Members, wedding industry welcome change to Church sealing policy

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Amy Brant Photography
Ariel Mead and her fiance, Aaron Clement, plan to have a civil wedding ceremony before they are sealed in a temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Amy Brant Photography)

Ariel Mead, who was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints five and a half years ago, had just one issue looming over her wedding planning — her family members, who do not belong to the Church, would not be able to attend the ceremony.

Only members of the Church in good standing can attend wedding ceremonies, or sealings, that take place inside the Church’s temples. Mead recalls trying to explain to her parents they wouldn’t be able to witness her wedding ceremony this October.

“They were all like, ‘Aw, I don’t get to walk you down the aisle. We aren’t going to see you get officially married. We’re just going to see you exchange vows,'” Mead said. “They were sad about it.”

But on May 6, Mead heard news that changed her wedding planning completely: the Church announced a policy change that would allow couples to be sealed in the temple immediately following civil marriage. Previously, couples were required to wait a year after civil marriage to be sealed, making it difficult for a civil ceremony to be part of the wedding celebration.

“It just makes me happy knowing that my family can now fully participate in my wedding,” Mead said. “Even if it’s just the ceremony part. It still makes me extremely happy because I felt bad, like, ‘Sorry guys, you can’t come to the temple. You have to go stand outside.'”

Church members like Mead are rejoicing as a result of the change, as are Utah wedding vendors who also predict themselves to benefit.

Many vendors interviewed said that although the policy’s implication on Utah’s wedding industry may not be colossal, they still expect more business to roll in with an uptick in civil wedding ceremonies.

Susie Webb, the wedding coordinator for the Wadley Farms castle in Lindon, said it only took an hour after the Church’s announcement for her to receive a phone call from a client wanting to change her wedding date to accommodate a civil ceremony.

“She changed her date two days … so that they’ll get married civilly, and then the next day they’ll go to the temple,” Webb said. 

However, Webb said she does not anticipate the policy change will mark a significant change in the venue’s functions. She’s already noticed a considerable increase in ring ceremonies in the last two years and doesn’t think traditional civil wedding ceremonies will be that much different to accommodate.

Before the policy change, some Church members opted to hold ring ceremonies in which the bride and groom exchanged vows and rings. These ceremonies are similar to civil wedding ceremonies but are not legally binding.

“It’s basically been a ceremony that they’ve been doing, so I think we’ll just be seeing more of that than we have in the past,” Webb said. 

Like many other wedding venues, Wadley Farms charges an additional fee for civil ceremonies or ring ceremonies. Webb said this fee covers the extra work included in the setup and cleanup necessary for a civil wedding ceremony.

Cherie Wright, who owns the Wright Flower Company in Springville with her husband, anticipates the policy change will also affect the floral industry. She said civil ceremonies typically involve a flower arch and garlands for the aisle.

“I do think that we will see more flowers in the wedding, but we’re seeing that already,” Wright said. “People are enjoying plants and flowers and green things more — this generation is enjoying it more.” 

Wright said her company already frequently does flowers for ring ceremonies for couples who are sealed in one of the Church’s temples.

Magleby’s Catering General Manager Keri Lostetter also expects increased business as a result of the change. She said Magleby’s frequently caters hors d’oeuvres following ring ceremonies, which typically take place shortly before a reception. However, she anticipates civil wedding ceremonies to take place earlier in the day, changing the catering needs.

“We’re in the business of feeding families getting together, so if they’re getting together for their civil marriage, they would of course need like a luncheon or something after that,” Lostetter said. “And then right after, they once again go to the temple to get married. They will probably be hungry after that too, so we’re thinking it might give us a chance to serve our wedding family twice.”

The policy change also has implications for wedding photography. Utah Valley-based photographer Breanna White said she thinks it will incline people to invest in higher quality photographers who are capable of capturing the intimate moments of a civil ceremony.

She pointed out capturing such moments — like when the groom sees the bride for the first time or when the father of the bride hugs his daughter — is a lot more difficult than simply taking posed family photos outside the temple.

“In a ceremony, you have people walking down the aisle, so you have to capture things in motion. You have sometimes tricky lighting situations that are changing really, really quickly,” White said. “There’s a lot that goes on within like two minutes, and you have to be ready for it, and it’s easy to miss things.”

White said it’s typical for Utah County weddings to be photographed by friends or family, as clients usually don’t want to pay more than $1,500 for wedding photography. When it comes to wedding photography, you get what you pay for, she emphasized.

“I think everyone should spend a decent portion of their wedding budget, whatever their wedding budget is, on their wedding photographer,” White said. “Because once your wedding’s done, that’s all you have left.”

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