I perform customized, personalized wedding ceremonies for Jewish and interfaith couples, throughout Central Florida. Couples and their families tell me consistently that my ceremony was a beautiful and meaningful part of their special day.
From the day I started performing weddings, I’ve assigned all couples “homework,” including watching the Steve Martin and Diane Keaton movie “Father of the Bride.” I tell them that besides being a charming, romantic movie, with the hilarious Martin Short as the wedding planner, my purpose in having them watch this movie is that things will go wrong, on their wedding day and leading up to it, and we’ll get through them.
My wife likes to say that when everything goes smoothly, you don’t get any good stories. Two of my best wedding stories, when things go wrong at the wedding, happened in Hemming Park, in downtown Jacksonville. The ceremony was scheduled to begin at 6:30 on a Saturday evening, as it was just starting to get dark. The old-fashioned streetlights in Heming Park came on and at the same time power was cut to the ground-level electric outlets.
We weren’t prepared for this, and as soon as the DJ started the procession music, his equipment went dead. Fortunately, the DJ had a 100-foot orange extension cord, which he quickly ran across the street, to the main public library, where the reception was being held. We were off to an interesting start!
The ceremony resumed quickly and proceeded according to plan until near the end when I heard a metallic “plink.” The guests were seated on folding chairs on the grass, but there was a large wooden platform for the ceremony, with small gaps between the boards. The “plink” I heard was made by the groom’s ring, which slipped off his finger, bounced once, and fell between two boards, onto the grass below.
We finished the ceremony and sent the guests to the library for their cocktail hour. Picture the bride, the groom, their fathers, two ushers, and the “day-of” coordinator returning to search between the boards for the ring, using their cellphone flashlights. I waited until they found the ring and were fishing it out before leaving.
Then there’s Florida weather: rain, thunderstorms hurricanes, or just abnormal heat. Two of my couples had to move their weddings due to approaching hurricanes. Another couple changed a Sunday wedding to Tuesday, at a different venue, for the same reason. I’ve found that most venues are very understanding and cooperative.
Florida brides, especially, want to have their ceremony outdoors, if at all possible. Sometimes we get lucky. One couple scheduled their wedding on a Sunday afternoon in July, on Ormond Beach, with no “backup plan.” We were lucky enough to have a half-hour window when the rain stopped, just long enough to get the ceremony in.
Another couple, whose wedding is pictured here, planned their ceremony to be held on the large over-water patio of a local yacht club. They built a beautiful chuppa (Jewish wedding canopy) for the occasion, had the chairs all set up, and then the rain came. Fortunately, the storm passed, the yacht club staff wiped all the chairs quickly, and the ceremony was held outdoors, about ½ hour late. As you can see in the photos, the couple and their guests were very happy, and a good time was had by all.
So, in summary, here are some words of advice for couples, their venues, and their wedding service providers:
- If you use a public park and need their electricity, know the hours of operation.
- DJ’s should always carry at least one 100-foot orange extension cord.
- If you build a platform, make sure the boards are close together.
- Watch “Father of the Bride.” You may not have 12-year-olds parking cars or swans making on the lawn, but things go wrong at the wedding, and you will get through them!
I’m a “second-career” rabbi, ordained 9 years ago after 4 years of intensive study. I’ve performed 78 weddings in my young rabbinic career. I have a good variety of experience with couples, venues, and various kinds of wedding service providers.