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You're Making Your Wedding List and Checking It Twice—What Have You Forgotten?

Preparing for a wedding, large or small, is overwhelming! A way to combat that feeling is to break down the required tasks, divide the responsibilities and assign deadlines. Ok, all that is fine—but what have you forgotten?

A wedding is a public affair, and it's everyone's fear that somewhere, somehow, despite all the planning, arrangements, expense, and hard work, something will happen to make one or more of the principles appear foolish in public.

Let's look at a scenario for a moment. It's a beautiful day and a beautiful wedding. Everything is in place. The site of the ceremony has been decorated appropriately and beautifully, all major participants are playing their roles correctly and are properly dressed, the groom and his best man have arrived and are in place, and the wedding party are about to begin the walk down the aisle.

The music starts, and the bridal attendants proceed down the aisle. They're nervous, and when nervous, people tend to both rush and "herd." The attendants are following that instinct, and they're so close together that no one can get a separate picture of each one! The organist is trying to keep up with the fact that the attendants are in place far too soon, so she/he speeds up the music. The bride then starts to proceed down the aisle before the music has changed; the organist quickly switches the music, which now has the tempo of a rock opera. No one has been able to get photographs of the bridesmaids. The bride is beautifully dressed, but she's so close to the maid/matron of the honor or flower girl that no one can see or photograph her properly either—she's nervous too!

As the bride and her escort pass, you notice that her train, which is probably at least as beautiful as the rest of her gown if not more so, is twisted and to the side. Because in most ceremonies the bride and groom stand facing the officiant, you can see her twisted train all throughout the ceremony!

After the ceremony, the bride and groom proceed back down the aisle, followed by the attendants and the couple's parents. Because of the emotion of the moment, some of the members of the bridal party have cried during the service, and it now appears that most female members of the party, including the bride herself, has made themselves up to look like circus clowns because their mascara is running and their foundation is streaked! The guests are asking themselves if the bridal party looked that way at the start of the ceremony, because of course they couldn't see them very well—they were too close together.

There's a sudden downpour outside in the middle of the ceremony, and it doesn't let up. When the time comes for the bride, groom and wedding party to be transported to the reception everyone gets wet and soggy and arrives at the reception looking unhappy, uncomfortable, wrinkled, soaked, and with their hairdos in disarray. It's all recorded on those expensive once-in-a-lifetime wedding photographs and videotapes too!

So how can all this be prevented? First, if you don't have a professional wedding planner, you need an assistant! It should be a close friend or relative who is not supposed to be sitting in the reserved seats at the front, and so is available to help you manage the last minute necessary details. You should prepare a kit in advance of the ceremony that contains things like a needle and thread in black, white and the wedding colors, toothpaste and chalk to deal with any stains that might appear on the wedding dress, asprin and an extra pair of stockings in a neutral shade, a small bottle of water, tissues or handkerchiefs, etc.

Your assistant's first task is to hand out the tissues or handkerchiefs--almost every bridal party forgets them. She should hand these out just before the mothers and then the bridal party proceed down the aisle. The bride and bridal party can hold them under their bouquets so that they are not seen. If you hand them out any time before that, you'll find that at least one person--and more often a few people--will forget to bring theirs—and a wedding ceremony is no place to take chances! Tissues will serve the purpose, of course—but do you really want the bridal party photographed during the ceremony with tissues—perhaps shredded by a nervous owner? Men's handkerchiefs will do, and of course, pretty lace-trimmed handkerchiefs are even better—just make sure they're sizeable! You may be able to find reasonably priced lace handkerchiefs locally or online, or you can always buy men's linen handkerchiefs and hand-sew lace on them--it doesn't take that long to do.

Your helper's second task is to space your attendants as they go down the aisle. When the organist (who has used unrolling the aisle runner and the placement of the groomsmen as a cue) begins the processional music, your helper should stand to the side of the lined-up bridesmaids, using the door as a shield so that she will not be seen by your guests. While proper spacing is a matter of judgment, a good guideline is that the next bridesmaid should not proceed down the aisle until the bridesmaid in front of her is AT LEAST 1/2 way up the aisle in a medium-sized church or hall. If the church is the size of a cathedral (as in The Sound of Music), it could be 1/3 of the way. Remember—they can't start without you!

The maid/matron of honor should not start until the last bridesmaid is in place, and the flower girl and ring bearer should also not start down the aisle until the maid/matron of honor is in place, regardless of the size of the church. In other words, there should be a little more spacing between these two members of the bridal party.

The bride should wait until the first few bars of the music for the bride has been played. The organist is waiting for the placement or seating of the ring bearer and flower girl to switch music; do not rush her! Again remember: it won't start without you! Your helper is there to calm you and your escort down, wait for the music, make sure the bride is on the left,and slow you both down if necessary.

When the last bridal attendant or flower girl/ring bearer "step off" and are on their way down the aisle, your helper should slip behind the bride and her escort, again, taking care not to be seen. On the very first step that the bride and her escort take, the helper should pick up the train at least a foot but no more than two feet off the ground, and give it a "flip." This action is similar to smoothing out a sheet on a bed. The "flip" will ensure that the train will ride on a curtain of air and stay spread correctly as long as the bride keeps walking.

Next, how to handle the sudden downpour. As part of your preparations, the bride should obtain enough umbrellas (three is plenty) for the bridal couple and the bridal party. Some limousine services also carry umbrellas, but if so, they usually only have one, and you need to consider at least your bridesmaids as well. If you find that you have too many, the parents and relatives of the couple would appreciate them, too! While any color umbrella will do, white umbrellas would be lovely. Consider getting a large golf size umbrella for the bride and groom and folding umbrellas do nicely for your wedding party and parents. Your helper should have the umbrellas at the back of the hall or church near the door and be ready to hand them out after the ceremony.

Arrange to give your assistant the umbrellas and your emergency kit a day or two before the wedding, and make sure that she knows what her role will be. A good friend is priceless! Remember that she is doing you a favor. It would be a nice gesture--and one that will be remembered--to present her personally with a special and thoughtful gift at the reception, as well as your thanks. You can put the gift in a parent's car, or possibly the best man's car, in advance of your wedding day.

Attention to these little but important details can help to assure memorable pictures and a worry-free wedding day!

Marilyn Woodman is the owner and webmaster of, a wedding website that features wedding articles, books, ebooks, gifts and accessories for the bride, groom, and their wedding party, wedding ceremony supplies wedding parties, Save the Date magnets, keepsake marriage certificates, wedding and shower favors, custom candy wrappers, rolls, wine and water bottle labels, white umbrellas, blank wedding invitations, programs and other wedding stationery, wedding stationery templates, organza pouches and ribbons, and much more!

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