It's June, and blushing brides all over town are breathlessly anticipating their weddings. Months, if not years, of preparation have gone into making sure every last detail of the big day is picture-perfect.
But, as the professionals who perform marriage ceremonies or work behind the scenes will tell you, nuptials - like wedded life - often defy perfection, despite the best-laid plans.
That's when the fun begins.
Sara Wentz, director of worship and music at First United Methodist Church, remembers a particularly imperfect wedding years ago in Kansas City where she was the accompanist.
"I had to get from the piano on one side of the chancel to the organ on the other side and had only a Scripture reading to do it," Wentz recalls. "There were two door options, and I picked door No. 1, which was closest, and I knew it went behind. I opened the door and fell into the baptismal font! I started laughing and kind of limped out and said, 'Well, that was the wrong door.' With wet shoes, I scurried over to the organ to play with the vocalist. She didn't have much of a voice and was supposed to sing that Chicago tune, 'Colour My World,' which isn't a great melody for someone who struggles with pitch. I just was hoping she'd get through it.
"I start the introduction, and the electricity goes off! This poor person has just started to sing, and now there's no accompaniment. So, I kind of bent down over the organ bench and started to sing with her, so she could keep singing, and, at least, hear a pitch. She was bad to begin with, but that just made it worse."
Wentz has played at hundreds of weddings, but her funniest memory has nothing to do with music.
"My favorite was when the preacher got messed up in (the vows.) He said, 'Repeat after me: Do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife?' You could see the groom thinking about it, but he went ahead and said, 'Do you take this woman Š?' There was this very awkward moment, but it just sort of continued that way. I was sitting at the organ wondering how we were going to get out of this conundrum. I thought, 'My God, I think we just married the preacher to the bride!'"
The Rev. Peter Luckey of Plymouth Congregational Church confesses to an embarrassing case of vow confusion:
"There was a family who had twins - two delightful young men," he explains. "They got married about a year apart, and their brides had the same name. Well, I had gotten these twins so much in my head that when I did the prayer, instead of saying, 'God, we pray for so-and-so and so-and-so, I made the two twins husband and wife in the prayer. It was like, 'so we pray for Brian and Brad to have a nice life together.' Oh, God. I've made my share of faux pas."
Though he laughingly claims nothing ever goes awry at his weddings, the Rev. John Schmeidler of St. John the Evangelist Church says it's the awkward moments that can hang a wedding up.
"Plastic runners never work, I can tell you that," he says. "First off, they never pull out very well, and they come out crooked. They try to tape it down, and it doesn't stick, and the poor groom pulls it up. Then, the bride walks on it, and it's in total disarray, all wrinkled, and doesn't look nice at all. But people love their runners."
"Then, there's the unity candle ceremony when the bride will want one of her favorite songs to play," Schmeidler continues. "I tell them 'don't do it!' It takes all of 15 seconds to light the candle, then they have to wait while the song plays out. The groom's thinking, 'How long do I have to stand up here with everyone staring at me?'"
Luckey adds, "I've done outdoor weddings where, because it's so hot in Kansas, the unity candle melts before they have time to light it. People say, 'Let's get married outdoors in Kansas in August!' It's like, hello?"
But, is it realistic to expect to get hitched without a hitch? Probably not, if you're working young children into the act.
Lawrence wedding planner Carmen Hocking recommends using children over the age of 4. Even then, expect the best, but prepare for the worst. Especially if you're dealing with little boys.
"I remember it was a full Catholic Mass wedding and, at one point, an altar boy walked down the aisle ringing a bell," Hocking recalls. "A little boy, about 4 years old, shouts as loud as he can: 'It's the ice cream man!'
"Another time, a little boy who was the ring bearer was waiting in the back of the church with his mother until it was his turn to walk down the aisle," Hocking continues.
"His mom had been giving him candy to keep him quiet, and the last thing she gave him was a lollipop. When it was time for him to go, I asked for the lollipop, and he shook his head 'no.' I asked could I PLEASE have his lollipop and, again, he shook his head. The groom motioned for me to send him down the aisle as is, so I did. The little boy smiled with the lollipop in his mouth, and it made all the guests laugh. Both the bride and groom said it was a great addition to the service and something they would always remember."
"You also don't want give the rings to a child," Schmeidler warns. "I had a kid who said, 'You're not getting these rings.' So, I just blessed them and moved on. I may have bribed the kid later to give up the rings. I don't remember."
Hocking also suggests providing maps to the wedding venue for guests and wedding party. Even then, Murphy's Law may apply.
"I did a wedding once that was supposed to be at two o'clock, and everyone was ready to go," Luckey recalls. "But the maid or matron of honor wasn't there. We waited around for over an hour - these were the days before cell phones - but she was held up in traffic and never came. They had to postpone the wedding. It was a nightmare."
The key to wedding bliss, according to the experts, is to go with the flow.
"I've learned you've got to be creative in this business," Schmeidler says. "I'm improvising all the time."
Luckey says, "I'll often talk at the wedding and say I know a lot of energy has gone into making this wedding be perfect, but the fact of the matter is what we're doing here today is starting a life together that's going to be anything but perfect. It's a leap of faith."