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Gerald Fierst

Gerald Fierst is a civil celebrant who writes and performs weddings and life ritual ceremonies . He also performs as a storyteller and teaches writing and the creative process throughout the US, Europe, Asia and Australia. Fierst’s audio tapes have received Parent Choice Awards, and he is the rec...

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02/23/2011 11:02am
Ten Ways to Have a Royal Wedding on a Commoner's Budget

I have officiated at hundreds of weddings across the US and witnessed weddings around the world. The bride is always the Princess, and the groom is always Prince Charming; but after the fairy tale ball, few of us can draw on the royal treasury to pay the real bills. Here are a few suggestions to add enchantment without expense.

1. Location

Don’t have Westminster Abby available? Consider the wonderful spaces that are a part of our urban landscape. My own son used the Eli Whitney Museum, a 19th century factory space. The antiques and high ceilings were designed to be a cathedral of invention. I officiated at an industrial loft in New York City with sweeping views of Manhattan. The lights of New York with their excitement and glamour became a sparkling fairy garden as evening arrived. A local historic house, concert hall, or meeting space will often rent for far less than a hotel or catering site and give a unique and stylish environment that will make extra decoration unnecessary.

2. Wedding Cake

Princess Diana had a wedding cake that was six feet tall, but you don’t have to follow suit. The crowned heads of Europe aren’t coming, just your cousins and uncles and aunts. Still, it’s so easy to add up friends and family to top one hundred. The average three-tiered wedding cake for a party that size costs upwards of $600. That is a lot of money for a tradition that started with a loaf of bread! In ancient times, a cake or loaf of bread (the staff of life) was broken over the bride’s head to ensure fertility. In Renaissance times, refined sugar was a rare commodity. White sugar icing was put on the cake as a sign of affluence and prosperity. In Victorian times, the tiered cake became popular along with baking techniques to support the weight of multiple tiers. Keep the wedding cake; change the construction. I have always appreciated the surprise of cup cake and cream puff cakes, carrot and spice cakes, and homemade cakes, which offer a reminiscence of the days when weddings really happened in the front parlor. Even an elegant cake from a high-end baker need not be a tower. One of the prettiest cakes I’ve seen was a simple two-layer circle with a bouquet arrangement in its center. This couple used a sheath of wheat bound with ribbons recalling the origins of the cake tradition.

3. Flowers

I was in Udaipur when the Minister of Aviation was marrying his daughter to a Bollywood star. Each night a different palace was strewn with banks of fresh cut flowers. The next day, the wilted stems were thrown into the trash. Whether on a Maharajah’s or a beggar’s budget, why throw money away? Flowers make a wedding seem like paradise. The ritual of a ceremony make us stop and look at the wonder that life is always renewing, and humanity is always starting again; but a garden is more than flowers. The rich tradition of the green man is found worldwide and includes in its fertility images fruits and vegetables of many kinds. Vines, grasses and leaves as well flowers can be used to create a decorative story of the life force that is celebrated at a wedding. Your wedding bower can be trees of life that will be replanted in your home garden as a living reminder of your love. A trip to your local garden store can provide pots of flowering bushes to frame your procession, and centerpieces can be bowls of annuals, perennials, and herbs to be taken home as favors.

4. Entertainment

Ever see a picture of the Queen shaking hands after a command performance? We think of artistic commissions as the province of the rich and powerful, but a modest budget can often hire a wonderful musician or dancer from a local college to create an accent for your wedding vows. I have been delighted at a wedding with processional and recessional fanfares created by local brass players. I vividly remember a dance company from a local school making a wedding night special with a performance of the tango. I have used remarkable singers who are studying opera to sing for a ceremony and, then, to do a tribute


weddings, royal weddings, marriage, ceremony, love, budget
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