Psh, It’s Just A Minor Detail: Choosing A Ceremony Site

This is actually one of the last things Tim and I did, as much sense as that DOESN’T make.  Like we literally figured it out yesterday.  The reception site was more important to us since that’s where the majority of the day is spent, so we picked that first and figured finding a place to, you know, actually get married, would be a snap.  Fast forward to 4 months, several disappointing visits, and a few budget shock instances later, and we finally figured it out.  Am I glad we did it the way we did it?  Yes.  Would I attack it differently knowing what I know now?  Um, very yes.

Spoiler alert: many, many sentences in this post will start with “if”.  You have been warned.

If you are religious people, the same religion, and getting married in one of your hometowns, the answer is usually pretty simple: get married in that church.  However, couples today are usually on different religious pages (or not on a page at all) and that leaves you with both several options and several decisions.  The most important thing you can do here is for each of you to decide what is important to YOU for your ceremony, and then go from there.  The first thing to address: religion.

If you both are of the same religious background, this is not a big deal.  You’re both Catholic?  Great!  Go find a Catholic church.  Both atheists?  Awesome!  Find a neutral location like a park or beach.  Find what works for you and your particular religious standing.

If you’re like Tim and I, you aren’t on the same page.  I was raised Catholic but didn’t go through the confirmation (much to the chagrin of my grandparents).  I have my own set of beliefs that are a kind of compromise between that religious upbringing and my experiences with science, and would definitely say I believe in the existence of God but have some issues with the way the church presents their ideas.  Tim, on the other hand, will go so far as to agree that you can’t really get something from nothing and that there probably is some higher being responsible for the universe as it stands, but that’s the extent of his thoughts on it.  He respects my beliefs, and I respect his, which is great, until you’re trying to decide on your wedding ceremony.

I haven’t been to church in a while, mostly for the above reason, and Tim isn’t usually particularly comfortable in one, so our gut reaction was “not a clue where the ceremony is going to be, but probably not in a church.”  I wasn’t particularly bent on it, and I didn’t want to put Tim in an awkward position, so it made sense.  This went over less than fabulously with my parents (don’t even get me started on my grandparents), but while they still weren’t happy about it they eventually realized that we have to do what’s right for us (they being my parents; again, don’t get me started on my grandparents).  Tim and I made the compromise that we could have a religious-ish ceremony, so that I could still recognize some of my beliefs but not leave him feeling awkward at his own wedding.  Compromise will be the name of game if you have differing views on what the ceremony should be.  If one of you gives in on one aspect, the other should get a larger say in another part of it.

The location will also decide what you need to do in terms of an officiant.  If you are at a church, obviously your officiant will be the priest/pastor/rabbi/etc there.  If you are getting married at another location, you’ll have yet another choice in front of you.  There are several different ways you can go, but I’ll address that in a future post.  The only part with regards to the officiant that’s important is deciding what your compromise is going to be if one is necessary so there are no surprises later and no one ends up getting the short end of the stick, so to speak.

If you have your ceremony at a church, there may not be a fee explicitly listed.  Some require a fee, whereas some simply say that a donation is “highly recommended”.  You can usually ask what the “typical” donation looks like if you don’t know what sounds fair.  If you are at a church that you’ve been at for a long time, a higher donation is expected.

Some reception sites will have a space available for a ceremony.  It may just be the same room but with the tables arranged in such a way to create an aisle and a central/front area for you to stand in, or it could be a separate space altogether.  If you want something outdoors, local parks are a good option.  You can usually contact the city about reserving an area or gazebo, but you’ll be responsible for all rentals (tents, chairs, anything else you may need).  Golf/country clubs are also a good option (most also have a reception area).  A quirky outside-ish idea that has become popular is having your ceremony in an old barn (this is also a nifty reception idea).

For indoor options, another option that has been gaining popularity is renting out a museum space.  Artistic couples are hitting up art museums, car buffs auto museums, pilots are doing aviation museums.  Almost any place you can think of, you can find a way to have a ceremony there (heck people even get married in the garden center at Wal-Mart).  The more off-the-wall it is, the more planning it will require, but don’t let that deter you.  Just be careful when using a typically public space.  Make sure you have all the proper permissions, and confirm and reconfirm all of your plans periodically.

Funny story, we ended up settling on a church anyway.  Go figure.


Posted on October 10, 2011, in Budget, Ceremony, Priorities, Wedding Planning Isn't For Sissies and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I loved reading this! We actaully picked our ceremony site first and built everything on that. My fiance and I sound very simmilar to your guys with your religous perspectives, so we never looked at a church. We both love how beautiful and classic they are though!

    • What kind of place did you guys pick for your ceremony? We had tossed around the idea of doing it in a nearby garden, but the running joke is that I’m the poster child for Murphy’s Law, and if we did that we’d probably have a torrential downpour.

      • My parents DID have a torrental downpour duing their wedding (beautiful garden in a historic home in KY). “Do you take this woman?” BOOM! thunder strikes and it dumps…they kept on going while the guest hid under trees 🙂

        Our location is an old historic fort in a really cool town called Port Townsend about 2 hours from Seattle. A local destination wedding. We are getting married in the fort itself (ourdoors) and the reception is in the old USO dance hall. Did you ever see An Officer and a Gentleman? That is where it was filmed. Here is my blog post about it 🙂

        there are some more if you poke around too but this one has pics 🙂

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