When we interview couples who want to plan their wedding and find the right officiant for them, the conversation often begins with something like, “We went to a friend’s wedding recently and the minister told jokes the whole time. It was rude and our friend was upset. And he wasn’t even funny!” Some couples begin with “We read how you like humour in a wedding ceremony, which is one of the reasons we wanted to meet you. We want humour. Tasteful humour.” There are as many styles of humour as there are officiants. So, what kind of funniness do you want at your wedding, what is your reason for using humour, and will it come across without offending…anyone? When there is tension at a wedding, everyone worries about how the bride will feel because the wedding is 95% the bride’s day. Don’t embarrass the bride!
A wedding ceremony is the serious beginning of a celebration. Telling jokes is generally not appropriate and officiants are not stand up comedians. It is all about the bride and groom. You may want some lightheartedness to break family tensions, to diffuse some serious differences of opinions with in-laws or out-laws; nothing more.
The Commitment, when the officiant asks “Do you…?” and the groom and bride each respond in turn, “I do,” is the first response from the couple in the ceremony. The groom always goes first, and nerves are still not calmed yet. I say something like, “Do you, Arthur, choose Joan to be your wife?” I take a breath before I continue with, “In sickness and in health….” “Arthur” often speaks prematurely with an anxious, “I do.” The context is clear and everyone is now on tenterhooks. I immediately come back with, “But wait. There’s more.” Laughter ripples through the audience and tensions are relieved. When applied in the context of the moment, humour heals tension.
Never risk irritating or disrespecting your guests. Always use the present context to inject humour into the ceremony. Make sure your officiant agrees with this. Once, in a ceremony where the bride and groom were themselves being a bit funny and the guests seemed to be chuckling along with their antics, I closed my book before I pronounced them. Holding my book down in front of me, I looked at the groom and then the bride. Everyone was waiting. I had their full attention. With a thoughtful smile I said, “Looking at you now reminds me of a very famous line from that great movie, When Harry Met Sally.” I paused. The image of the scene in the diner when Sally faked an orgasm flashed through some minds. A few titters broke the silence, then one out-loud laugh from a middle-aged lady, setting off a gale of laughter from everyone. I peered over the top of my glasses and said—with a smile and a mock scolding tone—“Probably not what you’re thinking of.” More laughter. “I was thinking of the line, ‘When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.’” While everyone was nodding their approval, I pronounced the couple husband and wife. What I said was humorous in context. It would have been disastrous if I had said, “Get a room.”
When humour is good in a wedding ceremony, it is suitably in context and not ‘telling jokes’. Tell your officiant. Save the standup routines for your reception speeches and toasts to you on your special day.
Your day, your way!