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Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016 12:08 am

Make your ceremony memorable and meaningful

Maurice & Nicole Williams had their ceremony and reception at Piper Glen Golf and Social Club in Chatham.
PHOTO BY ALICIA WESSEL PHOTOGRAPHY

 

Web search “how to personalize your wedding” and you’ll find hundreds of ideas, from the genuine to the genuinely goofy. Want to water a love fern together (yes, the infamous “How to Lose a Guy” love fern), write and recite a vows Mad Lib, have your dog be the ring bearer? It’s all there. For a ceremony as meaningful as memorable, though, we turned to two seasoned Springfield pastors.

“I’m a traditionalist,” says Brian Mills, senior pastor of Hope Evangelical Free Church. “I believe it’s all about the bride.”

Mills is a wedding traditionalist in all aspects. He spends several weeks in counseling with couples and performs religious ceremonies that combine both wedding and worship. By the time the couple is ready to plan the ceremony, Mills knows them very well and how their service should go.

“I use a very standard ceremony, but there are infinite style choices and preferences to personalize and customize, from the processional and music, to the vows, how to incorporate ethnic and family traditions, the couple’s personality, how the wedding party will exit, and more.

“Pinterest and cable television have changed everything,” Mills continues. “Brides come to me ready with their ideas. I’m more of a facilitator for their meaningful moment. I’ve had couples include a very touching slide show of their relationship set to music. We’ve observed a moment of silence for a parent who has passed away, taken Communion, lit unity candles. One time the men all dressed in mobster suits with white hats and long tuxedo coats. I wasn’t expecting that.”

Mills provides specific guidance for couples wanting to write their own vows. “Couples really need to think twice about that. It seems like a great idea at the time, but what you often get is too long and not memorable. They need to be short, personal and not too creative.”

It can work well, though. “One groom who was very artistic, poetic and super romantic was so captivated by the bride, said he was the luckiest man in the world, and what he promised her was from such a deep place in his heart it was very touching.”

Who’s in charge?
Consideration of vows and ceremony are important parts of the planning process for the Reverend Dr. Kent Lolling, pastor of Laurel United Methodist Church, who says preparation is key. He makes sure the decisions and leadership are where they should be. “We meet together for a few months in premarital counseling and I really get to know the couple. By the end of this, the planning flows into the service. I can help direct how the service will go and protect the personal, meaningful service the couple wants.” This includes helping a couple manage complex family relationships, combined families, and challenged relationships within the family; and honor missing family members who are special to them. He is also able to help with individuals who try to run the show. “I provide coaching and information, and in 27 years I’ve never had a problem. It’s my turf, and I’m in charge,” says Lolling.  

Family issues are real, Mills agrees. “Couples aren’t just marrying each other. They’re marrying the family, becoming part of the family. This is one of the reasons I insist on premarital counseling, to wrestle with issues of family of origin, and the individuals’ own marital background. I also ask parents to fill out a questionnaire and write a letter to their kids. It helps them and their kids process what’s going on.

“And, then, the magic moment where it all comes together – the wedding rehearsal. I connect with key family members who are invested in the wedding, go out of my way to make sure anyone who has a tense or fractured relationship feels welcome and part of the moment, and then begin with a prayer.”

After the prayer, Mills offers a warm family greeting that sets the stage.

“You are the most important people in this couple’s lives,” he begins, “and they are very interested in knowing your ideas for their wedding. I’ve already met with the bride and know what she wants, and I’d like to invite you to write down your ideas for the wedding. The couple will read them on their honeymoon.

“In 21 years, I’ve never had family drama at a rehearsal. I’ve found that the prayer, the joke and personal contact go a long way in avoiding a tug of war.”  

Springfield contributor DiAnne Crown’s favorite weddings are simple and sincere.

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