Ceremonies, celebrations may change but lifelong commitment remains the same
The uniqueness of a wedding is up to each bride and groom, whether they want to adhere to tradition or how much they want to individualize their nuptials. One couple donned scuba gear to get married in a shark tank, while another got married at T.J. Maxx where they met. Some set out to break world records, like the bride who wore a 200 meter-long dress or another who chose to have 110 bridesmaids.
Most are more modest in their attempt to stamp their individuality on their big day. Some couples like to hire a choreographer to help them boogie in style down the aisle or perform a one-of-a-kind dance at the reception. Others have a "mixologist" create a special drink based on the couple's personality.
Kelly O'Friel, a 1994 Foothill grad who is training coordinator at the San Ramon Police Department, is planning her wedding with Brad Jansen next month at the Palm Event Center, where they chose the wine barrel room for the ceremony since March weather is unpredictable.
They are departing from tradition in their desserts. Besides the wedding cake, guests will be able to feast on chocolate chip cookies with a shot of cold milk, or enjoy churros with Mexican hot chocolate.
"The presentation is beautiful," O'Friel said. "When we're ready to cut the cake, they'll bring out these two extra desserts -- it will be a sugar fest."
To her, the guests are all-important.
"It's the first time in your life that you have all your friends and family in one place," she said. "I'm super excited about that."
Kelly and Brad chose a minister who is down to earth and infuses a bit of appropriate humor into the ceremony. He provided them with the basic wording for the vows.
"We have the option of changing or inserting things," Kelly said. "That's one of the last minute things we are still working on."
Monique Bogni, director of events at Palm Event Center, said late night snacks are the latest trend in weddings, with stations unveiled about an hour before the event ends with offerings such as sliders with homemade chips or pizza. Or "passed tacos."
"They can grab a taco from the bar while they're dancing," Bogni said.
"We do a lot of Asian and Filipino weddings and their families are big eaters-- it's important to have food throughout the night," she added.
"Candy tables are really big, too," she said. "Clients will bring in different vases of candy, sometimes in their color scheme."
Five or six years ago the chocolate fountain with strawberries and crispy treats for dipping was big, she said, but not so much anymore.
Another trend is to greet the guests before the ceremony with hors d'oeuvres and champagne.
"It's kind of like a taste of what's yet to come," she said.
A Snow White theme is going to be popular this year, she's heard, because several Snow White movies are coming out.
"We had someone do an Alice in Wonderland theme, with little favors that said 'Drink me' and 'Eat me,'" she said.
Some Indian grooms arrive at the Palm Event Center in a traditional "baraat" procession.
"The groom will come in on a horse, prior to main wedding ceremony," Bogni said. "We had one look into coming in on an elephant but he could not get the city permits."
"Specialty lighting is another new trend," she said. "For the last two to three years people have started contracting with an outside company to do a light monogram. A lot of times it will be what they used on their invitations."
The monogram may shine on the ceiling or go over the dance floor and the bar, with patterns, such as trees and flowers, in different colors.
"They'll add lighting to the guest table so the centerpiece is more lit up," she said. "Lighting adds a lot of drama. Even if they have basic linens and basic centerpieces, the lighting can make everything pop."
The Rev. Heather Leslie Hammer reminds couples who ask her to officiate at their nuptials that they aren't just planning a wedding, they're preparing for a life together. That's why she begins the preparations with premarital counseling.
"It's important that their conviction is serious and they have the kind of commitment to make the marriage last," said Hammer, who is pastor at Lynnewood United Methodist Church in Pleasanton.
She talks with the couple about communication, personality differences, finances and their families' expectations. They also discuss their friends and social activities and their sexual intimacy. And they explore their mutual appreciation of each other's needs and religion.
Hammer has seen changes through the years in weddings and in marriages.
"One thing is that people aren't getting married as much -- they're living together and don't see the need to get married," Hammer said. "It's always interesting for me to ask, 'Why now?' Sometimes it's because they want to have a child. Sometimes one of them wants the commitment to be more formalized. Some just laugh and say, 'It's about time.'"
"They've been through a lot already and know where they stand," she added. "In spite of all the problems, they love each other -- their love is bigger than all the problems and they formalize it for the sake of their own confidence in the future, for their families."
The ceremony she performs has brides and grooms vow, under God, that this is the person they love and will care for the rest of their life. Some couples write their own vows although others are more comfortable with the traditional words.
"Some just want to say 'I do' or repeat after me, phrase by phrase," Hammer said. "I would rather they don't have to hold something and read it."
"In our denomination they can say what they wish to say, as long as it shows love and respect in the sight of God and the community," she added.
Hammer also said that in recent years more weddings are taking place in the wine country and also that more couples seem to focus on the party rather than the ceremony.
"Another trend in weddings relates to how multi-cultural our society now is," Hammer said. "I have done Filipino weddings using the traditions of a cord and a veil uniting the couple and coins transferred to both people's hands to show how they will share all they have."
A Cuban-themed wedding was a natural for Kyle Colvin and Yuri Rodriguez Omana since she is from Cuba, said Kyle.
Their wedding ceremony July 31 was at Valley Bible Church, and right afterward, the couple drove down Main Street in a vintage automobile filled with balloons, in the Cuban tradition.
"My groomsmen wore guayaberas, the Cuban shirts, and I wore a linen suit," Kyle recalled. "And we wore Cuban-style fedoras, and dark sunglasses."
A friend in Miami rolled Cuban cigars with a picture of Yuri and Kyle on the cigar band, which they gave out along with matchboxes with their names and the date.
"We had mojitos for everyone when they arrived at the reception," Kyle said, which was held at a friend's house in Ruby Hill, catered by the Habana Cuba restaurant in San Jose. "There was salsa music and everyone danced. It was so much fun."
Allie Capra said her September wedding marrying Tony at the Palm Event Center in Pleasanton was mostly traditional with an evening ceremony on the side patio by the vineyard.
"My uncle, who's a superior court judge, married us," she said. "We had modern vows but didn't write our own."
"One thing we did a little differently was he has two sisters, I have one brother, and our siblings stood up on our sides," she explained. "That was a little unconventional."
Allie Cabra, 29, an escrow officer at Chicago Title in Orinda, said many of her friends and cousins had recently been married so she had a lot of ideas for her own wedding.
"Of course you want it to be nice and different and beautiful but I tried not to get caught up in that," she said. "It can be competitive but that takes the meaning out of it. Ours was very classic and very traditional. I just wanted all of the standard wedding things -- and I wanted people to have fun."
The choices these days go on and on.
"Some girls, in my opinion, go a little overboard with all of the details -- they go over the top with centerpieces, all the little napkins, all the stuff that most people don't remember," Cabra said. "They are going to remember the good time they had."
She only wishes that she'd had time to say hello to each and every one of the 200 guests.
"It went by so fast," she said.
Rabbi David Katz of Congregation Beth Emek in Pleasanton said he has done many wedding over the decades and the Jewish vows are from the Talmud.
"They haven't changed in 2,000 years except if it's a double ring ceremony," he explained. Then both will say, " Behold you are betrothed to me with this ring, according to the laws of Moses and Israel."
"There may be a moment in the service where a bride and groom speak words to each other but not ordinarily," Katz added. "That would depend upon the rabbi to determine if it were appropriate but it's not in the form of a vow, it's in addition."
He noted that Jewish marriages also have a wedding contract, or "ketubah," which has been modernized in the last 75 years and speaks more to the feelings of the couple.
Regardless of the wording of the vows, most couples today choose to commit to each other in front of family and friends, then celebrate together.
Skydivers have been known to jump into marriage by reciting their vows with a similarly inclined officiant while hurtling through the air at 125 mph -- they must be careful not to drop the rings.
Questions in preparation for marriage
What words would you describe your partner's personality? Your own personality?
What words would you use to describe the family you grew up in?
How do you share decision making?
What do you expect to change when you are married?
Finish the sentence:
I love it when my partner....
My greatest fear is ...
I am happiest when...
In our marriage I hope...
-- The Rev. Heather Leslie Hammer