For several years as a freelancer, I wrote for Content That Works, a Chicago-based news syndicate.
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We all want our perfect day to be, well, perfect. As with any idyllic dream, however, weddings seldom go off without a hitch, and brides are rarely in the state of mind to deal with disaster. From lost rings to faux arrests to dress-diving dads, we talked to some wedding officiants about the craziest stories from the other side of the ceremony and the lessons couples can learn from those wedding-day perils. And while no ceremony will be perfect, at least you can avoid a 6-foot long rattlesnake…
Lesson Number 1: If someone isn’t reliable in regular life, don’t give him or her responsibility on your wedding day.
“I had a bride getting married in Central Park whose father never showed up for her,” says Rev. Sue Brockway, New York, an interfaith minister and author of “Wedding Goddess: A Divine Guide to Transforming Wedding Stress into Wedding Bliss” (Perigee Trade, 2005). “She put him in charge of getting her two grandmothers to the wedding. Neither of them, nor her father, showed up. Her stepmother ended up giving her away.”
Lesson Number 2: It’s OK to have fun, but don’t take the jokes too far.
“I was once asked to do a costume wedding where everyone, including the bride, groom and guests, had to do dress-up in a costume of their choice,” says Matt Paulsen, a justice of the peace in Danbury, Conn. “Because the wedding was on April 1, the groom arranged to have a ‘guest’ dress as an undercover police officer, arrest me and charge me with impersonating a justice of the peace.
“Needless to say, it didn’t go off as planned. An audience member intervened very aggressively, not understanding the joke. The bride and guests were shaken. They all thought I really was performing an illegal ceremony.”
Lesson Number 3: Make sure your undergarments fit.
We’ve heard of more than one bride whose strapless bra has dropped during the reception, but who would have thought a slip would, well, slip during a ceremony? “Halfway through a ceremony, the bride giggled and her face turned red,” says Fr. Patrick Hollywood, a priest in Lowell, Mass. “She said that her slip had fallen to the floor and she didn’t know what to do. I told her not to worry. When she turned around to walk down the aisle, I told her to lift up the back of her gown and I’d slip my foot beneath and pull the garment behind the kneeler. It worked like a charm.”
Lesson Number 4: Choose the bridal party carefully.
“I did a beach wedding in New York where the best man was also the brother of the bride’s former husband, who was deceased,” says Rev. Brockway. “The best man was also the husband of the bride’s sister, if you can believe that. At 3 a.m. before the wedding, he decided he was going to kick up the drama. He created a horrible stink about not wanting to be in the wedding party. I advised the bride and groom to let it go, but they insisted in having him in it. When everyone in the bridal party formed a circle around the couple, the best man ended up creating unpleasant energy… it was just too emotionally intense for him.”
Lesson Number 5: If you’re having an outdoor wedding, watch for animals.
“My ‘would you believe’ story happened at my own wedding, at a bed and breakfast alongside a river,” says Rabbi Shefa Gold, director of the Center for Devotional, Energy and Ecstatic Practice in New Mexico. “During the ring ceremony we had a special visitor. As our rabbi said, ‘We stand here in the Garden of Eden,’ I noticed that the last three rows of people jumped out of their chairs. But the ceremony continued, and later I learned that a 6-foot long rattlesnake slithered out from under the house and was coming directly for the Huppah (the marriage canopy). It was chased away but came out again later.
“That time, a worker used a rake to stop the snake and throw it across the river. Someone snapped a picture of the snake, and it has an honored place in our album.”
Lesson Number 6: Make sure your parents are on board.
“I had a bride who got married in a park and it was 102 degrees and everyone was melting,” Rev. Brockway says. “It started an hour late because we were waiting for the mother, who never showed up because she was unhappy about who her daughter was marrying and wasn’t thrilled that she was doing it in a park.” Any premarital tension should be confronted prior to the ceremony. “My lesson? Do everything you can to get your parents engaged in the situation. If they’re not being supportive, give them boundaries,” Brockway says.
Lesson Number 7: Keep track of things that matter.
“I had a wedding where they lost the wedding ring, just like in the movies,” says Rabbi Mordechai Torczyner of Congregation Sons of Israel in Allentown, Penn. “I extemporized for several minutes, explaining the fine points of Jewish wedding practices, while the father of the groom hunted for the ring. Luckily the caterer found it – at the bottom of a bag.”
Lesson Number 8: Watch the candles.
One minister we talked with said a bride wanted dozens of candles at her ceremony. But they caused a steam bath, causing guests to sweat profusely. Ann Keeler Evans, author of “Promises to Keep: Crafting Your Wedding Ceremony” (Emerald Earth, 2001) says she’s seen numerous weddings where unity candles have incinerated the bride’s veil. “Then, of course, there’s those whose candles won’t stay lit,” Evans says.
Lesson Number 9: Be realistic about your makeup.
You might cry, and even waterproof mascara won’t always keep you from getting raccoon eyes. If it’s warm, your foundation might begin to melt. Be realistic: makeup is important, but there are moments that you’ll never have again. “I had one bride who refused to kiss her husband,” Evans says. “She didn’t want to smear her lipstick.”
Lesson Number 10: Some things just can’t be avoided.
No matter how much you prepare, sometimes craziness just happens. “Once, the groom’s engineer father dove under the bride’s skirt,” Evans says of a Jewish wedding. “As the couple were about to break the glasses, the dad could see that her foot was at the wrong angle to break the glass. As it shot out the back of her dress, he dove to retrieve it. It was quite a moment.”
This article was originally published in the Times Herald-Record Bride’s Guide.