The Ceremony: Saying "I Do"

No other facet of your wedding is as important as the ceremony. The joy of receiving your engagement ring, the thrill of finding the perfect gown, the excitement of the reception, the nostalgic father-daughter dance, the romantic honeymoon spot...these are the dreams of every bride-to-be.

But it is the serious questions and answersof true commitment that bring home whatmarriage is all about, gently nudging yourdreams into the background to make yourwedding a reality.

Some couples choose to have a ceremonythat includes aspects of their religious heritage.If you or your fiancé are members of a church orsynagogue, you should be in touch with yourclergy soon after you are engaged. Discuss whatis required by your religion for your wedding tobe recognized.

Many churches and synagogues requirepremarital counseling. Even if yours does not,you should enroll in counseling where it is available.It is one of the best things two people cando to help make their marriage strong.

Finding a church or synagogue

If you want a church wedding, the obviousplace to start is with your own religious institution.Most of them are glad to accommodatetheir members; some will accept nonmembers.It’s important to select your site and confirm adate well in advance.

If you or your fiancé are not affiliated witha church or a synagogue, you should be ableto fi nd a community chapel or other locationthat will meet your spiritual needs. Collegesfrequently have on-campus chapels, and specialwedding chapels cater exclusively to coupleswho don’t want a full church wedding but feelthe need for something beyond the pronouncementof marriage by a courthouse magistrate.

In the military? Consider the base chapel.

If you are unable to find a house of worship inwhich to marry, some lovely alternatives includegardens, lakesides, community parks and historicalsites. Ask your wedding consultant forguidance.

Choosing an officiant

When a bride and a groom have differentreligious backgrounds, two members of theclergy may officiate, with one representing thebride’s faith, the other the groom’s.

Today, most religious leaders of all faithsunderstand that a dual ceremony is more thanmerely homage to each individual’s religiousheritage; rather, it’s an expression of acceptanceand blending of a couple’s individualspiritual values.

If a bride and a groom choose to have aceremony outside a house of worship, somepriests, ministers and rabbis are available toofficiate. Remember that fees are involved, nomatter where you are married or by whom. Besure to discuss fees, including when and howthey are to be paid. The groom is traditionallyresponsible for paying the officiant, theorganist, the soloist and anyone else providingservices at the ceremony.

Regardless of where you marry or who performsthe ceremony, it is important that youand your fiancé have discussed your valueswith each other and have come to understandthat spiritual sharing is an important key to along and successful marriage.