Ceremony Do's and Don'ts

Proper Etiquette

The processional - when walking into the church or venue, it is proper not to greet your guests. So there should be no waving, hugging, or blowing kisses. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging them with a nod of recognition.
During the ceremony it is proper etiquette for the bride and groom to show the love they have for each other by gazing into each other’s eyes, gently touching one another, and showing their devotion by paying attention.

Talking during the ceremony and ignoring the words of the pastor is disrespectful. There are times, however, when talking is appropriate and even some light humor, so use discretion.

Giggling a lot is seriously offensive to the minister. Your pastor may think that you are not ready for marriage. Therefore, he/she may be stopped the wedding or may chastise you on the seriousness of your commitment, before continuing.

Readers or wedding singers should face you during the ceremony and not your guests. Your wedding is not a time for them to showcase their talents. It is a time for you to be serenaded, while basting in the spotlight of change. It is advisable that your guests not applaud them at the end of their performance (no matter how fantastic they are). You are the only ones to be applauded on your special day. The vocalist and the readers can be thanked by the minister.

Bridal Party, if your wedding party is walking in pairs (bridesmaid / groomsman) the bridesmaids should be on the left (bride's side) and the groomsmen should be on the right (groom's side). The ladies should take the gentleman's arm. And the ladies should hold their bouquet at their waist while walk down the aisle, and it should be draped on their right arm during the ceremony.
While waiting for the bride to enter, the bridal party faces the guests. After the bride is handed to the groom and the couple faces each other, the wedding party turns the same direction the couple faces and view the ceremony (side profiles).

The wedding party should stand at attention at all times with the groomsmen holding their right hand over the left or both hands behind their back. They should not be wearing sun glasses, chewing gum, or roasting the groom.

Best Man & Maid of Honor Toast - During the reception (this is off topic), your best man and maid/matron of honor should face you when making their toast. It is offensive when they toast you and all you see are their backs. So provide them with some guidance.

More to come………

Reverend Starlene Joyner Burns
The DC Marriage Knot

©2009 All Rights Reserved

If you have anything to add to this list; kindly leave your comments. I will be happy to add your recommendations.

How to Select a Professional Wedding Planner

by Zuriana's Elegant Occasions

Why should you hire a Wedding Planner for your upcoming wedding?

Professional Wedding Planners are an invaluable resource. They can help save you time and ultimately money.

Planners allow you and your fiancé the time to enjoy your engagement and help reduce some of the stress of planning your wedding.

I am an advocate for professional Wedding Planners because I know how involved planning a wedding can be. There are so many options to consider, so many vendors to choose from, so many details to think about. Yes those details... I have had many a client say how exciting yet overwhelming the wedding planning process can be.

I had a Day of Coordinator for my wedding. I don’t know what I would have done without her. In hindsight a Wedding Planner would have been a godsend to me, however I did not think we could afford one. I assumed that Wedding Planners were only for those that are “well off”. No way could my fiancé and I afford a planner with only $10,000 to spend on our entire wedding and with us footing the bill.

Guess what, any wedding planner worth their salt will ultimately pay for themselves in the long run. Think of all of the time you’ll save, the great vendor referrals you’ll receive, and the peace of mind you will have from knowing your wedding will run smoothly. That’s money well spent.

So how do you go about choosing a wedding planner? Search for a planner the same way you would search for your photographer, videographer or even your caterer. Do not choose strictly based on price alone.

Ultimately you get what you pay for. Would you trust just any photographer to capture images of your special day? You want a professional planner to guide you through the maze of planning an amazing wedding. After all, you are investing a whole lot of time and money on your wedding.

Interview two or three planners and choose the best fit for you. Some things to look for when choosing an ideal wedding planner:

Look for a Wedding Planner that has experience.

Find out how long he or she has been in the industry.

Has the planner had any formal education?

Does the planner have any professional affiliations such as but not limited to
: Weddings Beautiful, June Weddings, Association of Bridal Consultants, Maryland Wedding Professionals Association, National Association of Catering Executives, or International Special Events Society?

Does the planner attend any professional conferences?

Do you like the planner as a person?

Does the planner’s personality and your personality mesh?

Does the planner appear to love what he or she does?
You’ll be spending a lot of time with the planner depending on the level of service you desire.

Does the planner present themselves in a professional manner?

Does the planner have a business license?

Does the planner have proof of liability insurance?

Can the planner provide you with any referrals?

Following these guidelines will help you find a professional Wedding Planner that is best suited for you and will allow you to be a guest at your own wedding.

Zuriana's Elegant Occasions, LLC
(301) 358-1818

Reverend Starlene Joyner Burns

©2009 All Rights Reserved

Outdoor Wedding Surprise

During the summer months, many people plan their nuptials outside while allowing the temperature of the day to cling to their skin. Seeing the beauty of these outside events is awesome. And no one knows the sacrifice that is really being made in order to make this special event so fabulous.

So let me give you some things to ponder:

sun, temperature, bugs, weight of your clothes, location, rain, and sweating.

The Sun

Late evening weddings in August is often a surprise, because the sun begins to set sooner. So plan your outside event while the sun is still bright and clear.

Before booking your time with the venue, check to see when the sun will set on your special day.


And after acquiring your location, take into consideration the sun's position at the time of your wedding.

The sun's heat and direct aim can prove very uncomfortable for a 30 - 40 minute wedding. So select a venue where there is shade or select a time when the sun is setting.

Bees and Gnats

I have done weddings at venues where there was an absence of bugs. And I have done weddings where there was a constant fanning of bees; while the gnats would settle gently in the fabric of the bride's dress. So ask the event coordinator at the venue you choose about their flying neighbors.


Consider your guests and elderly family members sitting in the sweltering heat while supporting you. The heat can be pretty overwhelming for them especially while dressed in formal clothing.

So provide them with:

Ice cold drinking water

Start your wedding on time or a few minutes afterwards, but do not delay your wedding more than 10 minutes. It's not fair to them to have to wait in temperatures above 80º.

Aisle Runner

I have watched many inexperienced pullers work hard trying to figure out what to do, while 100's of people looked on. Often times there is no tape, no weights to aid the puller in his task. Even though this may seem like a simple job. It becomes difficult when nature works against his efforts.

To make this job easier, I suggest that you provide him with the right tools.

heavy duty tape

pocket knife (just in case he needs it.)

replacement cord, if the cord is not long enough

colored pouches full of stones, balloon weights, or small votives with lights

(battery operated, not fire) placed at 3 - 4 feet intervals (both sides) to hold down the runner.

The weights will prevent the runner from taking off to distant places across the lawn, while keeping it smooth and straight.

When a runner is used on grass (not suggested), your heels and the heels of your bridal party (recessional) will poke through it. This can cause you to trip, be thrown off balance, and the runner to tear and move.

If you are not planning on wearing flats, wedge heels (on grass), or securing the runner; then forget using one. The aisle runner can be more problems than you can imagine.

The two places where an aisle runner should not be used:

Grass (not easy to secure and tears easily)
Slippery Surfaces (very dangerous).

If the venue's staff warns you not to use a runner on their floors, don't. No one wants you to have an accident, and no one wants to see you on Worlds Funniest Video or YouTube.

Depending on the length of the aisle and the complications of the task, it can take more than one person to execute this job.

Unity Candle

On a nice cool day, hurricane covers will keep the candles from blowing out. However, it takes a long time for parents to light the candles when the wind works against their efforts. The same applies to the bride and groom.

Keep in mind that hurricane covers won't stop the heat from melting the wax and causing the candles to distort and flop under their own weight.

Therefore, I suggest replacing this ritual with the sand blending one. There are many ways to revamp this ritual, so that it can reflect the blending of two families into one. And if you have to have a unity candle ceremony, then buy an oil candle set (I will provide you with purchasing information).


An alternative indoor plan is always good, but are you willing to make the investment in decorating two locations for the ceremony. Once the venue is setup for the reception there is usually not enough room to move the ceremony indoors. And if you had a custom-designed arch that was built on location, then moving it may not be an option.

So in case of rain, allocate room in the venue for the ceremony. Then make sure that nothing is in that space where the bridal party will lineup (other than the decorations / flowers). This means that the head table would be setup after the ceremony.

Just let the catering staff or event planner know your backup plan, so that they can plan accordingly. Otherwise, your ceremony will be held in front of the head table without enough room for a large bridal party lineup.

Some venues will not allow you to make last minute changes. The decision to have your wedding indoors or out will have to be decided days in advance. So ask your venue coordinator about your options, and get everything in writing.


After I perform a summer wedding and stay for photos, I am ready for a shower. And since I have done my share of these I come prepared.

So add to your agenda, a time to change clothes (or at least your under garments), a shower, wash up, or an opportunity to dry off. If you do not bring a change of clothes, then bring a blow dryer to dry them off. This however, is not the best solution.

Reverend Starlene Joyner Burns

©2009 All Rights Reserved

If you have anything to add to this list; kindly leave your comments. I will be happy to add your recommendations.

Selecting the Best Bridal Party

During the excitement of the engagement, emotions run high. And selecting the wedding party becomes spontaneous as you yield to the awe of happiness that flows in and out of your body. So you end up with a melange of attendants. Some of them cooperative, while others are bossy, stubborn, or unreliable.

Now what's a girl to do?

Bridal Party Selection Guidelines 101:

Selecting your bridal party is never an easy task. There are just too many people who want to have roles, but there are only so many to go around. So select your bridesmaids, groomsmen, maid or matron of honor by their character and willingness to help you to create an event to remember.

Your wedding party should be people who are dependable and will not disappoint you for spite.

They should be willing to change if necessary to show how much they want to support you and your partner.

They should be understanding and forgiving.

They should be cooperative and willing to do the work they are assigned.

They should be reliable and willing to show up for the rehearsal and fitting on time, and early for the wedding.

They should not show any resistance to your ideas, but offer suggestions to add to your creative production.

They should be willing to sacrifice their own plans if necessary.

They should be willing to prioritize their schedule.


Final Guidelines:

Establish a budget for your wedding.

Select your venue, then determine the size of your bridal party. Will the space accommodate a large group or just a small one. A large bridal party in a small space would block the view of your parents.

Create a list of those you want and those who have volunteered. Then narrow that list down to those who are reliable, cooperative, loyal, and have the right attitude. If you allow looks, size, friendship, obligation, or other sentiments to play a part in your wedding party selection then be prepared to wear many hats.

Decide on how much money you will allocate for accessories or amenities, such as makeup, hairstyle, manicure/pedicure, jewelry, yoga class, spa treatment, etc.

Have a backup for those who quit (this is for a small wedding party).

Think about the rehearsal date and time (be familiar with your crew's job demands (not all surgeons will be on time)).

For small attendants, select them by the behavior of their parents, because they will be responsible for their child's attendance.

If you want your bridal party to pay for their clothing, accessories, and amenities, then make sure you select those who can afford it.

Remember; cooperation, cooperation, cooperation, and maybe a little money (those are the deciding factors).

Reverend Starlene Joyner Burns

©2009 All Rights Reserved

If you have anything to add to this list; kindly leave your comments. I will be happy to add your recommendations.

Who to Call? Wedding Officiant / Minister

Finding an Officiant
Selecting an officiant these days is like shopping for wedding shoes. The Internet seems to be replete with directories and websites that are geared towards simplifying your search. With the number of choices out there, how do you decide which one is the best fit for you?

What is an Officiant?
An officiant is a person who officiates a ceremony. This does not mean that the person has had any formal religious training or has been conferred with the title reverend, pastor, or bishop.

Many ministers are call officiants. However, the word takes the religious connotation out leaving it empty and void of spirituality. When I am referred to as an officiant, there is a great deal of respect that is removed at the sound of the word. Since the term wedding officiant is popular, I have to market myself using the term so that couples can find my ministry.

In my opinion, the word was derived from the role of those who received their ordinations online for the sole purpose of performing someone’s wedding. Most officiants who received such instant ordinations, have no religious training, affiliation to any religious organization, nor confess to any particular religion. And some of them, surprisingly, are agnostic and even atheistic.

They believe that the term wedding officiant separates them from mainstream ministers. However, some churches and local courts have rejected online ordinations thereby not permitting recipients to sodomize marriages in their sanctuary or county jurisdiction. The process of self-ordination is viewed (by many) no differently than buying a degree online.

Selecting a Wedding Officiant or Minister
Ordination (check their websites for this information, ask to see their certificate at the meeting, check if they were self-ordained),

Authorization (check their authorization to perform a Virginia Wedding or a DC Wedding),

Flexibility (how flexible are they about making changes to the ceremony script),

Training (how many years did they study to become a minister, is there any proof of their training),

Presentation (do they preach the homily or speak eloquently – a DVD helps, but viewing one can be time-consuming for a 1 hour meeting),

Recommendations (contact recommendations because not all reviews are valid),

(do they attend, and will they coordinate the rehearsal in the absence of an event coordinator),

Cost (is their fee inclusive or is there a separate fee for everything),

Experience (how many years of service do they have),

Number of Weddings (you only need to know if they perform at least 25 wedding/year, any more than that is irrelevant)

Professionalism (at the meeting check out their appearance, body language, and presentation),

(is the person easy to talk with, and does the person respond to emails and phone calls),

Venue (find out if the church your wedding is held at has any requirements for outside ministers)

Backup Minister (No one can guarantee a backup minister, when they are in route to your wedding. Ministers are not cab drivers, accidents happen causing beltways to shut down. So try selecting a minister that is closer to your venue. If you are given a verbal guarantee about a backup regardless of the circumstances, then you have been given false hope.)

Weddings are too important to miss. Therefore, no shows and tartness is not an option. Dependability is a must. If you have any forebodings leading up to the day of your wedding, don't dismiss them. Ask your minister to arrive earlier than usual. And to ameliorate your anxieties, you may even give him/her a particular time. Some ministers (not all) will comply and respect the fact that your feelings are valid. Once the fire is out, be ready to give him/her a generous tip to show your appreciation.

Trust your instincts (does the person seem unscrupulous to you).

Most couples I meet don't question my credentials, they operate on blind trust. Their thinking seems to be that all ministers are honorable. And if not, that's between them and God.

However, try to remember that scams are everywhere, even in the wedding industry, and even in the religious community. And a wedding draws people from all walks of life and a criminal minded person can reap the benefits of being present at your wedding and reception in more ways than one.

So keep in mind, it is easy to become ordain by way of the Internet. But without training, people stay true to who they are and their old ways resurrect when an opportunity is placed before them.

Reverend Starlene Joyner Burns
DC Wedding Minister, MD Wedding Officiant, VA Marriage Celebrant

©2009 All Rights Reserved

Is this blog helpful? If so kindly leave me your comments.

Wedding Planning for the Superbride

I Can Do It All By Myself

I receive a lot of calls from brides who don't know where to start in planning their wedding or commitment ceremony. So I decided to share a few tips from my experience as a minister.

Planning a wedding takes a lot of time, attention to details, organizational skills, and patience.

If you are missing one or more of the above attributes, then putting your wedding together yourself will be a very frustrating task. You will be stressed out, unorganized, late, inconsiderate of others, drained, and angry.

So, I suggest that you delegate this task to an experience wedding planner. But if you are adamant about not hiring a planner, then get ready for Stress Management 101, Dealing with Difficult People 102, and Learning from Your Mistakes 103.

It is my belief that wedding planning is team work, and sometimes the players will be the event coordinators at the venue; members of your bridal party, family, or friends.

However, you will need to select one person to pass the baton of leadership to, and that person should be:

someone who is capable of thinking fast and making decisions,
ability to take charge,
organized (this person can only be as organized as you are),
great attention to details,
care about you and your partner,
time conscious,
not easily offended,
can deal with quick changes,
have your best interest at heart,
and care about what she is creating,

If such a person does not exist amongst your friends and family, then you might want to reconsider hiring an event coordinator.

Your wedding day should be a day of relaxation, not stress and anxiety.


Planning Suggestions:

Purchase a wedding planning book (very important),

Create a budget,

Get your marriage license (notice if there is a deadline for use),

Get vendor recommendations from friends or family members who recently got married and get signed contracts from vendors,

Create an itinerary that contains the time lines and details for all vendors (including the minister), bridal party (shower, dress, makeup, hair), decorator (setting up and taking down) and anyone who has a role in the ceremony. Remember that your interim planner will only be as informed and organized as you are.

Buy bridal magazines or use wedding directory sites for:

Makeup artist
Apparel and Accessories
Disc Jockey
Limousine Service
Day-Of Wedding Coordinator
Balloon Artist

Create a webpage for your special day announcing all the necessary information for your guests and participants,

such as:

Wedding Location,
Gift Registry,
Nearby Hotels,
Sightseeing information,
Rehearsal details for the bridal party,
Wedding Day Itinerary,
Reception Itinerary,
Age restriction for small guests (with the exception of bridal party participants),
Attire (some people need to be told how to dress),

The above is just a rough sketch with many missing pieces. Remember that I am a minister, on the outside looking in; sharing with you what I have seen from that position.

Hiring an experience wedding planner for this job will be an investment that can prove to be worthwhile. Try to remember that you are not the only one involved. Your future spouse just wants to see the happiness of your face continue from the day of engagement right up to the wedding day.

Faces of stress and temperaments of anger can really challenge a relationship before the marriage gets started. So you decide what’s more important saving your relationship or money?

Reverend Starlene Joyner Burns

©2009 All Rights Reserved

Was this article helpful? If so kindly leave me your comments.

DC Wedding Minister / Maryland Wedding Officiant / VA Marriage Celebrant

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Serving MD, DC, & Northern VA, Washington DC, United States