Sand Ceremony

Jessica wrote: I’ve heard a lot about “sand ceremonies” but have not seen one done. How does that work?

There are likely many approaches to a sand ceremony. The way I suggest it be presented is quite similar to a unity candle. With a unity candle, I talk about how two individuals are represented by the individual flames. And, just as the the flame they are creating (on the pillar candle) can no long be divided – let their lives not be divided.

In a sand ceremony, there are typically two colors of sand blended into a common vase by the couple. And, just as those grains of sand can no longer be divided… Well, you get the idea.

If you are looking for unity sand sets, try Hobby Lobby also has colored sand and a good selection of glass containers.

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Ready for the Real Wedding

Amy says, “We were married in a civil ceremony and now we want to have a real wedding. Can we do that?”

While you will not be able to change the date you were legally married, consider the following…

1. You could arrange for a religious ceremony. This would not constitute the legal marriage – but the religious body may issue a Certificate of Marriage recognizing the date you were joined in accordance with their religious rite.

2. You can consider treating the ceremony you are planning much like a vow renewal, with wording quite similar to a wedding.

These approaches are relatively commonplace.

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What about that receiving line?

Sylvia asked, “We are thinking about not having a receiving line after the wedding is over and [instead] coming back down the aisle to dismiss everyone. Does that seem like a better idea?”

I have officiated weddings where couples chose to exit the chapel, then immediately return to the front row of guests with the intention of personally thanking everyone for sharing in their celebration. My take on this is that not much is gained by choosing this approach, other than a break from tradition. I honestly do not see much in the way of receiving lines at the chapel these days, unless couples are looking to aim for tradition. Couples have found that skipping the receiving line presents a benefit of not having it seem to take “forever” for their guests to exit the building. No matter how hard you try to move things along – it still seems to take an extraordinary amount of time to get to your last guest. And if you opt to dismiss your guests – row by row – you gain very little. You still interact with everyone attending the wedding. By the time you get to the back row, people in that row are thinking we should have skipped the ceremony and gone straight to the reception.

What are your thoughts on the receiving line vs. dismissing the wedding quests?

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Oak Brook Shelter

Occasionally I will arrive at a wedding site I have not previously seen. This is rare, but happens. Today’s wedding was located at a place called Central Park West – The Shelter. It’s part of the Oak Brook Park District. The name implies an open-sided picnic shelter, but this site is actually a wood and brick structure with a fireplace at one end of the room. The location comfortably seated the 120, or so, guests. The couple did not host the reception at this location, however, the Park District attendant said they do hold receptions in this location.

If this sounds like it fits you, check out the location: 1500 Forest Gate Rd in Oak Brook (near the McDonald’s campus).

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Bride vs. Mom

Kristen says, “I would like the wedding and reception in one location, but mom doesn’t want a ‘banquet hall wedding’. Can you help me?”

It would not be wise of me to get between you and your mom. I agree that there are benefits to a wedding held at the reception site. A big one is the convenience afforded your traveling guests – particularly the elderly. But mom has a point. Getting married while surrounded by banquet tables, may not fit some couples. However, many of the newer banquet facilities have alternate space on their property that is designed for weddings. For example, Bobak’s Signature Room in Woodridge has two such features. One of their wedding locations has a gazebo with a water feature surrounded by floral landscaping. Such venues are easy to find and certainly worth checking out. This sort of arrangement may satisfy mom’s concerns about a ‘banquet hall wedding’ and meet your objective of having the wedding and reception in one place.

Any suggestions for Kristen?

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Unity Elements

From Stacy, “We are looking into unity options for our ceremony that are different than the usual unity candle or sand ceremony. Not that there is anything wrong with them, we just want something a little different. Any suggestions would be helpful.”

There are number of ways to symbolize your unity during a wedding. I recently officiated a wedding where the couple incorporated a Love Letter Ceremony Box. (They also had a Unity Candle.) The wedding they designed included the lighting of their unity candle, followed by a flower presentation to their mothers, and then the Ceremony Box element. Prior to the ceremony, the bride and groom had written heart-felt letters to one another that expressed their feelings about their beloved. The letters were sealed in envelopes and placed in the box during the ceremony. The box also contained their favorite wine and glasses that had been personalized. Their plan is to open the box on their fifth anniversary and share the wine and letters with one another. lists such an item as Love Letter Ceremony Box Set. A number of vendors sell this particular item. The price varies quite a bit – from under $70 at Amazon to around $120 elsewhere.

What out-of-the-ordinary unity elements have you seen?

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Outdoor Wedding

Angela asked, “Bill and I really love nature. We would like to plan a wedding in an outdoor setting. Any suggestions?”

Because you identify yourselves as nature lovers, I assume you are looking for an outdoor setting that offers more than a gazebo in a neighborhood park. There are a number of venues that are situated in a nature setting. Some are shown on the Location Ideas page.

Many Forest Preserve Districts and Municipal Park Districts offer sites for weddings and even provide a facility where you can host the reception. Right off the top of my head, what comes to mind is the Redfield Estate located at The Grove in Glenview (Glenview Park District). Another is Independence Grove (Lake County Forest Preserve District). The Grove is situated around a 115-acre lake that is surrounded by prairie and woodlands. However, if Channahon isn’t too far off the map for you, I would suggest checking out the Four Rivers Environmental Center located within McKinley Woods – Kerry Sheridan Grove (Forest Preserve District of Will County). I recently officiated a wedding at this venue and was struck by how picturesque the setting is. One end of the banquet room has floor to ceiling glass that allows a great view of nature and particularly the Illinois River. The feeling you get is that of a remote nature setting – but with the elegance you would expect for a wedding. Before your guests are treated to this beautiful banquet room, they are greeted by a grand stone fireplace that is even more impressive than the entrance to the Center. Perhaps you are thinking that Channahon is a little off the map for you. That was my first impression when I first heard about this venue. I discovered, however, this venue is not too far from the where I-55 and I-80 intersect. So traveling guests will find getting there, from North, South, East or West, quite convenient. Can you tell I was impressed with Four Rivers?

What natural-setting wedding locations have impressed you? Do you have any ideas to share with Angela and Bill?

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Strange Things Happen!

Mandy asked, “What is the strangest thing you have seen at a wedding?”

Well, that’s a question I had think about for some time. Looking back at the last 1000 or so weddings, I can’t think of anything that I would classify as strange. But I’ve seen a lot of things that I would identify as unexpected. For example, I recently officiated a ceremony at an area hotel where the staff had set up a traditional unity candle. When the time came for the bride and groom to join their individual flames by lighting the pillar candle, the couple discovered that the pillar candle was defective. It failed to light.

After much frustration and even more determination, they decided to create Plan B. Using the molten wax as a base, they extended their pillar candle with one of their tapers. Having a single flame to represent their lives now united, was the only option for this couple.

What about you? What is the strangest thing you have seen at a wedding?

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