In my five years as a celebrant, I’m happy to report that any ‘surprising’ wedding moments have been planned and well-received. There’s never been a Ross/Emily/Rachel scene, a la Friends, or a last minute kerfuffle as a blast from the past interrupts the vows declaring ‘STOP! DON’T MARRY THAT MAN/WOMAN! EVEN THOUGH I’VE HAD A MILLION CHANCES BEFORE, I HAVE CHOSEN NOW TO TELL YOU’. So below is Part One in an occasional series of Most Surprising Weddings.
The Flash Mob Wedding.
This was for a gorgeous couple called Helen and Nigel. They had seen me conduct a wedding for friends of theirs, and when they asked me to conduct theirs, I was excited as we clicked very quickly.
I suggested that they ask their readers to choose their readings themselves and to keep it secret, and offered to liaise with their readers directly. One was a guy called Nick, and he came up with the idea of singing One Day Like This by Elbow
When the time came for his reading, the last during the ceremony, he stood up the front, acted very nervous, and fumbled about trying to find his ‘reading’ in his pockets. ‘Oh dear,’ he stuttered, ‘I appear to have forgotten my paper.’ The bride and groom were looking pained, and were muttering ‘Don’t worry mate, it doesn’t matter...’ to him.
Nick then said ‘Actually, I think I can remember it anyway. Let me try…’ and with that he talked the first line ‘Drinking in the morning sun…’ then began singing the second line ‘Blinking in the morning sun’, and with more confidence and volume, the third and the fourth line.
As the bride and groom started to clock on that Nick was going to sing them a song for his reading, another friend, sitting among the guests, stood up and sang the fifth line, then another friend the sixth, then another, and another, and so on. In the end there was eight friends and myself (who got to sing a line) all in on it. And to add a bit of extra musical flavour, I roped my husband, Mr HB, in and he walked up the aisle playing the guitar for the chorus which all eight of us sang.
The bride and groom were blown away with the effort put in for this (we had all rehearsed) and their guests were equally surprised. And this, dear reader, is why I love, love, love my job!
Next week: Another surprising ceremony moment involving yet more musical talent
Wedding readings. Boy oh boy, readings can be hard work for both the reader and the audience. I think we’ve all been there. Friend/Brother/Sister/Auntie/Uncle/etc come up to a reading, and they stumble through the words, making it very uncomfortable for them and everyone else.
So, in the hope of saving both readers and guests from an uncomfortable situation, here are seven ideas which may help you in your search for an appropriate reading.
Get Them To Choose
Ask your readers to choose the reading themselves, and to keep it a surprise from everyone. People really rise to this challenge, and I’ve worked with many readers who have come up with surprising and amazing ideas – poems or extracts which are very unusual and personal.
Say a Song
Choose the words to a favourite or meaningful song. It’s a great moment when people ‘click’ that they recognise the words. It usually takes a few lines, and always evokes a smile.
Don’t Google ‘Readings’
When using the internet to search for readings, rather than typing in ‘wedding readings’ – which will result in an overwhelming abundance of readings type in words which are more specific as to your interest eg: ‘poem dog love’, ‘lyrics love travel’ or ‘funny poem dance couple’.
Share the content of a letter. It could be a love letter between the bride and groom, or the parents/grandparents of one of the party. I conducted a ceremony where a letter written by the groom to the British Home Office was read by the best man requesting them to process his visa application so he could be with his bride-to-be. I think a little creative licence was used in the re-reading of the letter, but it had many guests in (good) tears.
Be resourceful. I conducted a wedding where the couple had come from the same town but had both moved away as adults and met via internet dating. They had never met when living in the same town but Sarah’s mother, who had passed away some years prior, had taught Jack. Jack’s reader, Adam, started ‘I know that Sarah’s Mum would have loved Jack. In fact let’s hear what she has to say about him …’ It transpired that Adam had asked Jack’s parents whether they still had any of his school reports, which they did. One of the reports had been written by Sarah’s mother, and Adam read out her synopsis of Jack’s behaviour and aptitude in her class.
Kid You Not
If you have children, ask them to collectively deliver a reading. I had a couple marry who between them had seven children aged from 2 to 16 years. The children wrote their own poem to read, two lines each, with the older children supporting the younger. As it was held in the family home, even the dog came up on the stage.
If you have chosen creative readers who enjoy writing, you could ask if they would write or say something bespoke for you. I’ve had readers deliver a poem, a passage, or some wise-words about marriage, written especially for the couple… it’s almost like a gift they can give to you for you to keep thereafter.
Flash Mob Styley 1
If you want to get some other guests involved with the wedding reading, why not do a flash mob style one. The way to do this is to print off the reading you want to do, and hand them out discretely to all the guests when you arrive.
On the paper will be a reading broken down into groups. For example, the lead reader will read the first paragraph. On the second paragraph, everyone who has known the bride or groom all their life will stand up and read this paragraph. On the third paragraph, everyone who has known them for 20+ years will join in. Fourth, everyone who has known them for 10+ years will join in. Fifth, everyone else will join in.
Flash Mob Styley 2
In this version, the reader says the first line of their ‘reading’ which is, in fact, a song. They will then sing the second line. The third line one guest will join in. Fourth line another guest. And so on. I did this with a couple and there were eight singers, with myself included. I sure ain’t no Pavarotti but it truly was delivered with gusto and was a great surprise for the couple who were both musical theater lovers.
If you have friends or family who are musically blessed, you might want to take advantage of their talents. I did a wedding where a friend of the bride and groom performed ‘You’re the One That I Want’ from Grease, slowed down, a cappella, in a room with incredible acoustics. It was barely recognisable, but so very beautiful and moving. Not a dry eye in the house…