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Frequently Asked Questions
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The key elements utilized in most Western wedding ceremonies, in their most common order, are:

1) Introduction, Opening, or Invocation -- in which the officiant typically announces the purpose of the gathering, indicates the names of the bride and groom, welcomes the guests and solicits them to participate in the ceremony by their presence and, perhaps, their prayers.

2) Main Body -- in which the officiant ruminates on the meaning of marriage and the significance of the bride and groom's decision to join together in wedlock. The officiant may also share more casual remarks about the bride and groom as he or she has come to know them, and about the fitness of their union. This portion of the ceremony might also include religious or other readings by the officiant or by other persons who have been asked by the bride and groom to speak.

The Main Body is sometimes divided into the Interrogation and the Presentation (either may come first). The Interrogation specifically refers to the officiant asking the couple if they come of their own free will to marry; it may also include the officiant asking the potentially show stopping question, "If anyone has just cause why these two may not wed, speak now, or forever hold your peace." (With any luck your ceremony will be peaceful.) The Presentation is when the bride, or the bride and groom, are presented for marriage by their parent or parents (the familiar, "Who gives this woman").

3) Introduction to the Vows -- in which the officiant explains the significance of the vows which the couple are going to exchange.

4) Vows -- in which the bride and groom individually affirm their commitment to one another, in response to questions posed by the officiant; the responses usually take the form of "I do" or "I will." In the Western Christian tradition, this is the point at which they are officially married.

5) Exchange of Rings -- in which the couple, usually repeating phrases at the officiant's direction, declare their commitment to one another and place a wedding ring on the hand of their betrothed. In the Western Jewish tradition, this is the point at which they are officially married.

6) Closing/Announcement of the Couple -- in which the officiant announces that the couple is officially wed. This may also include a final prayer or benediction, the officiant indicating that the groom may "kiss the bride," and/or the officiant "introducing" the newly married couple to the guests.

This ceremonial order is usually preceded by a processional, in which the wedding party members enter the ceremonial location, and is followed by a recessional, in which they exit.

Beach Ceremony

Let's paint the picture -- a beautiful ocean sunset, a pristine sand shore, you and your mate tying the knot in the midst of one of nature's most alluring settings -- the beach. A beach wedding is a romantic ceremony option that should be considered as you go through the planning process. We've put together a list of the major planning details related to a beach wedding.Just don't forget the sunblock!

How Many People Are Attending?

Your plans begin with an early decision. Are you eloping, inviting a small group, or having a traditional, larger wedding? Ceremonies with fewer attendees allow greater flexibility in location and planning. But it is still possible to plan and execute a beach wedding with a large group.

Budget

This pertains to you and your guests. If you have a large budget available and your guests can afford to visit an exotic location, you should consider paying for access to a private beach attached to a hotel or resort. Private homeowners also rent out their property for wedding ceremonies. Some guests might make a vacation out of the experience, so a resort-friendly location is recommended. A tight budget requires you to get creative. Find a public beach that is off the beaten path so you can have as private a ceremony as possible. Be sure not to pick a spot that is difficult to find or access. Do not plan a wedding that will be unaffordable for most of your guests to attend.

Formal Or Informal?

A beach wedding can be either formal or informal. The more formal the ceremony, the more intricate the planning usually is. Decide early in the process and plan accordingly.

Time Of Day

Many brides dream of a beach wedding and saying "I do" just as the sun sets in the background. Sunset is an excellent time for the ceremony. Most beachgoers have left the sand, so this gives you more privacy. Be sure to factor in the time required with the photographer if you desire sunset poses. Mornings are wonderful as well. Beaches are empty then and the light is perfect for photography afterward. It is also the coolest time of the day. Tides also change during the day; it is always better to have the ceremony when the tide is not coming in. This will cut down but not eliminate the ocean noise and will also prevent a wet, advancing water line from interfering with the proceedings.

Weather

You can't control them, but you must consider a few weather related variables. Try to find a section of beach that is shielded from the wind. Be sure to have a backup location that provides shelter in case of rain or other inclement weather.

Floor Or No Floor

The more formal the ceremony, the more reason to rent flooring. At informal beach weddings, guests are often asked to gather round in the sand, barefoot, as the wedding vows are said. A large flooring system can be constructed at a more formal affair to allow guests easier access to and from the beach. If there will be many elderly or disabled guests in attendance, be sure to consider their safety and comfort. A floor with comfortable seating will eliminate ambulatory headaches and chair legs that sink like they are in quicksand.

Decorating

Because the powerful visuals associated with the beach and ocean dominate the scenery, it is good advice to keep the decorations to a minimum. Seashells and starfish are popular adornments, as are other marine-themed items such as miniature boats, anchors, oars, etc. An aisle way lined with indigenous flowers is always beautiful as well. If the ceremony is performed at sundown, consider dramatic lighting options such as torches or elaborate candles.

Chairs

If you forego the floor, chairs will sink in the sand and can prove to be dangerous for elderly or disabled guests. Be sure to have a plan for the chairs so guests are comfortable, especially if the ceremony will be a lengthy process. At some informal beach weddings, guests are asked to stand during the ceremony. But you still must be sure to have some chairs available if that is your choice.

Sound

Due to the abundant natural sounds at the beach, you may wish to include a sound system, if your budget allows. This may not be necessary if the gathering is extremely intimate. We all remember the wedding we attended when we couldn't hear the vows being spoken. Don't let that happen to you.

Music

Consider portable instruments with high-pitched notes that travel well outdoors without drowning out the natural sounds of the ocean. Flute or violin soloists are popular, as are a saxophone, accordion, cello, harp, or guitar. Another favorite is the steel drum. It can provide the perfect touch to a tropical setting.

Restrooms

If the ceremony is held on a hotel or resort beach, be sure to alert all guests to the exact location of the bathrooms. If it takes place on a remote section of sand, you must consider renting toilets if none are nearby. Even if some facilities are available nearby, your guests might rather use a clean portable toilet than a filthy public restroom.

Arrival

The beach setting provides exciting options for your arrival. A water landing in a 30-foot outrigger canoe can supplant the traditional limousine service. Some couples have arrived via boat. Other couples have landed on the sand in a helicopter.

Tent

The last thing you want to do is obscure the natural beauty of your surroundings by having your ceremony in a tent. However, a tent should be kept on call if there is not a nearby facility that can be reserved in case Mother Nature does not cooperate.

Permits And Parking

If you have the budget or connections to hold the ceremony on private beach property, parking for your guests and permits for the site (if required) should be part of the negotiated fee. If you plan to hold the wedding on a public beach, be sure to find out if permits are necessary. Pay for them if there is any chance that local authorities will interrupt your event in search of the proper paperwork. Finally, if parking is not free, purchase it in advance for your guests so they do not have to go out of pocket to park.

So go ahead and send out your message-in-a-bottle invitations. There might be no more naturally romantic setting for your wedding ceremony than the beautiful coastline.

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