The ceremony … remember the ceremony? You know, the whole reason we’re getting 200 of your closest peeps into the same room on the same day?

Well, the times they are a changin’, and so is how couples handle this very important part of the day. Whether or not it’s religious based, some couples are choosing to hold the ceremony portion of the wedding day at the same venue as the rest of the festivities.

Look, getting married in a church is not everyone’s cup of tea. My husband and I chose not to—most likely causing my grandma to roll over in her grave, but what can you do?

Below are 10 things to think about if you aren’t getting married in a house of worship:

1) How does the venue handle ceremonies onsite?

This is a very important question to ask when touring venues. How do you handle a 150-person wedding in here if we’re doing ceremony, cocktails and dinner/dancing under the same roof? Have them walk you through it so you know the path your guests will take.

2) What’s the winter/rain plan?

Does the venue bank on using an outside area for the ceremony? Well, what if it rains? Or, if you’re getting married during the seven to nine months out of the year when it’s freaking cold out? Be sure you have an understanding of all scenarios and are happy with how the ceremony will be handled if the weather doesn’t cooperate.

3) Chairs!

If the ceremony and reception are both happening inside, chances are, the same chairs the venue offers (or that you are renting) can be used for both portions of the evening. However, if you’re hosting your wedding at a venue that offers an outside area for your ceremony, they might require you to use different chairs, which could be an added cost on your end—so, be sure to clarify this with the venue before booking.

4) Is there an extra fee for this?

Often times, yes. This is because staff will need to come in earlier and set up the ceremony space before your guests arrive. It usually also covers what we call “the flip,” where, again, additional staff would be needed on-site to assist with this.

5) Speaking of the room flip …

chicago wedding venue

Photo by Spoon Photo & Design / Venue Chicago Athletic Association for Ceremony

A room flip, you say? Oh, it’s magical! All your guests are in one room for the ceremony, they leave and go to another room or area of the venue, and—poof!— elves come and turn the ceremony space into a gorgeous room for your guests to dine and dance the night away. This all happens in under an hour! It’s pretty cool. But, just be aware that we need you and your guests out of that space pronto, otherwise the elves won’t appear. So, no, sadly you can’t use that gorgeous backdrop for family photos immediately post-ceremony like you would do at a church.

6) First Look & Family Photos

chicago wedding venues

Photo by Spoon Photo & Design / Venue Chicago Athletic Association after the flip – Reception

That leads me to point #6. If you’re not getting married at a church and, instead, are getting married at your venue, you’re going to really want to consider doing a first look and knocking out all of the family formals BEFORE the ceremony.

Before you fight me on this, here are the two main reasons: First, wedding party photos and family formals can take a chunk of time. After you say “I do,” all of your guests will go directly into the cocktail/delicious appetizer portion of the event, and, believe me, you’re going to want to join them, not leave to go do all those photos.

Second, if you’re in a venue that needs to do a flip (remember, you’ll have to leave the space right away), there may not be a good location to do all of these photos except outside and … if it’s raining, you’ll be SOL.

7) What time should things get started?

The reason church weddings tend to be so early in the day is that they have an afternoon/early evening service that they need to be ready for. When getting married at the venue that you’re also hosting your reception at, there’s no reason to have a 2:00 or 3:00 p.m. ceremony. Instead, most couples will choose a start time between 5:30–6:30. It just depends on how long you have the venue booked.

8) Ceremony Music

Will you have your DJ or band provide the music for the ceremony? This is usually an additional fee. Often times, they will need to set up a separate speaker and/or have musicians on earlier in the day. They will also need to provide and set up the microphone so that everyone can hear you pledge your love for each other. Talk to your band or DJ about their ceremony packages so you have a good understanding of what’s included and what might be an additional cost.

9) Draping/Additional Decor

Don’t like the blank wall that you’d be up against during the vows? Unlike a church with a built-in backdrop, your venue might require a little extra something jazzy to make the space feel more ceremony-y. Also, if you’re not into all the guests seeing your vendor—er, I mean elves—running around flipping the room, you may need some draping or folding screens. Ask the venue if there is anything included to help with this. If not, this would be an additional cost that you’d need to consider.

10) Ceremony Rehearsal

If you aren’t getting married in a house of worship, you’ll probably have to gameplan a bit for your wedding rehearsal. Unlike in a church, where a rehearsal is pretty much a given, venues will often have other events booked the week of your wedding, leaving them unable to accommodate you and your crew the night before the wedding. Run it by your venue and see if you might be able to pop in for an hour at some point the week of the wedding, or work with your wedding planner/coordinator to figure out a Plan B.

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