Manitoba Marriage Commmissioner

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The Great Outdoors

Posted by Sheryl Hunnie on September 24, 2013 at 11:05 PM Comments comments (0)

A few thoughts about outdoor weddings

I love the idea of an outdoor wedding. Who wouldn’t, really? Winnipeg weather in the wedding season is always perfect: bright blue sky (but just enough cloud for photos, because photos are better if the sun isn’t too bright), warm rays of the sun (but not too warm because no one likes sitting in the sun when it’s 36 degrees in the shade), a gentle breeze blowing (but not too hard, because you’ve just spent a good three hours having your hair done), and the sounds of bird song and maybe water running in a nearby stream (but not airplanes, or traffic noises, or, god forbid, sirens blaring). Does this mean that if you plan an outdoor wedding you will be doomed? No, but it does mean that you are leaving a lot up to the weather gods and they are not always in a conciliatory mood. What’s a bride to do then, if she has her heart set on an outdoor wedding? She should plan for the worst and hope for the best.

Have a PLAN B

 One of the first questions I will ask you after you tell me your plans for an outdoor ceremony is, “What is your Plan B?” I am not asking IF you have a Plan B, I am strongly suggesting there be such a plan. I know you want to get married outside, but Mother Nature does not always see things your way. Many of Winnipeg’s most popular outdoor venues have a backup plan already in place. It may be as simple as moving chairs in the reception space. This is often an excellent plan, for although it does require a bit of shuffling on behalf of the venue staff, the “up” side is that this space is already beautifully decorated! If you have chosen any of the outdoor spaces at Assiniboine Park, a brief chat with park staff will reveal that they have a well thought-out strategy in the case of inclement weather. When Hilary and Mike’s plans for a ceremony in the formal gardens were interrupted but a sudden summer storm, the park staff had us ensconced in the Conservatory within a matters of minutes!

 Decide ahead of time when the cut off time to change locales will be. If you are moving to an indoor location on the same site, your venue provider will let you know what the cut-off time will be. If you have to move to an entirely different location, more time will be necessary. Remember, I often perform more than one ceremony on a day and scheduling is determined by venue location. In considering a move indoors there is often more involved than moving your guests.

If you just want to tough it out in the rain, I ask that cover be provided. At the very least, I require a large umbrella and someone to hold it. Your photographers and musicians may not be as accommodating as their equipment is expensive and may get damaged. Do not be upset if they will not work in the rain.

Remember the Three Bears

 In the familiar story, the porridge was too hot, too cold, and just right. Looking at it statistically, the porridge was edible only a third of the time. We assume that these were prepared under the same variables. Weather is unpredictable and can vary greatly from year to year. In fact, extremes in weather have been the rule of late, rather than the exception. You can’t assume that the weather will be perfect on your day, but can you can put some controls in place so that too hot and too cold may feel “just right” most of the time.

In Winnipeg in the summer it is likely be sunny and hot. This season I saw a number of ways my couples helped their guests beat the heat. Lauren and Paul printed their programs on sturdy fans that were not only attractive, but also were a blessing on a hot day. Nicole and Jonny had water stations with bottled water set up for guests to enjoy before the ceremony began. And because she had dreamed of a Southern style wedding, Nicole and Rakiem served lemonade on the patio. You also may consider renting a large tent or sun shelter to shade the sun’s rays. A shelter may also prove handy should the weather turn… hot mornings on the prairies often give way to thunderstorms by afternoon. If you think the weather may be damp, have a number of umbrellas at the ready. Make sure you tell guests that it will be an outdoor wedding so they can wear extra layers. A few of the outdoor weddings at which I have officiated have had an “old-time country” vibe… having colourful quilts and blankets available for guests to cuddle under will add a little extra togetherness! Patio heaters can throw a fair bit of heat, too, though may not always be a practical solution.

 Dress for the occasion

Consider your wedding style when planning an outdoor wedding. There are many styles of dresses that are suited to outdoor weddings. Because you won’t be in a temperature-controlled setting, you may do well to avoid heavy satin ballgowns. Choose a light weight fabric and style for you and your bridesmaids that reflect the more casual tone an outdoor wedding adopts. Again, remember the wind! Lightweight dress with full, short skirts may give your guests more than they came to see! I once officiated a wedding in a dress I thought was heavy enough to stay put, but had to tuck the skirt between my knees in order to maintain an air of decorum. Summer weddings are a great time to show off bare arms and shoulders and are a natural fit for strapless gowns. Do remember sunscreen if you are taking a lot of photos outside. Consider lightweight suits in a light colour for the men in your party. My favourite groomsmen this summer sported vintage style vests and bowties with rolled up shirtsleeves.

If the weather is cooler, the guys are happier, but the ladies can be chilly. Have shawls at the ready to wrap up in. When we had a cold snap at the end of September last year, a quick trip to Wal-Mart for plush lap blankets saved the day when used as shawls in weather that had dipped near freezing.

Does your outdoor venue require a long walk across a lawn? After a rain, a soggy lawn can be difficult to navigate in heels. Consider your footwear for the ceremony. Flats, sandals, wedges or barefeet can be appropriate choices. At Teresa and Jason’s wedding on the beach, the ladies wore beautiful beaded “barefoot sandals” made by one of the bridesmaids.

  Don’t let wind blow your ceremony

Wind can have an impact on your ceremony in many ways.

If you are wearing a veil, the wind can play havoc with the lightweight fabric. One solution is to buy a veil that is edged with crystal, or, one of my favourite tricks from this summer, buy or borrow some crystal earrings that can be clipped or attached to the veil.

If you are considering using a runner, be sure it is a heavier fabric for outdoor use and secure it with stones or garden hooks. Personally, I would not bother with a runner for an outdoor wedding…it takes away from the natural look of the setting.

If the breeze is light, candles may stay lit in a hurricane lamp, but open flame is never a good idea as a blowing veil will ignite easily. Consider using battery operated tea lights for effect, instead.

Finally, wind can be distracting when heard through a microphone. Ask your d.j. or venue provider for a foam covering for the mic. I have found that that helps to cut down the wind noise significantly.

 Do you hear what I hear?

Outdoor venues are likely to require sound amplification. There are a number of options available, but my preference is to have a cordless microphone on a straight stand (rather than a boom stand). A boom stand can be intrusive as it has a long arm that extends out and often comes between the bride and groom. I usually set the stand off to the side so that it is not in the way. Many officiants like to wear a lapel mic, but there are sections of the ceremony when I don’t like to be heard, and a lapel mic is hard to switch on and off. As mentioned above, the wind can be distracting when heard through a microphone. Ask your d.j. or venue provider for a foam covering for the mic.

 Don't be bugged

Outdoor weddings can be a feast for hungry insects. Try to select locations away from standing water and dense woods. This is especially important for weddings around dusk. When possible have the area sprayed for insects before your ceremony. Avoid wearing colognes and perfumes as they can attract insects. Most venues spray for nuisance mosquitoes. September weddings seem to be the worst for insects…especially wasps. They tend to be attracted to wedding bouquets. If you are afraid of or allergic to these creatures, plan accordingly.

 A note about gardens

When you are scoping out spaces for your wedding, be sure to look at the gardens (or photos of the gardens) as they were a year before your wedding date. A bride who had chosen a beautiful city park for her wedding had chosen it in August. When her May wedding date arrived, she was dismayed to discover season’s flowers had not even been planted yet. It had not occurred to her that the garden would not be ready in time for her wedding.

 Where are we going?

 If your wedding is off the beaten path you may need to provide detailed maps and instructions for guests. Not all venues are easy to find if you are out in the country. Place signage at the corners of major routes to guide your guests to the right location. If you are being married at a private residence or cottage, parking may be an issue. Often country weddings can use a section of field as a make-shift parking lot. Be sure that you have permission to use it, mark parking areas clearly, and, if the parking is a distance from the ceremony space, consider renting a few golf carts to shuttle guests to the ceremony site. Uneven ground can be especially difficult to navigate for older guests.

 Where do I go?

A wedding in an outdoor location like a park or private residence may also present another challenge: washroom facilities. Be prepared to rent port-a-potties. Public restrooms in parks may not be as clean as you might want. Have someone check on their condition and ask park staff about the cleaning schedule.



Outdoor weddings can be absolutely beautiful. Nothing beats the décor that nature can provide, and we are blessed with so many beautiful parks and golf courses in and around Winnipeg. After our long winters it is a joy to be out in the fresh air and celebrate with friends and family. If you always keep in mind that (almost) everything can be planned for, you can have the outside wedding of your dreams. If not, your Plan B wedding will be the next best thing. At the end of the day, where you marry is not nearly as important as who you marry.

 

 

 

Current Trends in Wedding Ceremonies and other unity symbols

Posted by Sheryl Hunnie on March 18, 2012 at 2:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Although the wedding ceremony itself is a Unity Symbol of sorts, many couples include “a symbol within a symbol” to have a visual representation of their wedding.  In many cases, these ceremonies also result in a beautiful keepsake that may serve as a memento of your special day. Gaining in popularity, some of these are recent innovations, while others are cultural traditions that go back hundreds and hundreds of years.

 

Unity Candle: The Unity Candle is one of the most common ceremonies,though it seems that many couples are by-passing it in favour of more modern ceremonies.  The unity candle has many variations and still can one of the most beautiful ways to include your parents in your wedding ceremony.  Here are a few variations:

1. The bride and groom each take a lit candle and simultaneously light a third larger "unity candle." They may blow out their individual lights, or leave them lit, symbolizing that they have not lost their individuality in their unity.

 2. This version works best if you have a five candle candelabra. The parents of the bride and groom each light a single candle representing the family of origin.  The bride and groom each light their tapers from their family candles and then light the central candle together.

3. All guests are given a candle, and the first guest's is lit. Guests pass the flame until all are lit, and then the bride and groom together light their unity candle. This variation typically includes a proclamation that this ceremony represents the unity of friends and family supporting the couple in their marriage and is best suited to a small gathering of family and friends.

Wine Box Love Letter Ceremony: This ceremony is gaining in popularity and for good reason.  The couple places a bottle of wine, goblets,and personal love letters in a box with is sealed, only to be opened at a specified anniversary date.  The text that accompanies this ceremony is moving and beautiful.  I love it!

 Rose Ceremony: This may be a simple unity ceremony where the bride and groom exchange roses or a longer version which is scripted.

Variations:The families exchange roses, the bride and groom exchange roses with their families, the bride and groom exchange roses, then present their mothers with the roses, or an arrangement of roses is created as members of the wedding party, parents, and other participants each place a rose in a central vase to acknowledge their contribution.  The flowers can then follow the couple to the reception as a centerpiece at the headtable, or taken to a family member who may not have been able to attend the ceremony due to illness.

Sand Ceremony: The blending of coloured sands represents the union of the bride and groom and can also include family and friends. The separate sands once poured into the unity vase can never be put back into their separate vases. Some couples prefer to leave a small amount of sand in their respective container to show that even though they now function as one, they remain individual. This ceremony is particularly meaningful when blending families together as children can easily take part in the ceremony.

Handfasting: Handfasting is a traditional Celtic ceremony of  betrothal or wedding. It usually involved the tying or binding of the right hands of the bride and groom with a cord or ribbon for the duration of the wedding ceremony, or for a specific part of the ceremony (as it is difficult to exchange rings and sign a license with your hands bound together).

Celtic Oathing Stone: The couple holds or puts their hands on a stone during their vows to "set them in stone".

Wine Glass Ceremony: The bride and groom each take a carafe of wine and pour it into a single glass, which they both drink from.

 Water Ceremony: The couple each pour a different colored water into a single glass, creating a third color.

Breaking Bread Ceremony: The bride and groom tear off pieces of bread,and then each eat a piece. Sometimes the bread is also shared with family and friends. It symbolizes their future as a family together.

 Tree Ceremony: If the couple is to be married at home, the planting of a tree or shrub to “grow as your love grows”is a lovely symbol.  A variation if being married elsewhere can be to transplant the shrub from its nursery pot to a decorative planter.  I suggest using “Bridal Veil Spirea”.

Seven Steps: It is the role of the Hindu priest or 'pandit' to lead a couple and their families through the sacrament of marriage. An important aspect of the Hindu ceremony is to light a sacred fire to bear witness to the ceremony. The highlight is 'Saptapadi', also called the 'Seven Steps'. Here, traditionally the bride’s sari is tied to the groom’s kurta, or a sari shawl might be draped from his shoulder to her sari. He leads, her pinky linked with his pinky, in seven steps around the fire, as the priest chants the seven blessings or vows for a strong union. By walking around the fire they are agreeing to these. With each step, they throw small bits of puffed rice into the fire, representing prosperity in their new life together. This is considered the most important part of the ceremony, it seals the bond forever.

A niceway to adapt this into a creative, contemporary ceremony is to light a traditional fire, or use a candle, placed on a small table in front of the wedding altar. Bride and groom take seven steps while seven blessings are spoken in English. Here are Seven Blessings adapted from a Hindu ceremony.

1. May this couple be blessed with an abundance of resources and comforts, and behelpful to one another in all ways.

2. May this couple be strong and complement one another.

3. May this couple be blessed with prosperity and riches on all levels.

4. May this couple be eternally happy.

5. Maythis couple be blessed with a happy family life.

6. May this couple live in perfect harmony… true to their personal values and their joint promises.

7. May this couple always be the best of friends.

 As you can see, the possibilities in creating a beautiful, meaningful, and unique ceremony are endless!  I would love to help you create the wedding of your dreams.

 

Making Your Ceremony Unique

Posted by Sheryl Hunnie on July 23, 2011 at 7:40 PM Comments comments (0)

What I love about the ceremonies that we create together is that although the structure is inherently the same, no two weddings have been identical. There are some elements that have to be included according to the Marriage Act of Manitoba, but there is plenty of room for creativity.

In order to ensure that your ceremony reflects who you are, you may want to consider the readings that are offered throughout the service. Countless words have been written on love and marriage and you can draw from a myriad of sources. Poets, prophets, and philosophers have waxed eloquent on love and having friends or family share readings during the ceremony helps to create a context of community. Your readings may invoke a sense of spirituality or simply confirm your feelings and beliefs about what marriage means to you.

The public declaration of what is, essentially an intimate act, is most evident in the promises you make to one another. While some couples choose to write their own vows, others are more comfortable choosing vows from a selection or finding the elements they like in a number of texts and editing these to create their own. What is most important is that the words you choose reflect the feelings of your heart. It is not necessary for you each to say the same vows; in fact, often the most heartfelt ceremonies are those where each of you can express your feelings in the way the best suits your personality.

Many couples also choose to incorporate elements from their cultures into their ceremonies. These symbolic rituals can add depth of meaning for families as traditional elements combined with modern sensibilities work together to create a fresh beginning for the newlyweds. The plethora of wedding shows on television has brought a number these elements to a new audience. Whereas in recent years unity candles were status quo, hand fastings, ring warmings, and sand ceremonies are becoming increasingly popular.

Finally, do not underestimate music as an essential element in your wedding ceremony. Traditional selections such as Pachebel’s Canon in D are lovely, but feel free to consider other music as well. However beautiful the tune of your favourite song, be sure the lyrics are in keeping with the spirit of the day. Processional music tends to be more formal in nature (although there are some notable exceptions to formal processions on Youtube), with the recessional music often being a little more whimsical (my favourite recessional this year was the theme to Married With Children).

If all of this seems a little daunting, remember that I am happy to help you create the perfect ceremony for your special day. I have a wide range of readings and vows that I have compiled from a variety of sources and can facilitate the selection of these so that your wedding ceremony is a unique reflection of the love you share.