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Three things that should never happen at your wedding ceremony

wedding guests with mobiles

My regular readers will know that I am not one for rules and etiquette. I am not one for the ‘what you’re supposed to do,’ and the ‘how it’s usually done,’ but very much of the ‘do what the hell you like,’ approach.

Dance down your aisle, dance up it. Wear pink, don’t wear pink. Say your own vows, don’t say your own vows. Whatever is right for you, is whatever should happen for you.

BUT, and boy do I wish I could make that ‘but’ a bit bigger, I do think that some rules should be applied, but I don’t like to call them ‘rules’ , so let’s call them ‘strong suggestions.’

I think that during your ceremony, in order to get the best out of it, so that it flows nicely and in the best way possible, there are certain things that should not happen, things that can muck up the vibe of a ceremony, or are just plain annoying.

So if you want the ceremony that you are working hard on to be the best ceremony for you, here’s my little list of things that where physically possible, you shouldn’t let happen during your ceremony.

1. No standing with your backs to your guests

If you’re not having a church ceremony (and even if you are, you should still check to see if this really is a pre-requisite for your ceremony) then there is no valid reason why you have to have your back to your guests.

In most social situations, most people would never stand with their back to someone, so why would you do it at something as special as your wedding ceremony? I holidayed in Sri Lanka a few years ago, where it is considered disrespectful to stand with your back to Buddha statues. Okay, so comparing ourselves to deities is one thing, but I still think it’s a pretty important point, no matter who you are.

There are so many alternatives to this way of standing, nicer, friendlier alternatives, which should be weighed up, such as standing side on to your guests or standing facing them for maximum intimacy. This is not some avant-garde suggestion either, it’s just plain common sense.

Especially, when you are planning on having a more personal and intimate affair with your nearest and dearest, why would you want to shut them out, which is effectively what you are doing when you are standing with your backs to them. Seeing the faces of your nearest and dearest can be more special than you realise.

And this also applies to grooms standing with the backs to the bride as she makes her entrance. This tradition is fast going out the window and I’ll tell you why. Many couples are now doing ‘first looks’, so this of course eradicates the need for a groom to look away, as he will already have seen his bride.

Secondly, many couples are now realising that it is not necessary or particularly practical. I always say to grooms when they ask me what they should be doing or how they should stand as the bride makes her entrance, that the bride looks too good not to watch her make her entrance. Any start to a wedding ceremony is so emotional and so special, what a shame it would be to miss such a start, for no good reason at all.

I will never forget watching Prince William and Kate’s wedding ceremony and thinking what a crying shame it was that he had his back to her the entire time that she made her stunning walk all the way to the front. All he managed to fit in was a quick side ways glance as she kneeled beside him at the altar. I am such a believer that when your bride looks THAT good, wearing an outfit THAT sensational, you shouldn’t miss any opportunities to look at her, that is all!

Anyhow, I do believe I have laboured this point enough, as I always tend to do with things I am passionate about, but if you want some more in depth info, this is a great post about alternative standing positions and this post looks at the tradition behind standing with your back to your guests and the possible negative impact.

2. No use of phones and cameras during your ceremony

Picture this scenario: Your wedding day has finally arrived. The ceremony that you have planned and personalised to perfection is about to happen. You’ve made your entrance, the emotions are running high, as you take your place next to your love bunny. You look out to your guests to have a moment to connect, but what do you see? Not their happy little faces, but a sea of cameras, tablets and phones. It’s not really what you want for your ceremony, is it?

Obviously, if you are planning on having a hashtag wedding where you’re going to be inviting your guests to upload their photos of your big day to social media, then maybe this rule can’t apply to you. However, I do still think you can have a hashtag wedding and ask people to refrain from being Mario Testino during your ceremony. Just saying!

Seeing that many of us (me included) have lost the ability to sometimes just be present in the moment and to enjoy what is happening around us with our natural senses, we do have to be reminded of it. There is nothing wrong asking your guests (whether via your celebrant, your ceremony programme or ceremony signage) to switch their bloody phones off and put them away! Obviously, you might want to do it in a nicer way, or maybe if you’ve got a sense of humour, you’ll tell it as it is!

wedding guests with mobiles

Should anyone have to be greeted by this view as they make their ceremony entrance? Photo by Thomas Stewart Photography.

It is quite terrible really that these things have to even be said, but they do because most people don’t really realise how intrusive or inappropriate it can be. There are so many other opportunities to take photos and during the ceremony isn’t really one of them, especially if the couple has their own photographer. The ceremony is the most personal, heartfelt part of the day, and people should be engaged with what’s going on. The minute someone thinks of taking a photo, their focus is gone and they are thinking about taking photos and then, taking the photos!

And another thing about phones and why it’s good for them to be switched off or on silent, is because they ring and they ALWAYS ring really loudly at the very moment when it’s really quiet. Because there is ALWAYS someone who doesn’t switch off their phone, asking everyone to switch their phones off, or at least putting them on silent may help to eliminate these annoying interruptions and hopefully, will make people put their phones away for the duration of the ceremony.

3. Wedding guests should not be bored

When you spot a wedding guest looking at their watch during a ceremony, you know the only time their interested in is the time the ceremony will finish, and that my friends is never a good thing. Neither is a ceremony full of monotony, which is too long and lacking rhythm and pace. So let’s take a look at ceremony length and content in more detail.

Religious ceremonies aside (because those beasts can go on for hours), a regular ceremony should not really go on for more than forty-five minutes, and that’s me being super generous with my estimations. I would say however that an optimal ceremony length should be around half an hour and this is based on how much realistically someone can pay attention for before they begin to lose interest.

Wedding ceremony by Eloy Muñoz

A well thought out ceremony with engaging content will keep your guests focused and engaged!

Now for those of you who think that thirty minutes isn’t much, it really is. You time yourself reading a book aloud for half an hour, seriously try it and you’ll be wanting to give up within about five minutes. Thirty minutes of time requires a lot of varied content and texts to make a ceremony not only fulfil the rites of marriage but also to allow for personal expressions of love and reflections through music, poetry and symbolic rituals, for example.

A videographer friend of mine who edits a lot of videos of weddings that I conduct told me recently that on average my ceremonies are 20-25 minutes long, which actually really surprised me, as my ceremonies are full of content and an average ceremony script is six to seven pages of text (printed landscape). So it just goes to show how much content can be needed to hit the twenty-five minute mark.

So having said all that I’ve said, although thirty minutes should be a comfortable maximum, a ceremony anywhere between the fifteen to twenty minute mark is totally fine too, if it accomplishes everything that you want it to.

If you’re getting married by a professional wedding celebrant then you should be in good hands regarding timings, but if you’re having a friend or family member do it, then you need to be more aware of what they’re up to, especially if you’re helping them to write your ceremony. A good tip to remember is that three words is roughly one second of speech, so that can help you to work out how long your written text is.

In terms of content, there is so much or so little that you can decide to add to your ceremony, from music, to personal vows, readings, love stories, symbolic rituals and group songs. It’s just about making sure you have the right balance, the right flow to your ceremony and plenty to allow your guests to appreciate and enjoy.

So there you have it lovely people. Three quite big things you’ll want to avoid during your ceremony to create a awesome, happy, friendly vibe for all.

About the author

Natasha Johnson

Natasha Johnson is an experienced Wedding Celebrant, blogger and writer on all things related to weddings, in particular wedding ceremonies. Her mission is life is to encourage couples to see the importance of their wedding ceremony and to get married in just the way they want to. Make sure you catch her on the Engaged and Ready Wedding Podcast, here or on iTunes and Stitcher.

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