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Advice from the Altar

Plan ahead — and don’t sweat the small stuff

Delaney officiates the wedding of Christy and Tommy Green.

I got ordained as a wedding officiant after a very bad ceremony a decade ago. In the midst of the ceremony, I thought I had a stroke as none of what the celebrant was saying made any sense. It was as if he was picking random words from a dictionary and tossing in Biblical references.
    My wife reassured me that she was as clueless as I was.
    Thank God, I didn’t have a stroke! was my first thought. My second was, I could have done a better job.
    I have been doing weddings ever since.
    Lucky for you, I have some tips to pass along.

1. Go over your ceremony at least a month ahead of your wedding. Have the priest, minister, officiate, kangaroo, whoever, email it to you.
    If you go to a car dealer and ask to buy the red Dodge Charger and the guy says he’ll sell you the grey 1987 Oldsmobile, are you going to buy it? No!
    It’s your wedding. You should get what you want. You can make changes.

2. Whoever you choose to be your DJ, photographer, caterer, officiate, minister, etc., tell them to dress appropriately. I have done weddings where the DJ looked as if he was plucked off of a Baltimore street corner and asked to spin some tunes. As I tell my clients, Christmas is for kids, weddings are for the parents and close relatives. Your relatives want to witness a nice ceremony without seeing some bum in torn jeans or sloppy clothes, reeking of fortified wine, doing professional work. Your friends, on the other hand, want an open bar.

3. If this is your first wedding, think of it as running the 200-yard dash in the Olympics. The day of your wedding is like having the guy with the starter pistol at the end of your bed at 6am yelling, GET READY, GET SET, BANG!
    Your day will fly by, and at the end of it you’ll be saying to yourself, and possibly your new spouse, if he/she isn’t passed out, Gosh, I wish I talked to Aunt Mary longer, or, Man, Uncle Ernie flew in from Alaska for this; I should have given him more time.

4. Don’t worry about the little things. If the florist places daffodils instead of daises in your bouquet (by the way, this is for the bride), don’t fret about it. No one will notice, especially your future husband. He’s just standing there thinking, Am I getting married?

5. For the groom and his ensemble: Do not have your bachelor party the night before your wedding. Have it about three months before your wedding. By the day of your wedding, you’ll be sober. If you arrive at your wedding intoxicated, the celebrant is not required to marry you. You are entering into, basically, a contract with the person in front of you, and if you’re drunk, that could be your Best Man.
    When I got married, the minister asked me if I was of sound mind, and not under the influence of any drugs or alcohol. My answer: Not yet. I then said, I do.

After a wedding-gone-bad left him ­wondering if he’d had a stroke, Allen Delaney became a wedding officiant himself, figuring even he could do better.

6. I could go on, but space limits me for one last item. If the venue you choose charges too much for a rehearsal, you can have a rehearsal somewhere else. The place my stepson got married wanted $300 for an extra hour to stay open for the rehearsal. I won’t repeat the exact words he said, but we had the rehearsal in our front yard. It was great. Everyone, including yours truly, had a beer in hand, and the caterer did all the work. We had a blast!
    Your marriage is for your immediate family. Let them enjoy it, and if you can, make them a part of it. Have fun. Don’t stress the little stuff. Unless someone in your wedding party spontaneously explodes, no one will remember that you forgot to wear shoes or the flowers in your bouquet were dead.

Finally, for you grooms-to-be, you future husbands, I will tell you the four magic words that will make your marriage last for the rest of your life. Sear these words into your brain, tattoo them backwards on your forehead and write them on your arm. Those magic words are:
    Yes, dear, you’re right.