Tips, Tricks and Tools
for Creating the Wedding You Want

Rev. Dr. Terri Daniel


This list of wedding tips and tools will help you address many of the planning issues that couples tend to overlook


wedding tips and tools

I often tell couples that producing a wedding isn’t much different than producing a movie or a stage play. There’s a cast and a crew, a budget, a timeline and a script. There are props, costumes and a set. It extends to writing, rehearsing, performing, lighting, make up and camera work. In some cases there may even be financial backers.  And of course there are the stars of the show and their devoted audience.



Always include a detailed map with the invitation, and a contact phone number. It’s difficult to get around in the Bay Area, and a map is extremely important.

If you want your ceremony to begin at noon, invite guests for 11:30. If the invitation says 12:00, most people won’t start arriving until 12:00, and this will result in the ceremony being delayed. If you add this to other inevitable delays (waiting for a late member of the wedding party to arrive for example), you’ll have a chain reaction: the catering/food service will be delayed and, if the musicians, photographer and other vendors may have a second wedding to attend, long delays may cause them to cut short their time with you.

If your wedding is outdoors where there are no chairs or bathroom facilities, don’t make guests wait too long for the ceremony to start. This is especially important if there are older people present. (see weather/shelter/comfort, below).



Be sure to have paperwork completed and checks written to vendors in advance (photographer, caterer, officiant, florist, etc). On the day of the wedding, it’s best if you delegate a friend to manage money for you,
someone who can keep track of contracts, checks and other business details. Be sure money and paperwork is handled before the ceremony begins, because afterwards you’ll be too busy and too elated to want to deal with it.

The marriage license comes in an envelope that is pre-addressed to the county recorder’s office. Inside the envelope is a form for requesting a certified copy of the license. Fill out this form in advance and bring it to the wedding in the envelope with the license. There is a fee for the certified copy, so be sure to enclose a check made out to the county clerk for this amount. Enclose the officiant’s check in the same envelope. The officiant will take all this home after the wedding and mail it to the county for you.  It could take up to four weeks to receive your certified copy, so be patient.

It is not necessary to invite the officiant to the reception. This is entirely up to you.  Generally, musicians, photographers and others do not expect to be fed, unless they’re working at the actual reception. It’s best to ask them what their standard routine is.



If you're planning to have your wedding outdoors, in the summer,  I have two words for you:  AIR CONDITIONING.

The sun can be brutal in the summer, and at 6 or 7 pm the weather can still be in the high 80s and low 90s. The bride's make up will be running down her face and the armpits of her dress will be soaked. Flies will be buzzing around the wedding cake, which will be melting. If you want to marry outdoors, do it early morning, late at night, in the Spring or Fall, or in a place where there’s LOTS of shade



If guests will be mingling when they arrive rather than going directly to their seats, make sure they have a comfortable space in which to do it. Will they have to stand, or will there be seating? Standing for more than a few minutes at a time is miserable for older people and for women wearing high heels. Will they be in the hot sun? Provide shade or shelter. It’s also advisable to make refreshments available during this period if at all possible.

If your ceremony is outdoors, make sure you don’t have an audio problem. Before the big day, go to the site and see how well you can be heard. One of your should stand on the spot where you will be standing during the ceremony, and the other stand where the farthest guest will be seated. Speak in a normal tone of voice. Can the farthest guest hear you? If not, you’ll need a microphone. If there’s wind or water (the ocean or even a tiny waterfall can interfere with sound), the ceremony will need to be amplified. Your DJ can help with this. If the wedding is at a restaurant, hotel or other public place, microphones will usually be provided. Ask.

Will the bride and groom be mingling with the crowd before the wedding, or will the bride be sequestered in another area? If the wedding is in a large hotel with the guests gathered in the garden and the bride in a room on the 14th floor, be sure the people on the ground (officiant, groom, best man) have a cell phone. Generally, either the officiant, the wedding coordinator (if you’ve hired one) or a friend will act as a messenger between the “stage” and the “dressing room.” It’s important that the officiant, the DJ and other players know the exact moment when the bride is ready to begin, when the wedding party will be lining up for processional, etc. The officiant will be able to coordinate most of this for you. Rehearsals are always a good idea but it isn’t always necessary for the officiant to attend.

Delegate responsibility! Choose an outgoing, responsible friend to be your personal assistant for the day (the best man is a usually a good choice). He can greet people as they arrive and get them to their seats when the time comes for them to be seated. He can work closely with the officiant to manage “staging” details. He can also be the keeper of documents, checks and other mundane things that a bride and groom shouldn’t have to worry about.


Please look at each other during the ceremony (you don’t have to look at the officiant). Smile, giggle, cry, whisper things to one another. You don’t have to be formal or stiff. Make it fun!

As soon as you are pronounced “husband and wife,” you don’t need permission to kiss. Just go for it. Then turn to face the audience triumphantly. They will automatically applaud.

Don’t worry about remembering your lines. That’s why we use the “repeat after me” method.

If you are planning to say any lines or words during the ceremony, rehearse them first. Practice saying your vows to one another and see how it sounds. Many couples write flowery, wordy vows, and when it’s time to say them during the ceremony, the couples end up giggling because it sounds so corny. Practice first. The same is true for any readings – a poem or passage for example – that may be given by a friend. Listen to how it sounds out loud before you commit to using it in the ceremony.

About religious or cultural icons. As an interfaith minister, I can include any and all cultural views and traditions, but I draw the line at religious dogma. If you want to invoke a god, spirit or energy, my only requirement is that it truly comes from your heart and not from habit, obligation or fear.

© 2002 by Terri Daniel

Portland Wedding Officiant
Rev. Dr. Terri Daniel