22 Jun 2016
June 22, 2016

Breathe in, Breathe Out – Calming Brides’ and Grooms’ Nerves

I recently had a couple that I met with, in regards to performing their ceremony, tell me that they expected they would be very nervous and they asked me how I would calm them.  This was an interesting question and one I have to admit I have not been asked too often by brides or grooms.  I started by explaining to them that, no matter what, it is going to be an emotional day and there will be plenty of nervousness to go around.   I then went on to tell them the little things that we do to help.

The first thing is that we, the officiant, arrive early and make sure, if possible, that we spend a few minutes talking with the couple (either together or separately).  We usually see how they are doing, check if there is anything they need from us, get anything we need from them and, basically, let them know that “we” got this.  Even if you are a friend or family member doing the ceremony, understand that the couple is looking to you to have everything under control.  If you show, and assure, them that you do, you will definitely be helping since it is one less thing they have to worry about.

Some other things we do and recommend:

  1. When the couple comes up before us to start the ceremony, we have them look at each other and take a deep breath, or two.  This usually helps to calm them down a bit and “centers” them.
  2. We also have them face each other and hold hands during the wedding ceremony since they should have a calming effect on each other.  However, if that makes them more nervous, it is okay to have them look more at the officiant, while still officially facing each other.  And similarly it is not necessary that they hold hands.  We still recommend that they don’t have their backs to the guests, of course, but they can be looking more at you than at each other, while still showing their guests their profile.
  3. The officiant should always be the ceremony director, meaning the officiant should be giving cues to the couple, for instance, if/when they need to move (e.g. for a sand ceremony) or do anything.  In addition, the officiant should be asking for the rings when he/she needs them; the officiant should have the vows ready to hand to the couple if they are going to be reading vows to each other; etc.  The couple should not have to worry about memorizing or remembering anything.
  4. If you know that the couple is going to be overly nervous or emotional, make sure you have a bit of lightheartedness at the starting of the ceremony.  Some piece that will make them smile and laugh will definitely reduce the nervousness (see the previous blog post here in regards to humor in the ceremony for how and how much).

As you can probably figure, as a first time or relatively new officiant, you are most likely also going to be nervous… just remember that your responsibilities are to not let your nervousness show (too much), to calm the couple as much as possible, and to control the ceremony so that the couple can just enjoy.

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