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Matrimony in the Morning

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Just as the sun goes up each day, morning ceremonies are on the rise. Give new meaning to seizing the day by marking your matrimony with an a.m. wedding. From sentimental to budget savvy, crack-of-dawn vow exchanges are popping up coast to coast. Here's a first look at first-light weddings.

While the morning wedding ceremony's popularity shines today, it's far from new. When planning her 1975 New Jersey wedding to her Rhode Island native fiancé, Kathy Gillespie was thinking of her guests when she pinned down her 10 a.m. ceremony. "For Mark's parents and friends, at that time, our wedding was considered a destination wedding by today's standards. I didn't want guests to have to stay two nights in a hotel versus just the one." A morning ceremony and reception allowed for guests to have the option to travel back to Rhode Island that same day. Kathy and Mark kept a traditional wedding - just on the early shift. For a modern day morning ceremony, apply some here-and-now updates for a twist on the traditional.

Today's couples are more intentional about their morning ceremony choice. For Meagan Mealer of Chicago, the choice was part sentiment, part cost cutting. "We thought a morning ceremony symbolized a new beginning. A fresh start." For her, fresh was a July sunrise ceremony on the Lake Michigan beachfront. And being a full-time student, "saving money was our second motivator," she says. Meagan and her fiancé first looked at Chicago parks and then at local churches but found that all had initial costs that couldn't beat the zero-fee public beach spot they had eyed. And at sunrise, Meagan could count on her public site being a private affair.

Wedding planner Alison Hotchkiss of Alison Events, San Francisco, loves the morning ceremony for another reason. "The morning wedding tends to run a little slower and is more relaxed than an afternoon or evening wedding because it's the a.m. and people tend to be late and less in a hurry." But she too identifies with this also being a smart option for those who are mindful of expenses. "Because of the daytime event you should be able to negotiate rates not only for the venue but also with the vendors. Most restaurants are closed during the day, so that is a great alternative for their business, doing a morning drop-off for flowers and de-installing late afternoon also is less expensive for labor, so the florist should be flexible."

You've chosen the morning route, now what does the rest of your day look like? For Hotchkiss, "the most important decision is choosing the venue. Some venues look better at night because they are older or more worn down, so finding a space that is outdoors, freshly painted, or with some kind of view is ideal." Like Mealer's beach choice or a garden or park, any outdoor site with a view of water, mountains or city skyline will glow in the morning sun. Since a morning wedding breaks tradition, get gracious with your guests. "Have an espresso maker for those that need a pick-me-up before they sit or stand for the ceremony." A bit of caffeine goes a long way for guests who have been up since dawn.

When you break from the traditional ceremony timeline, you need to pay special attention to the weather. Temperatures can vary a good 20 degrees from the morning to the afternoon. So keep in mind that mid-70s during the day can be mid-50s during the early morning. Make sure you know what the temperature will be where and when you are having your ceremony, especially if outside. Hotchkiss suggests having fleece wraps or shawls available for chilly guests. But for on-site wedding coordinator Carol Cameron of The Ritz Carlton, St. Thomas, the morning wedding serves the opposite purpose: "It's a great option to beat the island heat." For a southern ceremony, use sun umbrellas or parasols to shield to intense rays that break as the morning unfolds.

While the choice is yours for when to have the reception, Hotchkiss recommends a reception immediately following the ceremony, as guests tend to come to weddings hungry. Cameron suggests a beachside brunch with featured cocktails like mimosas or tequila sunrises to her couples. But for Mealer, offering out of town guests a full day to see the city and then hosting a casual evening reception was more her style. "Guests joined us for sunrise and then again for sunset." The perfect closure to their perfect union.

As with planning any wedding that deviates from the norm, expect the unexpected. For Mealer, this meant logistics. "We didn't plan for people getting to the ceremony. Choosing a public space with limited city parking, navigating can be difficult at 5:30 in the morning when it is still dark, especially for out of town guests." Hire a valet to assist or pick a central location, like a close friend's house, as a meeting point for guests to carpool. Another piece of advice from a bride that has been there, done that: "You need to be aware that some people might not love your idea of a morning wedding. Everyone has their own thought about what a wedding should be, and when you turn from that, you might get your feelings hurt if people cannot make it." While Mealer's guests rallied to her sunrise request, she was surprised by the amount of people that shared their opinions during the planning process.

While Kathy and Mark might have been a bit ahead of their time with their morning ceremony more than 30 years ago, they too didn't escape an oversight. For Mark and his traveling groomsmen, the bachelor party the night before resulted in some less-than-shining stand-ins for the 10 a.m. ceremony. Parking and partying aside, a break-of-day declaration of love is way for couples to break tradition without breaking the bank.

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