YES! Participation is possible, whether you have four guests present or 100+. Your guests can be part of your wedding and really, truly — ENJOY themselves — during the ceremony! Guest participation is a ceremonial element that I routinely emphasize and offer to couples while we co-create their ceremony. Just yesterday, a Bride said to me:
“I want our guests to share in our wedding experience, not just witness it.”
I love hearing this sentiment. And I hear it often. She inspired me to write this post. It is becoming more and more common for couples to feel this way. How to achieve creative and coherent participation is the question. This photo shows how much people can really open up to laughing and enjoying themselves. (Sometimes I see joyful tears, too.)
Here are a few tips for including guest participation in your ceremony:
- Ask Families for Support ~ rather than the formal ‘Presentation’ with a solo father-figure giving away the Bride, consider asking each individual’s respective families to stand. Ask them for their blessings or support, early on in the ceremony. This can be more comfortable for blended families, because everyone has an opportunity for recognition.
- Reach out with Appreciation ~ to whomsoever you love and feel grateful toward. Actually walk over to them as a couple, or have them come forward. Parents, siblings, adult children – you get the idea! Offer words of thanks or even gifts. (One couple I’m working with is considering trophies!)
- Encourage Exchanges in the Audience ~ simple phrases between guests near the welcome can really ‘open their hearts’ to what is about to happen. This can be simply saying “Peace be with You” in more formal settings, or in more relaxed spaces, “I’m so dang glad you’re here!”
- Seek a Community Vow of Support ~ after the couple’s vow exchange, I enjoy asking everyone to stand. I remind them how they are the couple’s ongoing circle of steadiness and support, then ask if they pledge to continue their role in the couple’s married lives. Folks love to respond enthusiastically, “We do!”
- Recite a Blessing – All Together ~ Tomorrow everyone will stand at the end of a ceremony I’m leading, hold hands and recite a Blessing for the couple all together. When the couple is pronounced married and the big kiss occurs, everyone will already be standing for the music and celebration to begin!
This will get the ideas swirling for you, hopefully. Weddings are a series of special moments for everyone gathered to share in and enjoy. When I work with couples and families to achieve an actively memorable collective experience, I’m thankful to be the catalyst!