Wedding How-To: Tips From East End Experts

Just married couple holding hands on the beach
Make your wedding like you, unique. Photo credit: EpicStockMedia/iStock/Thinkstock

When people fall in love and decide to get engaged, the expectation of what comes next is clear—marriage, and of course, the wedding. For many, this last step is the living fairytale they have been dreaming about their entire lives.

Nowadays weddings come in all shapes and sizes. Weddings can be traditional, where families pile into a church to watch over the ceremony; some weddings are more low key in a spacious backyard; or, some weddings reflect the quirkiness and uniqueness of the bride and groom.

The East End of Long Island is a great scenic place to tie the knot. The pristine beaches and sloping waves of the South Fork or the rolling hills and spacious green fields of the North Fork provide the perfect backdrop for the day.

But how does one go about getting married on the East End?

First, a couple who intends to be married in New York State must apply in person for a marriage license to any town or city clerk in the state.

While you may know if you want a small or a large celebration, or if you want a ceremony in a church, hotel or the beach, the next thing you should decide to do is find and speak to an officiant.

“A couple doesn’t need to be completely prepared when they come see me,” says Paula Peterson, an ordained interfaith minister who performs non-denomination weddings, “I have to be prepared.”

Though couples do not have to be completely prepared, there are some things they should have considered about their big ceremony, such as budget limits, the size of the wedding party, the number of guests, would they like a double ring ceremony, and who’d they like to participate.

“What I offer is a unique experience—no guidelines,” says Peterson. “I like to offer weddings that reflect who the couple is or their culture.”

“They come and we talk about things couples often don’t think about,” says Peterson. “We talk about marriage—what type of ring ceremony they want, their blessing and their vows.”

Now, although vows are essentially the individual promise the bride and groom exchange with one another, they are often overlooked.

“Vows are the most important part of the wedding and many couples overlook writing them themselves,” says Peterson. “They’re not a term paper-—you don’t have to memorize them—they are what you’re promising.”

Once couples are aware about writing their own vows, the officiant may discuss the theme of the ceremony.

“I’ve done medieval-themed weddings, Irish cultural themed ceremonies. I’ve done weddings on a beach-—even a wedding in front of the Montauk Lighthouse,” says Peterson.

If a couple wishes to choose a special location for their wedding, the only caveat is they must attain permission from the town, particularly if the couple chooses to have a wedding on a public beach or landmark.

“Weddings can happen anywhere now, so I tell them about interesting venues they might never have thought about before,” says Peterson. “People can be married on the beach, in houses, backyards, restaurants where they maybe proposed, hotels, docks, inns, vineyards, barns,” the officiant adds.

For Reverend Karen Campbell, Priest at Christ Episcopal Church Sag Harbor, discussing the time, place and date is covered early on because many couples have thought about those subjects.

However, couples looking to get married in Sag Harbor’s Episcopal Church must follow several procedures. Couples must engage in pre-martial counseling for four to five hours over four or five sessions.

“It is important to talk about things couples wouldn’t talk about,” says Campbell. “There is so much energy put in towards a dress, flowers, music, food that getting married is an afterthought.”

Then, Campbell and the couple further plan the ceremony and have a “last visit” close to the wedding before rehearsal.

“I’ve done weddings on a beach, in the Redwoods in California, vineyards-—I’ve done weddings in a barn on the North Fork,” says Campbell. But now all weddings Campbell does are in the confines of a church.

Getting married may be daunting, but having the wedding of your dreams doesn’t need to be. Officiants like Peterson and Campbell can provide future brides and grooms with their fairytale weddings.

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