Monday, May 11, 2009

Writing Your Own Ceremony: Some Game Rules

Few things bring a chill to my heart any more quickly than the words, "We've already written our own ceremony."

When a couple's first encounter with me begins with this phrase, I can't help but wonder if I am being approached to be a sort of bureaucratic hand puppet. If the couple is willing for me to edit to allow for logistics, smooth ritual transition, and clarity, then I will usually agree.

However, I have recently been handed a script that jars me. It is ponderous, badly executed, and smug. It also puts words in my mouth that I would never utter, even at gunpoint. I have not decided how to handle the situation. It is too late for the couple to procure another officiant, so I am quite sure that in the end I will probably cave in and suffer through it. But just the thought of actually reading some of the lines the bride has written for me literally makes me shudder.

It's not a matter of ego on my part. It's a matter of professional ethics. I have performed hundreds of weddings, and have taken great pains to make them occasions of dignity, and skillfully created celebration. I also studied for several years so I would know what in the heck I am doing.

If you are determined to DIY regarding your ceremony, may I suggest the following?:
1. Ask the officiant if he/she minds working from a script.
2. Decide if you would be willing for the officiant to edit the ceremony so that his or her comfort level is sustained.
3. Determine if you are willing to take suggestions as to how the ritual action might be enhanced.
4. Finally, ask the officiant if he or she objects to speaking dialogue that has been written for him or her. And, determine if you are willing for the officiant to have some say so over what is being said.

I haven't felt this queasy since I had a really stupid piece I had to play at a piano recital. In an attempt to comfort me, my mother said, "When it's over, you'll never have to see these people again."

Thanks, Mom.