Wedding Venues - From Backyard Weddings to Formal Ballrooms

One of the most important decisions starts with where you want to have the ceremony. I have seen and been to weddings in all the following places one can imagine. The family home, backyards, parks, court houses, waterfront landings, beaches, restaurants, catering halls, formal ballrooms, and golf clubs all have been a part of my experience. I think that is every place imaginable and no I am not going to talk about a Church or the Elvis Chapel in Vegas here. Each of these places range in costs but budget aside my goal here is to give you the inside scoop of what to expect with each:

Family Home – at the low end of the budget, I have separated “Family Home” for the intimate gatherings in the living room outside of a fully decorated backyard wedding which I will cover later. These are limited in the amount of people you can have unless you have a home like the Kardashians that can squeeze in over 20 people. You don’t have to worry about the time of year or weather. However, there is the accompanied stress factor that goes into a home wedding. All of the coordination and planning typically comes from trying to turn your home into a wedding chapel. Items to consider are the parking situation and potential clean-up with caterers and vendors trucking in and out the home. Your photos will have the backdrop of your living quarters which for some might question the photo of Uncle Jimmy on the wall behind their group photo shot. The one part you won’t have to worry about is getting ready and having separate transportation requirements to get back and forth. Family home weddings are great for couples looking to get married fast that might have a larger celebration down the line.

Backyard Weddings – this is the next step up from the “Family Home” wedding. It combines the inside and outside of the residence and has the potential for a great ceremony. For those that have seen the movie “Father of the Bride” with Steve Martin, outside of the stress in giving your daughter away there is the chaos that comes with people running around inside and out of the home. This could entail multiple days of setup and coordination. You are going to have to contract separate vendors for items that most venues have already like chairs and tables. There will be a lot more time spent on themes, the style, the look of the backyard that most venues already have in place with their outdoor space. This is where you might want to consider having a wedding planner. The other fact to consider is that most backyard weddings have no alternate plan for the weather. They typically are extended to a significant audience but in case the sky opens up a downpour you will find your guests either running for cover or huddled into a tight outdoor tent. Lastly, expect something to go wrong. The toilet over flows or there is no clean glassware. Anything and everything is up for grabs when it comes to a backyard wedding.

Parks – The open air, nature, and all that comes with it is what makes parks attractive to consider. Most of the times there is a small, nominal fee to reserve the space so definitely double check with the township. The worst thing that could happen is that you have all your guests arrive and it is little Sally’s 4th birthday in the same spot. Most parks do not have electric connectivity so realize things as simple as a microphone for your guests to hear might not be possible. Parks run the same risk as the outdoor backyard wedding in case of inclement weather. A lot times the surrounding area of parks have a tendency to lack updated fixtures – think gazebos, bathrooms, benches – these might be worn and could cause a point of contention when Grandpa sits down and the bench gives way (maybe a memory at the least). All the other aspects of planning apply in that a park will require a lot of your attention to work on the setup. The little things like signs for guests to find their way thru the park need to be considered. You will get dirty. Plain and simple you are in the elements. Leaves, dirt, water expect the wedding dress to be a little rough afterwards.

Court Houses – Nothing says marriage like a legal proceeding. It doesn’t have to be that way. Most mayors and officiants are able to perform within the court house outside of the standing judge so look to bring someone from the outside in to make it more personable. The court house also has options for renting and reserving a separate room outside of the formal court room. The great thing about the court house is that the marriage license can be filed right then and there. You will save time and expedite the processing and filling. There is typically a limit on how much you can decorate and setup. Judge Judy at the court house doesn’t want her building overflowing streamers and candles so take that under advisement. The celebration will have to take place at another location so you have to plan for the additional travel and cost for that.

Waterfront Landings – We have now graduated to the lakes, rivers, and scenic views that could be part of a public space. The number one thing people forget about the water, whether on the beach or even with standing water are the acoustics. Sound does not travel. It is muffled and blocked by the water. Grandma will have to turn up her hearing aid so make sure there is a way to have guests up close to ceremony or have the opportunity to use a microphone. Most times the actual celebration will take place at another location so expect to have to shuttle guests and coordinate a separate location. Expect and consider the probability of wind. Items like candles are hit or miss especially if they are meant to symbolize the eternal flame within the two of you that will never go out.

Beaches – Extending the waterfront theme is extending it to the world of sand. Consider the fact that most beaches are public and expect the gawkers and possibility of “Jersey Shore” like characters walking past your video in their bathing suit. Beach weddings, outside of the obvious outdoor elements, also have the probability of summer traffic considerations. You might have a special guest or even a family delayed to the ceremony because of gridlock. Beach weddings will most likely require a separate celebration location with coordinated transportation. They also require the same logistical help of a backyard wedding. The entire setup ranging from the chairs to the aisle runner needs to be worked out prior. There are some venues that package a beach wedding as part of their onsite location but that falls under more of a formal venue.

One Officiant? Not a good choice.

Life happens. You are getting married regardless of the events and circumstances of individuals around you. Especially with the ceremony, you need a guarantee that the officiant will be there to marry you.  Whether it is a scheduling conflict, illness, an unforeseen happening you want to have a team of officiants available to you so that any member can rotate and fill-in in case of emergency.  That is the difference between the best wedding officiants and other officiants who you are booking just by themselves. Why wouldn't you want to have the power of a team of individuals ready to fill-in at a moments notice?

Crazy Wedding Experiences

They say expect the unexpected.  That statement is definitely true when it comes to weddings.  Outside of all the activity going on leading up to the ceremony, getting everyone together for the marriage license signing and the lining up for the processional is sometimes a victory in itself. Below are just some of the "special events" I have experienced as an officiant:

- Being rained on and performing the ceremony in the rain

- Having a gazebo trellis fall over mid-ceremony

- Microphone not working

- Best man forgetting the rings

- Drunk groom and cold feet

- Late arriving bride or groom and even bride and groom parents

There has yet to be a couple I haven't married.  As an officiant you need to be confident and a leader to make sure that the show must go on. 

 

Should I Have a Family Member Officiate My Ceremony?

I am going to try to answer this question by comparing it to a couple other areas of our lives where we might consider a family member to help.

How about buying or selling a home?  Maybe if they are licensed and have experience.  You would want someone that knows the market and is able to find you the best possible deal.

How about tutoring or teaching your kids?  Yes, if they have spent the time educating other children and know how to engage and motivate your child.

The same holds true for a wedding officiant.  You want to have someone who possesses the ability to speak in front of a large audience.  You want someone that knows how to keep the ceremony on track in case the unexpected (i.e. the best man forgets the rings) happens.  You want to have someone that has worked with the various vendors and venues before.

So should you have a family member officiate your ceremony? Maybe.  It all depends if they are experienced and have the right skills for the job.

Are All Officiants the Same?

You have spent countless hours planning your big day and carefully selecting the perfect venue, flowers, and music.  When it comes to the officiant, sometimes couples just feel that anyone will do and do not apply the same type of criteria.

The ceremony is the first impression, it is the time that photos will be taken and guests will hear what your marriage is about.  The officiant sets the atmosphere for the entire evening.  You want someone that is confident, someone that can speak clearly and can keep the guests engaged.

The last thing you need is an officiant that adds in their own commentary or words making remarks or "jokes" that people find embarrassing or awkward.  You also don't want someone that will hide and read the ceremony word for word without making eye contact.

As you decide on an officiant, keep the above suggestions in mind as you determine who want to select for one of the most important days of your life.