Exposed at the Altar

Anxiously awaiting his bride, the groom stands at the altar along with the officiant and all the attendants.  The song changes and the bride enters arm in arm with her father.  They walk down the aisle at a steady pace as the bride’s train flows beautifully behind. Arriving at the front of the church where the groom steps down to receive his bride, the officiant asks, “Who gives this woman to be married to this man?” The father answers, “Her mother and I.”  The groom shakes the father’s hand, the father and bride exchange a kiss, and the groom takes his bride’s hand. The bride and groom take steps toward the altar, while at the same moment the father takes a step towards his seat.  As her father steps, he inadvertently steps on her train pulling her backwards and her strapless dress down.  Way down.  Embarrassingly down. If this was on live TV they would have had to take advantage of the 7 second delay to protect innocent viewers.  To those in attendance at the wedding, well, they got an eyeful.

This scenario can easily be avoided. No, not by nixing the train. HAVE A REHEARSAL led by a knowledgeable officiant or wedding planner.  Any experienced officiant or planner knows that the father needs a little guidance for his daughter’s big day.  He needs to know where to stop (at the front row next to his wife), how to hand off the bride to her groom (put her hand into his arm) and how important it is to wait for the train to leave the station before walking to his seat.

Yes, wedding rehearsals are important.  Especially if you have a train on your strapless gown.

*This story was inspired by actual events, though it was a grandpa walking the bride.


Please Call 911


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“Please call 911. Are u available tomorrow? My Officiant backed out. I need someone [ASAP].” So began a text conversation with a Bride I had met with, but decided to “save a few dollars” and hired someone else. I know this because she told me she wished she hadn’t worried about the difference in price and had hired me, then she wouldn’t have been in this mess.

I’ve officiated weddings for 10 years and in the last couple of years I’ve noticed an increase in the number of “Officiants” and the number of brides I’m receiving messages from, like the one above. Brides are being abandoned within days of their wedding, and sometimes even the day of, and this makes me frustrated because I don’t think brides understand the level of service officiants should be providing.  I don’t see the wedding industry educating brides and grooms on what to look for and what to expect.

An experienced professional officiant’s service goes beyond filing the marriage license and pronouncing a couple as husband and wife. An officiant should be capable of being the truest master of ceremony. A qualified Officiant should have lots of great reviews, not only from brides and grooms, but from venue owners, wedding planners, and other wedding professionals. An experienced officiant should know how to lead a rehearsal better than a wedding planner, because this is their specialty. An Officiant who cares about the couples’ experience should know all that can go into a wedding ceremony and know the current trends and marriage license laws.

While the reception is often given a lot of attention to insure its success, sometimes the ceremony itself is an afterthought. It’s great to have the best videographer to capture your ceremony, but if your officiant doesn’t know what they are doing or doesn’t offer to make your ceremony as personal as it should be, then your video won’t be enjoyed or looked back on with fondness; it will look more like a business transaction at the altar.

There are special readings and unity ceremonies that can be incorporated, and if desired they can include family members or close friends. There are cultural traditions that add a lot to a couple’s ceremony, and ways to honor special people who have passed, but many couples never know about these options because they’ve not met with an experienced and proven officiant who educates them, and then their ceremony is not all it could be.

There are the 3 people required to get married: the bride, groom, and officiant/minister. Your officiant is the first person to speak to your guests – do they have a voice and presence for the occasion? Does your Officiant’s personality reflect yours? If you ask your Officiant questions about the ceremony, can they answer clearly and make suggestions, or do they need to ask someone else, because one who is qualified should know.

Yes, there is a broad range in what an officiant’s services will cost.   Like other wedding professionals, this price range is reflective of experience, level of service, and even day and time of the wedding.   Having a qualified officiant isn’t just for large weddings, even small intimate weddings can be enhanced by an officiant that makes it personal because he/she took the time to get to know the couple and understand their desires for their ceremony.

It is an honor, a privilege, to be a part of a couples coming together in marriage; I take it very seriously. My hope is that couples will understand the value of an officiant who knows all that goes into a ceremony, so they can be confident in who they hire and not be left sending “911” messages the week before their wedding.


Wedding Officiant FAQs

Over the years of being a wedding officiant I have learned a lot and have had a lot of questions.  Here are the most common:

How long should my ceremony be?  Well, this is up to you.  You have just spent months, possibly years planning your wedding, do you want it to be short and sweet? Or do you want to show off your beautiful dress and handsome wedding party for as long as your guests are comfortable?  The average ceremony is 17-22 minutes in length. Factors to consider for timing: is it inside or outside, is it HOT or COLD, how many elderly and young children are present, is what’s being said IMPORTANT to you, how long have the guests been sitting (did you start on time or even 5 minutes late)?

Is it OK to start late? Consider this the first impression your family and friends will have of your FIRST party as a couple.  Never intentionally start late, this shows lack of respect for all of the thoughtful family and friends that honored you by arriving on time to celebrate with you.  If you’ve been at the venue all day and planning this for weeks, months or years and you start late, it is not the impression you want to leave.  Do NOT wait for late comers at the cost of disrespecting the time of those honored you by being on time!

Should I ask a family or friend to perform my ceremony?  This is an initial thought in some cases, but most couples want their family and friends to enjoy their wedding, not be working (putting together the content and delivering it while be stared at by everyone can add stress for the bride, groom and that family/friend).  There’s numerous moving parts to a ceremony, an experienced professional Minister/Officiant will orchestrate all of the details and know how to handle any “situations” that arise.

Do I have to repeat my vows?  Nope. Some individuals are scared to speak at all in front of anyone so a simple “I do” or “I will” is fine.  I have multiple options I share with you.

Should I have a rehearsal.  If you will have attendants, music, and various elements in your ceremony, a rehearsal is beneficial.  Having a rehearsal with an experienced wedding officiant ensures you have a smooth wedding ceremony. (If you have an experienced planner that coordinates rehearsals, do not pay for two people to show up).

Can my mom give me away? Yes.  This is your wedding you can do what will make you happy. Sometimes brides have lost their dad either to death or divorce causing undue stress on their wedding day. Some brides opt for a brother or uncle or even a friend to give them away and this is completely appropriate.  It is also completely appropriate to have your mother give you away…what a precious moment for a mother to give her daughter to the one who will love and take care her for the rest of her days.

What do we “have to do” during our ceremony?  You must both confirm you wish to marry the other and someone authorized to perform the ceremony must pronounce you.  EVERYTHING else is optional and can be done the way you want it.

What do Officiants charge? Rates can vary greatly for Officiants/Ministers.  TheKnot has an article that addresses this question: “Civil Wedding Officiant Fees – Hiring a civil officiant is the most similar to hiring any of your other pros. They’ll give a price or quote that’s standard for their services. A standard fee for a wedding officiant usually ranges from $500 to $800. Some civil officiants charge more for add-ons such as custom ceremony scripts, premarital counseling and/or a rehearsal.”  Our rates are below the “standard fee”.

Should we tip the Officiant? Again, TheKnot and many other sites address this: “Tipping a Civil Wedding Officiant – Just like with your other pros, tipping your wedding officiant is optional—but expected. Typically, $50 to $100 is standard, and you can give it to your officiant when you pay them in full just before or after the ceremony.”

We aren’t very religious but our parents are; do we have to pray? While you don’t have to pray, it is a respectful gesture to your parents and encouraged as a peace-offering.

Can you incorporate our cultural traditions?  Yes, share with me what you would like to include and I will help you work it into your ceremony. I have included German, Irish, Egyptian, Jewish and other traditions in ceremonies and it adds a beautiful personal touch to your ceremony.

Can we keep our marriage license?  No.  I am liable for turning it in, however I can supply you with a copy for needs like honeymoon or buying a home.  We generally file your marriage license the next business day and the County Clerk generally returns it within 30 days.

We have a family member who can very bossy and we are worried they will try to take over the rehearsal. Can you help us? Yes.  I am happy to play “bad guy” to protect your wishes.  Because you and I cover everything extensively before the rehearsal it makes it easy to state the way things are going to be done.

What will you wear?  I have dressed in linen pants and white linen shirt, western/cowboy (including boots and hat), converse shoes, casual wear, and many traditional suits, ties and shoes in various colors to blend in with your wedding party.

Remember, this is your day about your love story.  Think of the traditional wedding ceremony as a guide, not a rule.  Your officiant should support this.


When and How to Tip Wedding Professionals

Should you tip your wedding vendor? It depends. Tips are meant to show you appreciate the level of service you received.  Tips are also important for those who merely receive an hourly wage yet offer amazing service (think of waitstaff serving your food); the tip is truly their money rather than the business owner.  Tipping is never obligatory, but often expected so it is good to know the rules.

It is difficult to put an exact percentage or amount on tipping any service provider since costs vary from city to city and service quality varies.  Some vendors have the tip included in their contract so check for that before you put cash in an envelope for them.

Speaking of envelopes, it is wise to have any tips you plan to give placed in envelopes and clearly marked with the name of the vendor a week before the wedding.  If you plan to do this you don’t to be in a rush and get things confused.  Also, designate a responsible person to pass these out the day of your ceremony.  Some vendors drop off things then leave before the ceremony (think cake and flowers) some leave following the ceremony (officiant) and others will leave following the reception (DJ).  These are details the bride and groom do NOT need to be worrying about.

Tipping really should be determined by your desire to show gratitude (hence the term gratuity) to those who make your wedding dreams come true.  If a vendor shows up late (without a very good reason) or doesn’t deliver the service or product expected, do NOT feel obligated to tip.  You have already paid them for their service, the tip is meant to be a compliment to them, a way to say they exceeded your expectation and you thank them for making your day great!


Local Events Can Affect Your Wedding

It’s easy to think of when you want to have your wedding: when then the weather is favorable, when you have more flexibility with work, when others have more flexibility with school schedules, but it’s also important to think about events in your area that can negatively impact your wedding date.

In the Austin area where we are it is wise to be cognizant of festivals.  We have giant festivals like Austin City Limits and South by Southwest that fill up every hotel in the area which can create a challenging problem for out-of-town guests. f you will have out-of-town guests make sure they book their hotel room far in advance so they won’t have to settle for a seedy hotel or one far away from your venue.  I also caution that most hotels charge premium rates during these events so costs will be more for your guests.

Even if your city doesn’t have events that fill up all the local hotels, maybe you have a college football team that draws large numbers of visitors causing traffic jams at the time of day your guests would be heading to your venue.  Traffic on major roads in Austin during these events can get heavier than usual so make sure you give guests unfamiliar with alternate routes, tips on roads to avoid. Not all guests utilize apps that can help with traffic so giving them insight will be appreciated. Just send communication to those who may not know to plan for local traffic jams so they can leave early and arrive on time for your ceremony.

While these issues don’t have to keep you from having your wedding on the day you really want it to be, it does mean you need to plan accordingly.


Be a Thoughtful Bride and Groom

Yes, it’s “your” day.  But do you want your guests’ memories of your day to be negative or positive?  Well positive of course! So impress your guests by being thoughtful of them and their time.

Upon arrival many couples are providing drinks for guests before the ceremony.  In our area of Austin, Texas this is almost a must since most weddings are outdoor and the temperature soars.  Providing something cool to drink, as simple as ice water, shows your guests you recognize you are asking them to sit outside in 100 degree weather and don’t want them to get dehydrated.  Providing hand-fans with your program printed on them is also thoughtful for summer weddings, and if you know the sun will be shining in your guests’ eyes during a sunset wedding it’s always appropriate to have sunglasses available for those who forgot theirs.

Another thoughtful thing that shouldn’t even need to be addressed, is the need to begin your ceremony on time.  It is terribly rude for guests to arrive late for your wedding, but it is even more rude for you to keep guests, who arrived respectfully early, waiting for the late-comers.  Of course you want all your guests their for your ceremony, but being a thoughtful hostess to the guests who love you enough to be on time is more important.

Following the ceremony, limit the time it takes before you greet your guests.  While cocktail hour was created to appease guests while waiting for the bride and groom to join the reception, it is best for you to inform your photographer that you want to limit the photos taken after the wedding.  Some photographers are better organized than others, and some photographers lose track of time (even before the wedding) because they get caught up in the fun of doing what they love.  Just make sure you communicate with your photographer the expectation you have so they can plan accordingly.  Having a designated authoritative person who is not afraid to round up the needed people for photos will help keep the process moving quickly.

Once you and your groom have joined your guests at the reception make greeting your guests a priority. Greet guests as a team.  Don’t wait until the end of the celebration to do this because some may need to leave before you get to them.  People love being appreciated and you will both be viewed all the more beautifully on your wedding day if you let your inner beauty shine through by your thoughtfulness.



Importance of a Professional DJ

If you are going to cut corners on your wedding don’t be chintzy with the DJ.

You spent countless hours choosing the perfect dress, color scheme, and venue.  You tasted dozens of flavors of cakes and determined your favorite flowers.  Your wedding party is chosen and you found the perfect officiant to perform your ceremony.  Now the time has come to actually stand up in front of your guests and say “I do,” except for some reason the wrong song is playing.  Well, now the correct song is playing but it’s not being turned off so you stand at the altar for an interminable length of time growing frustrated because this is not how it was supposed to go.  After the song is abruptly turned off, rather than faded out, your officiant begins to speak into the microphone to find that either it doesn’t work, or it squawks each time he moves.

This is not a fictional scenario, this is a very real scenario based on personal officiating experiences.  We recently experienced a DJ who arrived late, had a bad microphone and because the microphone didn’t work properly nobody in the audience heard the amazing vows the bride and groom wrote to each other.  This also meant the vows were not recorded by the videographer to be listened to later.

While it doesn’t seem to require much to be a DJ, it requires more than just knowing how to download songs and play them through a speaker.  Your choice of DJ can make the difference between a smooth ceremony and an annoying one.


Things to Consider Before Hiring Wedding Vendors

Before you begin the process of seeking out wedding vendors there are some important things you need to consider:

What is the most important factor in your decision for the person performing the service you need?  Is it price, personality, reviews, customization options, experience, etc.?  There are very few instances when price should be your deciding factor when hiring a service.  If simply buying goods, the best price makes sense.  When searching for services you have to be more discerning.

Let’s begin with your venue, while you may love the location and look, are you going to be able to do all you want at that venue.  Some venues allow you to change all sorts of things to customize your look, while others allow very little to be personalized.  Make sure you know the details before you book.  And for pricing make sure you compare package to package pricing.  Some may include more than others, making the price difference not as big as you first think.

Photographers are an especially personal decision.  They may have fantastic reviews, but do you feel comfortable under their watchful eye?  You are going to be “bossed around” by the photographer as they attempt to get all the great angles, is their style of working one you enjoy and respect, or will you be annoyed?  This service definitely needs a thorough vetting of quality and style of work before you hire.

Floral choice requires knowing pricing and seeing proof of their work and reviews.  You may see great pictures of arrangements, but what are brides saying?  In addition to great work, do they show up on time with all the flowers ordered?  Are they set in their ways or open to your ideas?  Do they push expensive flowers or are they creative with a small budget?

Wedding planners/coordinators seem to be everywhere.  Do your research because a great planner can make all the difference, just as an unqualified one can allow things to slip through the cracks.  Again, reviews are a must.  Look for reputable reviews which cannot be altered by the vendor such as on or  Unless you have some personal experience witnessing a planner at work don’t trust that they know what they are doing without multiple reviews, or referrals from people you can trust who have the same standards as you.

DJs are another vendor when personality matters.  If you want fun and lively but they are chill and laid back, is that going to work at your reception?  Do they know how to change the atmosphere with a song? Are they good at listening and understanding YOUR wants for the reception? Do they provide all the needed equipment not only for the reception, but the ceremony? Usually it is the DJ who assists with mics for the officiant – are they lapel mics or cordless? Lapel mics are much better as the officiant often needs his hands to hold books, retrieve rings, give communion etc.  Do they understand how to work with the officiant or planner for when to begin and end songs? Do they understand to fade out and not just cut off a song? Again, research reviews.  And for pricing, is a $100 possible savings worth a DJ who brings mics that fade in and out and music that fails to inspire versus a professional who will provide all you need?

Your wedding officiant is not only the one who legally marries you, he is the one leading your ceremony.  He is master of ceremonies in the truest sense.  Do you like his voice? Do you like his personality?  Does he offer a customized ceremony or does he just bring canned vows and overused readings? The officiant makes the difference in a ceremony you and your guests will remember fondly or will remember as the wedding ceremony when everyone fell asleep.  Reputable reviews are again a must.  Your ceremony is one of the most important life-changing moments in your life, don’t undervalue the importance of a great officiant.  You can tell a lot when you interview the officiant; find one who makes you feel assured he knows what he is talking about and will put you at  ease on your wedding day.

Your wedding, whether large or small, is a special day, and to be a success depends upon a team of people you can trust coming together to bring your vision to life.  Do your research and your wedding will be all you hoped for.