No Wedding Ceremony Is Boring
... However ...
Cram - Brisbane Marriage Celebrant
| Wedding Ceremony |
I've said it. No wedding ceremony is boring! What?
Wait? But don't we modern celebrants all work hard to
tell marrying couples that their wedding need not be
boring? By which we strongly suggest that traditional
wedding ceremonies, ordinary wedding ceremonies,
run-of-the-mill wedding ceremonies that don't have the
benefit of a modern celebrant are, by definition and
by default, boring, boring, boring.
Umm. Yes. I have to confess I've made the "I don't
" statements time and again. I've even
been to weddings that were, to put it mildly, ho-hum.
I've watched countless You Tube videos and tutted
when, for the gazillionth time I've heard the same
words over and over again and watched a ceremony just
repeat what we've seen in every other ceremony, both
in movies and in real life. However, thanks to
watching countless wedding rom-com's, and never once
declaring that I'm never going to watch another one,
the penny finally dropped. No wedding ceremony, even
the seven minute standard Hollywood basic-with-froth
ceremony, is boring.
How and why did weddings get
the reputation of being boring?
Strangely enough, no-one talked about weddings in
general, or wedding ceremonies in particular, being
boring before marrying couples had a choice of
marrying outside a religious ceremony. Those who
couldn't be married in church for various reasons,
sneaked off to the Registry Office where there was no
expectation of anything other than a basic,
bureaucratic transaction. Once the civil celebrant
program hit its straps, and the wedding industry
realised that hey, civil ceremonies with freedom of
choice are now a thing, that the B word started to be
spoken aloud and the idea that weddings (particularly
wedding ceremonies) are boring became an entrenched
part of of the wedding landscape.
Google boring +wedding
and you will get a lot
of general advice about how to make sure your wedding
. Most of it boils down to
- have a theme
- be yourselves (this one I endorse 164% )
- hire entertainment
- have a short, short, ceremony
In other words, nothing to be done about the
ceremony, so make it as short as possible. Unless
the person delivering the message is a celebrant,
and then the message tends to be something along the
lines of I don't do boring.
Wedding ceremonies aren't
boring for the guests for a simple reason
The "cure" for boredom is curiosity. There is so much
going on during a wedding ceremony that, even if the
words of the ceremony aren't interesting, even if
guests aren't entranced by the ceremony itself, even
if they pretty much tune out, there is so much else
that piques curiosity and sparks interest.
When there is plenty to look at, speculate about, take
pictures of to post on social media, and possibly
gossip about afterwards, the experience is hardly
boring. So guests have much to keep their attention
semi-occupied and wondering about, including all the
details that the couple have worked hard on choosing:
the bridal party, what the couple and their attendants
are wearing, the styling of the ceremony space, the
venue, and other invited guests - who is present, what
they are wearing, who is absent, and why that might
Most wedding ceremonies are
In fact, not just the ceremony, the whole wedding
tends to be boringly predictable. The predictable can
be very comforting. It certainly was for the
generations before us. Back then everyone you knew got
married in the same church. They had their reception
in one of a very small handful of venues. They used
the same or similar caterers and dished up the same
menu. People knew what to expect at a wedding apart
from the fine detail of bride's. Though they could
pretty well bet on the dress being a worthy descendent
of Queen Victoria's wedding gown: white, modest, with
a train, and lots of back details. After all, everyone
was going to be spending the whole ceremony looking at
that back view.
But then came the 21st century. Entertainment in our
pockets and our living rooms. Retail and education
both presented as a source of endless entertainment.
Nonetheless, wedding ceremonies continue to be
predictable, regardless of whether they are religious
ceremonies following an age-old liturgy, or civil
ceremonies that don't operate under the constraints of
an authorised religious liturgy. Civil (secular)
weddings are almost as predictable as religious ones
for the simple reason that they follow a formula that
is based on the age-old liturgy, with minor changes in
order of some of the elements in the middle, and some
additions such as invented unity rituals:
- Walk down the aisle
- A Welcome and Introduction which, in a civil
ceremony, includes a mandatory legal statement
- Giving away
- Narration of the couple's story (or journey to
marriage) by the celebrant
- One or more poems (read by people chosen by the
- A lecture from the celebrant about marriage/how
to run their marriage
- Affirmation of Intention (the I Do
- A Unity Ritual
- Pronouncement of Marriage
- Permission to Kiss
- Walk back up the aisle
The celebrant does virtually all the talking, and
the most common advice given to couples by all and
sundry steers them to how a ceremony is "usually
Marriage Ceremony vs Wedding
One of the solutions celebrants offer to ensure your
wedding ceremony isn't boring, is to leave bits
out. You will be legally married as long as
- Your celebrant recites the mandatory statement
from the Marriage Act (colloquially referred to as
- Each of you makes the legal statement that
creates your marriage (the Legal vows)
And these two things happen in the presence of two
Additionally, all five of you will have to sign the
register and certificates to document that the
marriage has taken place.
Anything else you include is Wedding, and therefore
totally optional, and the easy way to make sure the
ceremony is short, short, short.
I'm not convinced, however, that just leaving things
out and relying on celebrant personality and personal
style to get your through, will result in satisfying
memories for you and your guests. Maybe better
predictable than perfunctory!
How do the guests react to a
They certainly don't go to sleep. And they don't
twiddle their thumbs or look overtly bored, either.
Obviously they check out the details I've listed above
(Yay! for curiosity). They may tune the words of
the ceremony out - until it gets to your vows. Those
they are always interested in. And because they know
to expect some action at the end, they rarely miss a
beat when it comes to that. But I do have a theory
about smart phones and tablets. Taking photos or
videos during the ceremony is a way of being engaged.
But with their phone as intermediary rather than with
what they see unfolding through the camera lens.
"But our wedding will be
Personalised is still predictable. Personalised is
predictability with your names added, together with a
few other facts and choices from a limited playbook.
That great scene in the movie The Wedding Crashers
where John (Owen Wilson) and Jeremy (Vince Vaughan)
were betting on what the reading the couple had chosen
is a terrific example of personalised predictability.
The big challenge is ...
The challenge is to have a ceremony that is both Not
at the same
time. Not Predictable doesn't mean Unpredictable. The
last thing you want on your wedding day is an
unpredictable (aka chaotic) ceremony that leaves the
guests wondering what the hell just happened. Not
means a ceremony that is, from your
guests' point of you, completely recognisable and
familiar, but also what they may have expected, a
ceremony that surprises, delights, and engages them
above and beyond.
And don't forget two things:
- one of the reasons couples are so convinced that
wedding ceremonies are boring is because they
believe that they will be bored by their own
- the drive for perfection contributes to the
reputation for boring.
We humans love a good story. Whether it is a
holiday, moving house, or having a wedding, we glaze
over very quickly if all we are hearing is how
perfect everything was. Nothing to see here. But
have something go not according to plan and we are
immediately engaged and interested. All weddings
should have room for something unplanned and
surprising that becomes the unique wedding memory,
even if that something is that no-one remembered to
bring the rings.
The starting point
Four things that will help you work with your
celebrant to successfully design a wedding ceremony
that is both predictable and not predictable, for your
guests, and for you.
- A clear understanding of what you don't want,
what you would feel uncomfortable with or about.
This will make the process of deciding what to
include much easier.
- A celebrant who not only understands all the
elements that make up the "usual" wedding
ceremony, but also has the knowledge and the
confidence to tweak, delete, and innovate in a way
that reflects who you are without making the
ceremony all about the celebrant
- The confidence (boosted by your celebrant) to be
true to yourselves
The secret to designing a ceremony that is both
predictable and not predictable is blindingly simple.
It is something that works brilliantly, as the
advertising industry has demonstrated time and
again. All you have to do is to come up with an
incredibly obvious idea that no-one has ever done
before! Generally speaking, how the advertising
industry does that is to look for the unconscious bias
their target market may harbour, and turn it on its
head. The industry knows that it will work because
it is blindingly obvious. Together we will explore all
the assumptions you might have about weddings and go
In wedding terms, coming up with the blindingly
obvious that none of your guests will have experienced
before, requires "rethinking" the predictable elements
of your ceremony. This is something I've been working
with marrying couples for their weddings for many
years. So I know, for sure, that it works. And, as in
advertising, it works precisely because it is
Let me give you some examples around the entrance of
the bride. While traditionally the bride walks down
the aisle with her father, walking down the aisle with
both your parents is an incredibly obvious variation.
So the first time a non-Jewish bride walked down the
aisle with both her mother and father, the guests
would have been surprised, but comfortable. In Europe,
the couple tends to walk in together. In Australia,
that really didn't happen until male same-sex couples
started planning their own ceremonies. The first time
anyone did it, it made total sense to everyone.
Apply that sort of thinking to every predictable
element of your ceremony, and you'll see how easy it
is to make the magic of simultaneous predictability
and novelty happen. It starts with the planning
and the script. It happens on the day as a result of
the script I develop for you after lots of discussion.
My job as part of our team of three.
Thanks for reading!