One of the most important decisions a couple must make in planning the wedding is determining who will conduct your ceremony and where it will be held. Will it be in a church, conducted by a member of the clergy? Will it be in another location but officiated by a clergy member? Or, will it be held outside of a house of worship and led by an officiant?
Reverend Dr. Kent Lolling, pastor at Laurel United Methodist Church in Springfield, has performed over 70 weddings and has been in ministry for nearly 30 years. His advice:
“If you are wanting a church wedding, look for a church that agrees with your values and beliefs, not just a place that looks nice in wedding photos or is large enough for your wedding. Ask yourself, ‘Why a church wedding?’ If you are not a regular church attendee, don’t be surprised if the pastor asks you that question. Most pastors view a church wedding as a worship service in which the couple is making a covenant to each other and to God and asking for God’s blessing on that covenant. For pastors, this is serious business. Also, look for a pastor and location that is willing to customize your wedding ceremony while keeping things dignified and appropriate.”
Lolling has extensive experience working with couples to create a memorable ceremony with meaning and significance. He doesn’t like cookie-cutter weddings and enjoys finding ways to make each wedding as personal as possible. He also helps couples plan and think about their life together.
He offers the following advice, based on his many years in ministry and officiating wedding ceremonies:
• Plan ahead! One or two years ahead of the wedding are not too early depending on the size. You will be surprised how fast time goes and how many details there are.
• Determine if the ceremony will be indoors or outdoors, at a church or another facility.
• If the ceremony is to be at a church, secure the church and clergy as soon as possible. Understand the various rules and requirements, which vary among denominations and individual churches.
• Don’t shy away from the premarital counseling. It is for your benefit. It is important to talk about as many items of married life as possible before the marriage.
• Have your ceremony reflect who you are.
• Plan the details as a couple.
• Have a budget and stick to it. Don’t take on a huge debt just for your wedding. Focus on what is most meaningful. This may cause you to make tough choices. Such struggles actually help you focus on what is most important and besides, you will be spending the rest of your lives as a couple making tough choices. Better to start now!
• Secure help with details if you need it but remember it is your wedding! You make all the final decisions as a couple. Wedding coordinators can be helpful. A good one is usually worth the money.
• Take notes at other weddings you attend. Discuss with your partner what you liked and what you didn’t like about another’s ceremony and why.
• Choose live music at your ceremony if at all possible. It is well worth the money. Canned music not only cheapens the ceremony, but it is very unforgiving. It can’t be easily adjusted to accommodate delays or timing issues on the day of the ceremony.
Reverend Dr. Lolling says it is important to start early and get to know the couple in order to plan a personal and meaningful wedding ceremony. He finds out where they were born, went to school, interests, employment, dreams and goals, talents, cultural history, family dynamics and how they met. He helps build on who they are as individuals, as families and as the new family they are about to create.
He provides a template based on an order of service from the church’s denominational resource and discusses options to add, delete or change specific components. He inquires about interests and family traditions related to music, writing, art, nature and cultural issues to incorporate personal elements into the ceremony.
As a pastor, Dr. Lolling sees his role as not just helping a couple plan their wedding day ceremony, but to help them plan their life together. He advises couples to:
• Discuss individual and joint goals and the timeline for them. If this requires one partner to make sacrifices for the other for a period of time, make sure your partner is willing to do that.
• Discuss finances.
• Discuss family planning.
• Discuss how you are going to raise children and what religious and cultural influences are important.
• Have the person who is doing your premarital counseling evaluate your ability to communicate with each other and your conflict resolution skills.
• Laugh as often as you can together.
• Pray for one another. Many couples never think to do that.
Your wedding ceremony is the reason for your big day, and a great deal of thought and consideration should go into selecting the person to lead your ceremony. It is your wedding, and you should be comfortable and at ease with the person you have chosen. There are many ways to personalize your ceremony to make it uniquely you. A pastor who is willing to work with you can make your day special and meaningful as well as help you prepare for your life together.