I was chatting to a make-up artist recently and she mentioned that she was amazed at the number of last-minute questions that brides tended to ask her about their forthcoming weddings. As she herself was often unsure of the facts, I offered to compile a list for her of the answers to commonly asked last-minute questions.
Summer is a very popular time for weddings in Cape Town and I thought I would share these hints and tips with you, as I’m sure that couples getting married this month (or at any time for that matter), will find them beneficial.
Taking the veil
I was once given a good piece of advice regarding the wearing of a veil, namely that when fixing it to your hair, you should always ensure that the shorter piece is uppermost. It might seem like common sense, but brides who are planning to cover their faces for the ceremony have been known to panic on arrival at the church, when they find that their veil is firmly fixed onto their head with the longer piece on top.
Buttonholes and corsages
Probably the most often asked last-minute question is, “Which way do I pin on the buttonhole and corsage?”. The answer is simply that the buttonhole is worn with the stem down, and corsages with the stems up.
Don’t forget the ribbon
Another item that is often forgotten about until the last minute is the ribbon for the car. Traditionally, white ribbon is used, but sometimes brides prefer to choose colours that match their colour schemes.
For an average-sized car you will require approximately six metres of 25mm wide ribbon. The ribbon is attached to the bonnet of the car and then tied inside, around the sun visor (incidentally, remember to pack a golf umbrella in the boot of the car, in case of unexpected showers).
The all-important garter
Something that is easy to forget whilst dressing is the garter. If you are following the age-old tradition of wearing ‘something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue’, the garter could be your ‘blue’ item. It is worn on the right leg, above the knee.
With this ring
To enable the groom to slip on the new wedding ring, it’s advisable for the bride to move her engagement ring from the left to the right hand before the ceremony.
Once the vows are over, it can be slipped back onto the left hand. And talking of rings, ensure that a few people are given the task of reminding the best man to bring the ring with him to the ceremony! I speak from experience as, what with all the excitement of getting to the church on time, the best man at my son’s wedding forgot the ring, something the poor guy is going to be ragged about for a long time.
Avoid aching feet
If you are wearing new shoes on your wedding day, try to wear them in a bit around the house beforehand. In the case of leather soles, a good tip is to run some sandpaper over them, to ensure that they are not slippery on the day.
Getting to the church
Always ensure in advance that your photographer, videographer, the driver of the car and, most importantly, your Marriage Officer, know exactly how to find the church, reception venue and so on.
I once overheard a photographer asking a bridesmaid for directions to the reception, and a local newspaper covered the story of a Marriage Officer who arrived long after the appointed hour, as he was lost and wandering around the wrong venue. If your venue is hard to locate, and even if you have included a map with your invitation, it is a good idea to equip your ushers with extra copies of reliable maps. Be sure to include the telephone number of the venue on the map.
The right timing
It always astounds me when I hear brides asking how late they should arrive at the church. I’m not sure where this tradition originated. I asked one bride why she felt it necessary to arrive late at her wedding and she replied that she wanted to make sure the guests were all seated before her arrival. She said that at many of the weddings she had attended, several guests arrived at the very last minute.
However, in fairness to your guests, whom you have invited to share in your special day, it’s considered impolite to keep them waiting longer than between 7 and 10 minutes. In fact, I have heard of Marriage Officers who have told brides that they would leave if they failed to arrive on time!
The importance of ushers
Even a small wedding will require at least two people performing this important function. The general rule of thumb is one usher per 50 guests. Although traditionally ushers were male, this rule does not apply today and I think it is a nice touch to have a member of each sex represented. It is also no longer necessary for the usher to be dressed in the same style as the groom and best man (unless perhaps it is a brother or close relative whom you would like to honour in this manner).
Choose your ushers with care, as they need to be confident people who are able to communicate well with the guests, and with everyone else involved in the ceremony.
It’s also part of their role to inform the musicians and the Marriage Officer when the wedding party is ready to enter. In addition, they need to ensure that front row seats are reserved for close family members (the groom and his family sits on the right and the bride’s family is seated on the left-hand side). It is advisable for the couple to discuss with the ushers in advance if they would like any special seating arrangements for their respective families.
It’s also the ushers’ role to look after the mother of the bride (whom I sometimes feel is a little neglected). As it is traditionally the task of the bride’s father to escort the bride to the ceremony and then to walk her down the aisle, the bride’s mother usually arrives at the service on her own.
Remind your ushers ahead of the day that it is their job to escort the bride’s mother to her seat, in the second pew on the left. The bride’s mother needs to be informed of this plan, so that she doesn’t make an entrance on her own. She should be the last person to be seated before the arrival of the bride.
I had an interesting question recently from a bride, regarding whether she should hold onto her father’s left or right arm whilst walking down the aisle. I put the question to one of our Marriage Officers and he came back with a fascinating reply.
Apparently, it is traditional for the bride to walk down the aisle on her father’s right-hand side. The father then can easily hand her over to the groom, at which point she links her right arm through the groom’s left arm. According to tradition, the reason for this was to ensure that the groom then had his right hand free in case he needed to reach his sword, if for any reason he had to defend his bride!
Another often-asked question is, who leads the procession into the church? Do the bridesmaids go first, followed by the bride, or do they enter before her?
Traditionally, the bridesmaids always walked behind the bride. It was their job to ensure that her train was straight and that her veil didn’t catch on anything along the aisle. It was also their role to keep an eye on any smaller children in the wedding party.
Over the years this has changed, and today it is not uncommon for the bridesmaids to walk ahead of the bride. If there are any flower girls in the retinue, they are usually the first to enter. I think that one of the reasons brides prefer to walk in last, is to create more anticipation of their entrance down the aisle (by the way, if you are planning to have any very young attendants, do ensure that someone remembers to take them to the loo before leaving for the ceremony).
Signing the register
Couples often ask me who should sign the wedding register. Any person who is present at the ceremony may sign the register as a witness, providing he or she is 16 years old or over.
However, it is also necessary for your witnesses to produce either their South African Identity Documents, or, in the case of folk not resident in South Africa, their passports, as this information is required for the Marriage Register. Couples usually ask either their best man and bridesmaid or one of each set of parents to sign the register as witnesses.
The antenuptial contract
As the wife of an attorney, I am alarmed by the fact that many couples don’t seem to realise that they have to enter into an antenuptial contract before the wedding.
To change your marital property regime once you are legally married is a very costly and time-consuming affair, involving an application to the High Court. Unlike the ruling in many other countries (such as the UK), marriages in South Africa are automatically ‘in community of property’, and I cannot emphasise enough how important it is for any couple contemplating marriage (and especially if they own their own business), to contact an attorney well before their wedding.
It is not unheard of (but definitely not advisable) to have attorneys drawing up ANCs hours before a wedding!