Como Conservatory Weddings
Judge Tom Armstrong has performed more than 200 ceremonies at the Como Park Conservatory. Tom has put this Guide together to assist couples with helpful information for a Como Ceremony. It’s a great place for a Wedding.
The Sunken Garden
We have a 90 minutes rental time. When should we start the ceremony?
If the start of your rental time is 0 minutes – you have to be out of the Conservatory at 90 minutes. The ceremony starting time depends on when you want to do pictures, your reception starting time, and other factors.
Some couples start their ceremony at 60 minutes – do the pictures before – starting at 0 minutes, as soon as they can get into the Sunken Garden. Then you can have a receiving line as the guests leave, or at the reception site.
Some couples start at 30 minutes and Judge Armstrong can announce, after the Recessional, that the guests should go directly to the reception site and the Bride and Groom will be greeting them there. The Bride and Groom need to hide – the mere sight of a white dress will start a receiving line. The two best places to hide are: (1) the area near the two restrooms at 12:00 – the Conservatory entry door is at 6:00, or (2) the side of the circle at about 2:00.
The Ushers and Groomsmen need to direct all the guests, who won’t be in the pictures, out of the front entrance. Once the guests are gone – the couple returns to the Sunken Garden to take pictures. You will have about 30-40 minutes until your 90-minute time is up. There is no option to put in an additional quarter. The staff will very nicely show you to the door.
The average length of a ceremony that couples select is about 15 to 20 minutes – add another 5 minutes for everyone to leave – and then the rest of the 90 minutes can be used for pictures. Once you select your ceremony, Judge Armstrong can tell you about how long it will be.
Which works best? It depends on how you want to do it. Talk to your photographer – starting at 60 minutes allows more time before for pictures. The guests can be held back, outside the Garden, until you have finished your pictures.
If the weather is warm and sunny, you can get there even earlier, before your starting time, and take outside pictures before the door is open. There isn’t a right or wrong way – only your way.
Where do we line up the wedding party just before the Processional?
If the entrance to the Conservatory Dome is 6:00 on a clock circle, and the Sunken Garden is at 9:00, the wedding party usually lines up between 9:00 and 12:00 on the circle, or at 12:00 where the restrooms are located. Wedding parties have also used the area in the center of the circle for getting organized.
Which side do we use for the Processional and Recessional?
That’s up to you. It can be done on either side. Como has ten chairs they will set up. The chairs will be on the side for the guests. Ten get to sit (parents and grandparents) the rest of the guests stand behind them on that side. The other side is kept open for the Processional and Recessional. Sometimes couples change their minds as to which side they want left open and switch the chairs to the other side.
How do the Bridesmaids and Groomsmen walk down the aisle?
The side aisles at Como are narrow and many times the Groomsman wait at the front, take the Bridesmaid’s arm, and then they walk up the steps together. Depending on the width of the dress, Groomsman and Bridesmaids can also walk side-by-side down the aisle.
How does the Bride come down the aisle?
Either alone, with her Father and/or Mother – or sometimes her Brother, Uncle, Son, etc. The width of the aisle may cause difficulty when it is both Parents walking with the Bride. The Bride’s Mother could wait near the front, where the aisle widens, and join the Bride there.
Where do the Bride and Groom stand during the ceremony?
The round step is where 98% of couples stand during the ceremony. See the attached diagram. Sometimes couples have opted to stand at the top or on the floor. Where they face depends on where they want Judge Armstrong to stand.
Where does the Wedding Party Stand?
There are two choices. Below the round step is one way and on top is the other way. When the wedding party is above the Bride and Groom, they can be seen by the guests and they don’t block the view of the Bride and Groom. When the Bridal Party is below the round step, they can block the view of the Bridal Couple, and also take up room right in front of the ten chairs. Most weddings have the wedding party stand above the round step.
Where does Judge Armstrong stand?
Bottom Tom can stand at the bottom on the side left open for the Processional. He then half faces the couple on the round step and the guests. He can’t face the couple alone because then his voice won’t project toward the guests.
Top Tom can stand one or two steps above the round step. The couple faces him during the beginning of the ceremony and then, when they join hands, they are facing each other.
Who sits in the ten chairs?
Parents, Grandparents, and elderly relatives usually take the chairs. In very small weddings sometimes everyone gets a seat. Sometimes couples have decided not to have any chairs.
If we have a reading by a friend, where does the reader stand?
A reader can be near the front, and come to the bottom of the stairs, or to the front of one side of the Garden.
Once Tom had a couple with seven “spontaneous” readers. The first person just began reading at a point where Tom paused in the ceremony – there was no introduction of the readers. Then the second followed and so on. Some only had one line and the longest was just a paragraph. The readers stationed themselves on both sides of the pond so it went back and forth. The guests enjoyed it because they weren’t sure who would speak up next. After the seventh, Tom continued with the wedding.
Where do you place the table for the Unity Candle or Sand Ceremony, etc.?
Como has a small table you can use for a Unity Candle, Flowers or other Unity Symbol – mixing sand, etc. It can be placed on the floor on the opposite side of where the chairs are. The Bridal Couple then walks down to light the Unity Candle or pour the sand. The table can also be placed at the top back near the door. Tom then steps aside and the couple walk up the stairs to light the Unity Candle or to pour the sand.
If you want the Mothers or Parents to light the side candles, then it’s best on the ground. Otherwise the Mothers have to walk up to the top and the couple needs to step aside. There are two benches at the top. At most weddings no one sits on these benches, but sometimes the Parents have sat on these benches and then they would be close to light the side candles on a table at the top.
What about the Fountain?
The fountain should be turned off during the ceremony. It sounds like a good idea to have it for background, but it’s not. During a ceremony the running water makes it harder to hear and it’s a distraction. A few couples have left the fountain on – so Tom knows what it sounds like. When everything is quiet, it is very noticeable – like a faucet dripping in the night. Turn the fountain off. After over 200 weddings in the Sunken Garden, Tom knows where to pull the plug for the fountain.
What about the Exit sign?
There is an exit sign over the door at the back of the area above the steps. 90% of the time no one notices it, but some couples have brought a covering so it won’t show in the pictures.
What about the Fountain Statue of the girl au natural?
Not a big deal, but once upon a wedding a Bride had a Bridesmaid’s dress made that fit over the statue. One of the Como staff donned high boots – the water is four feet deep – and dressed her. Velcro works well for a wrap around dress. The statue looked nice matching the Bridesmaids. The Bride knew there would be many children at the ceremony and she didn’t want nature girl to be an item of conversation.
Do you need a microphone?
Tom’s voice carries very well in the Sunken Garden, so no microphone is needed.
What about Music?
Musicians usually are located at the entrance to the Sunken Garden between the two stairs. Sometimes, say 5% of the time, they have been located at the far end of the Garden on top under the exit sign.
A CD Player can be used if it has enough volume. As you enter the Sunken Garden, on your right, just behind the bench, is an electrical outlet. You may want to set the CD player up higher next to the elevator for better sound, so bring an extension cord.
What about an Announcement at the very end?
After the Wedding party leaves.
Please come forward and follow the family out around the Garden. The Bride and Groom will be greeting you as you leave the Sunken Garden.
Please come forward and follow the family out around the Garden. Then proceed to the reception at Name of Location. The Bride and Groom will be greeting you at the reception.
The Bride and Groom will need to leave immediately to a waiting vehicle – or hide out until the guests leave. Once the Bride and/or Groom are spotted, a receiving line immediately begins. A white dress can be seen through the foliage at the Como Conservatory. Have the Groomsmen help the Ushers in assisting the guests to leave the Conservatory.
The North Garden
Much of the above information on the Sunken Garden also applies to the North Garden.
Where do we stand during the ceremony?
In the North Garden, usually, Judge Armstrong stands with his back to the wall, in front of the exit door at the far end of the North Garden. See the attached diagram. The couple stands with their backs toward the entry door with the pool behind them. The Best Man is on the Groom’s right, and the Maid on Honor on the Bride’s left. This can be reversed with Tom’s back to the pool. The guests can stand on one side or on both sides.
Which side do we use for Processional and Recessional?
It’s your choice. It’s about 50/50 for the more than 50 weddings Judge Armstrong has performed in the North Garden.
What about the Fountain?
You will want the fountain off during the ceremony. See above regarding the Sunken Garden fountain.
Do you need a microphone?
Tom’s voice carries very well in the North Garden, so no microphone is needed.
What about Music?
Musicians usually are located in the center of the North Garden. If you enter the Garden and go left, then half way down on the right is a center “island,” well, really a “peninsula.” See the attached diagram. It has benches and there is an electrical outlet nearby – bring an extension cord. Musicians set up here. There really isn’t space anywhere else except for a lone musician to set up in the front near the side.
A CD Player, or other devise, can be used if it has enough volume. It can be set up in this center area.
The Japanese Garden
The waterfall and reflecting pond provide a setting for 35-40 people standing – no chairs are provided. Rental times are in one-hour increments. There is no electricity available. Guests may use the restrooms in the Conservatory.
Where do we stand during the ceremony?
In the Japanese Garden there are several locations – depending on the number of guests. Small weddings, 10 to 15 people, can use the center area across the bridge.
For most of the weddings, Judge Armstrong stands on a rock by the pond. The wedding party stands on higher rocks. There is no flat area for everyone to stand on. The guests are along the trail.
Judge Armstrong can point all this out when he arrives.