As the Administrative Assistant to the Programming Department and Special Events Coordinator at Bay Pointe Community Church, Polly Sonneveldt has assisted well over 100 couples in the past eight years. In her position, she coordinates weddings and other events at Bay Pointe and at many other venues in the area. A resident of Traverse City, she is married to Terry and has three grown sons, Tyler, Austin and Spencer. She also has a beautiful daughter-in-law, Koren, the cutest grandson (ever!), and is anxiously awaiting the birth of her first granddaughter in August. In what spare time she does have- which is minimal- she enjoys gardening, traveling and her new love of running and working out at the gym.
Along with all of these things, Polly is a good friend of mine and even assisted with the coordination of my wedding! As many of our couples find the planning of the Ceremony to be a challenge, I've called upon her with a couple questions and asked for her best advice. Without further ado, here's Polly!
Where is the first place you start when assisting couples in planning their I Do’s?
I like to try and find out what type of ceremony the couple is looking to have. I feel it is very important to make it be “them” and not what I think it should be. Some couples may want it short and sweet; others want to add special elements (i.e. blending families together, having readings, soloists, communion, etc.) It’s very important that it is a reflection of who they are as individuals and as a couple. My job is to make the ceremony flow smoothly and fill it with elements that the couple has chosen to be their very own.
Is there a general outline of a ceremony, or order, to help guide couples in crafting their ceremony?
I do have a basic template that I like to give the couple as a building block of their ceremony. We walk through the template, plug in their thoughts and ideas and it then becomes ‘wet cement.’ From there, I encourage them to take it home and talk through it together and then we begin to finalize it. It’s amazing how sometimes when they talk it through and live with it for a bit, they totally change their minds about what they want. That’s why it is important to do it far enough in advance so there is time to make those changes.
Any advice for couples wanting to write their own vows?
I think it is a lovely idea to write your own vows, but I do feel strongly they should have them written out and with them in the ceremony. I’ve seen couples write beautiful vows and think they can share them from their heart and then get nervous and totally forget what they were going to say. Many times couples worry about getting emotional during their vows. I remind them that this is one of the biggest things they will ever do in their lives and there is nothing wrong with that. The pastor will simply wait for them and then continue on. It’s actually a beautiful thing.
As you know, many weddings in Northern Michigan are outdoors. In lieu of a unity candle, do you have “flame proof” recommendations for this unity portion of the ceremony?
I’ve done unity sand which has become quite popular in the last few years. One thing I love about the sand is that you can incorporate the parents in it as well symbolizing the foundation for the couple getting married. It’s a nice way to show respect and admiration for the parents. I’ve also had separate vases of flowers – one behind the bride and one behind the groom and an empty vase behind the pastor. In place of the unity candle, the couple each takes their flowers and put them together in one vase. This works very well outdoors and can be incorporated with children.
Wedding ceremonies are an extension of the couple, what have been some of the most unique, or personal, elements incorporated into the ceremony?
One thing I love to do before the actual ceremony is to clear the bridal room and bring the bride’s father in for his first look at his daughter and give them a special moment alone. I don’t think I’ve ever had a father not come out with tears streaming down his cheeks, and they both always thank me for that “magical moment” they will never forget. I love when couples find something from their heritage that is meaningful or something that has been passed on in their family through the years. It is also very meaningful when loved ones who have passed on are honored. It may be a locket with their picture wrapped in the bride’s bouquet or a small charm with a picture in the groom’s boutonniere; just something for the couple to feel their loved one is near. I also love to take the couple right after they’ve exited the ceremony to a private room for about five minutes to be alone and celebrate that they are married without cameras flashing and people lining up to congratulate them. It also gives them a chance to quickly freshen up, grab some water and get ready for the celebration ahead!
Once again, a big "Thank You" goes out to my good friend Polly! This is great advice that could be applied to a multitude of couples and their individual Ceremonies. If there's one thing to take away from all of this great advice- make it personal- and remember, even though the reception may be the fun part and what all of your guests are looking forward to, the Ceremony and your marriage is the reason they're all there in the first place.