in that most of our friends who will be helping are in theatre so we're pretty much treating this like just another production. LOL.
As to getting your guests to participate in terms of cheering applauding, you really only need to ask a couple of your friends who know the run of the ceremony to start everyone off clapping and cheering at the appropriate moments. I'm sure everyone will join in. I think the easiest way to make something like this "casual" and seemless is to make sure you have a good plan that everyone knows and you share the load in terms of allocating jobs so that everyone knows what their part in the plan is. It's my plan that the MC will be the "puppetmaster" of the whole affair. Our friends have been so receptive to this idea and I'm beyond grateful to them for their enthusiasm and support....of course we've yet to do it...BUT...it'll be alright on the night as they say...

Lyssabeth's Wedding Officiants said...

When I read this question, my first thought was, "it's up to the officiant to make this a graceful transition." I'm SO glad many of the responses echoed that sentiment. There is nothing worse than that few seconds of awkwardness right at the end of the ceremony when a transional plan hasn't been well thought out.

An alternative idea about having the officiant give these types of housekeeping instructions. Rather than wait until after the pronouncement, kiss and subsequent cheering (when no one gives a rip about what the officiant is saying anyway! LOL), I find it often flows better if announcements are made either just prior to the pronouncement or just after the kiss (before the couple is introduced for the first time as husband and wife--if you're doing that).

If you say something like, "Before I introduce John and Mary to you for the first time as a married couple, or Before I officially pronounce this happy couple as married, I'd like to take a moment to tell you...blah, blah, blah." Then go back for the final punch of the ceremony. I find it tends to work better in that order.

Also, if there is somewhere you want guests to go immediately following, then simply tell your parents or other prominent "front row" guests where they need to go. When they get up and head in that direction, the other guests will follow.

And if you want to skip the recessional altogether, simply have your officiant say, "Please come up and congratulate the happy couple!" Be sure to tell parents and grandparents beforehand that they should get up immediately and start the hug fest!

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