Do you offer services in Spanish?
A. Yes, we have bilingual officiants on staff and they are able to translate your ceremony.
How does a couple actually get legally "married?"
A. In the State of Florida, a legal "marriage" must take place according to the laws of the County in which the union takes place. It's where you get married that counts, not where you live. A couple is officially "married" when a legally authorized person performs an official ceremony uniting them in marriage, and signs the County marriage license. Some Counties also require the signature of witnesses and/or the Bride and Groom, while others do not. Legally authorized persons are all clergy (i.e. priests, ministers, rabbis, etc.) and certain other persons specifically authorized such as Judges, Justices of the Peace, etc. For information on getting your Marriage License, visit the Clerk of Courts website in your county.
In what places can a couple get married?
A. You can get married in the State of Florida anywhere within the legal boundaries of the State. That includes all public and private buildings (not just churches), bodies of water (lakes, rivers, etc.), or even in an airplane!
What is the difference between a "religious" and a "civil" wedding?
A. If you are married by a clergyman (minister, priest, etc.), he/she must pronounce you "husband and wife before God and witnesses." If an authorized representative of the State, such as a Judge or Justice of the Peace, performs the ceremony, he/she must pronounce you "husband and wife, by the power vested in me by the State [of Florida]." A clergyman can perform a "civil" ceremony, but must still pronounce the couple husband and wife "before God and witnesses."
What are the three main choices to make for a customized wedding ceremony?
A. The three main choices of things to include in your ceremony are:
1. What kind of religious traditions. The choices range from a very traditional "church-style" wedding to no religious references at all. Many people like to include things like the Lord's Prayer, Bible or other religious readings, singing of hymns, etc. My recommendation is to include only what is meaningful to you, and not confuse a wedding ceremony with a Sunday morning church service.
2. What kind of romantic imagery. The most common types of romantic expressions are romantic readings, and the lighting of the "Unity Candle" by the couple. Other choices include special music, giving flowers to mothers, drinking wine together out of a "unity cup", singing to each other (Groom serenading the Bride), original poetry, the release of butterflies or doves after the ceremony, etc. There are a lot of creative ideas that you can borrow from others, or even think up yourself, but the rule is to be yourself.
3. What kind of cultural traditions. If you have a strong tradition from another country or culture, you may want to include that in your wedding ceremony and/or reception.
What is the best way to have the parents, relatives, and wedding guests seated before the ceremony begins?
A. There are no right or wrong answers here. First of all, it is customary, but not necessary, to have ushers seat the wedding guests. Groomsmen can also double as ushers until the ceremony begins. Usually the Bride's family and friends sit on the left side (as you approach the front), while Groom's side is on the right. But many people opt to have general seating, with no specified "Bride's side" or "Groom's side." Also, if there are a lot of people waiting and it is close to the starting time for the ceremony, the ushers should not hold the guests up to be seated, but simply direct them to find their own places.
Second, as far as when to seat "latecomers", you should be aware of what they do at "black tie" events like the symphony, opera, or a Broadway theater. As soon as the performance officially begins, the doors are closed shut, and no late-arriving guests are admitted until the intermission. This is out of respect for the performers, and for those in the audience who arrived on time. Once the wedding party starts the processional to the front, politeness dictates that all late-arriving guests should wait until the processional is complete, the Bride is presented to the Groom, and the audience sits down. Then latecomers can enter the room to take their seats. If there are ushers, they should politely inform the latecomers of this policy.
All relatives, including parents and grandparents, should be seated before the bridal party begins the processional. This especially includes parents. This is out of respect for the wedding. The only exception is if you are having the Groom seat the parents. In this case, you would first have the wedding Officiant walk to the front, then have the Groom seat the parents, and then he would stand at the front with the Officiant. Then the procession of the bridal party (Groomsmen, Bridesmaids, etc.) can begin. If anyone other than the Groom seats the parents, then all parents must take their seats before the processional begins. It is disrespectful to the wedding and out of place to have any of the bridal party walk to the front, and then have the parents seated by an usher, etc.
Which is better: having the Bridesmaids and Groomsmen walk in together at the start of the ceremony as couples, or having them walk in separately?
A. Again, there is no right or wrong answer here. But there are some practical issues. First of all, a wedding is about a couple coming together, and there is a symmetry to having the Bridesmaids and Groomsmen walk in and walk out as couples. Second, many people in the bridal party are nervous about walking down an aisle by themselves (perhaps being concerned they might trip and look foolish), and welcome the opportunity to hold someone's arm. This is especially true if the ceremony is outside on something like a stone walkway where high heels can slip, or on grass where high heels can sink in. Third, when the Bridesmaids come down the aisle individually instead of being escorted by the Groomsmen, it can look a bit like a "Miss America" pageant. You don't want anything to take away from this being the Bride's day, and having her alone on "center stage." It's very practical for Groomsmen to escort Bridesmaids in a wedding ceremony.
What is the purpose of having readings performed during a wedding ceremony?
A. All over the world, in many different cultures, and throughout history, people have written wonderful expressions of their love in poems, sonnets, love songs, etc. Some religious books, such as the Holy Bible, include beautiful words on love. Other people may have said things about love that are very similar to how you feel. And they may have said it more eloquently than you or I could. It is appropriate to have a few romantic readings performed during a wedding ceremony, especially texts that have been recognized over time as "classics."
What is a Unity Candle and why is it often used in a wedding ceremony?
A. A wedding ceremony is a "pageant of love" that usually includes romantic imagery. The purpose of the imagery is to paint a picture of the words being spoken. Often couples will have two taper candles lit to represent their separate lives, and after the exchange of wedding vows and rings, they will light a third candle together. This "unity candle" represents their union, the joining of their two lives into one. It is purely a romantic image, without any religious implications.
There are two commons practices many couples do involving the unity candle that are not wrong, but I believe detract from the beauty and simplicity of the imagery. First, some couples blow out their individual candles after they light the unity candle. But it makes much more sense to me to keep those individual candles lit, because the couple are now both two separate people and one mystical union. After all, your own lives are not extinguished until you die!
The second common mistake is having someone else other than the couple light the individual taper candles. I have seen mothers, fathers, or other relatives or people special to the couple light the taper candles. But think of it: who is getting married? The mothers? Shouldn't those candles be lit by the two people getting married, especially since they use those two candles to light the unity candle? A couple can very easily honor other special people with flowers instead of having them light their taper candles.
Also, I have performed many outdoor weddings where couples have lit candles. This can be done by having each candle placed inside an inexpensive glass cylinder, and the couple lights the candles with something like a gas "grill lighter" or long fireplace matches.