How to Create Your Personalized Wedding Ceremony
1. Find a style.
Decide with your partner what sort of ceremony you’d like to have: long, short, traditional, non-traditional, etc. Know that a fifteen to twenty minute ceremony is about the average length. Are you having a religious ceremony, a ceremony with religious elements, or a totally secular ceremony? You could always go the civil ceremony option and say the legal bare minimum. Or do you want to go totally non-traditional and build your own format? Discuss with your partner and try to consider interested parties—do your or your partners’ parents want a certain religious or traditional aspect in your ceremony? Are you willing to incorporate it?
2. Find a tone
Just like any good writing your wedding ceremony should have a theme. A theme makes the whole ceremony cohesive, and much easier to create. For example, is your message, “We took a journey together and this is the ultimate journey we start today,” or “Our love has been tested and today we reaffirm our connection,” or “Woohoo! FINALLY!” or more Traditional “I will be faithful to you always , for better for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. Do you want to talk about how you met, or what your partner means to you? Is your tone nostalgic? Do you want a traditional formal tone? Do you want a relaxed tone? Do you want to include humor? Is your ceremony aimed toward the community of loved ones there to celebrate and witness your love, or it more about the two you of you. Do you want to include family and friends in the ceremony? The theme and tone will help you choose vows, find readings, and help you and your officiant write an address for the wedding.
3. Decide which components of the ceremony you want to include.
There are the wedding ceremony components people generally use, but there is no reason you cannot flip things around and of course, cut things entirely. Remember, it’s your wedding—do what feels comfortable to you.
Do you want to write your own vows, have the officiant write the vows, or choose from a list of vows
Do you want to recite your vows or have the officiant speak the vows and you repeat them?
You should make your wedding feel just the way you want it to—like you, like tradition, or like some combination. If you want to move all the parts around, do it. If you want to flat out leave some parts out, feel free to do that too. (With the exception of the Definition of Marriage, Declaration of of Intent, and Pronouncement of Husband and Wife are legal requirements)
4. Make it you.
I get a lot of questions from couples along the lines of: is it silly that we have a reading from Lord of the Rings in our wedding? Is it inappropriate to reference video games in our vows? To which my answer is always of course not. This is your wedding, it should sound and feel like you. I truly believe as long as you’re being kind and not making anyone uncomfortable there is nothing “inappropriate” for your wedding. Find touches that make it feel like your ceremony. There are a lot of ways to add touches that will make the wedding feel tailored to you; readings and who reads them, a song sung by a friend, a blessing given by a family member, a tradition carried out by generations, or a tradition you’re starting that day. However you make the ceremony feel right for you and your partner, do that—this is your day, your ceremony, your wedding, and your marriage. Of course you will always want to be considerate of everyone who is attending your wedding.
5. Consider the Style of your wedding.
Will you have a formal seating arrangement or will you have guests gather and stand during the ceremony? Will you have ushers seat your guests? Will you have attendants – bridesmaids, groomsmen, maid-of-honor, best man, flower girl, ring bearer? Will the bride be escorted down the isle? Will the bride be given in marriage or will the couple be given in marriage? Do you want to include family or children in the wedding? Do you want to have a poem, prayer or special reading? Do you want to have a specialty ceremony – sand ceremony, rose, unity candle, unity cross etc? Do you want to have music for the seating of the guests, wedding party processional, bridal processional, and recessional?
Traditional Ceremony Order
You can either borrow liberally from one of these traditions, or make up your own .
This is the traditional order of a wedding processional: Processional music begins (optional) General Guests are seated, immediate family is seated, the mother and father of the groom are seated, the mother of the bride is seated. After they are seated, the officiant and groom proceed to and wait at the altar. Best Man and Groomsmen may also enter at this time. Alternately, the Best Man and Groomsmen may accompany the Maid of Honor and Bridesmaids down the isle in this order, Groomsmen and Bridesmaids, Best Man and Maid of Honor, Ring Bearer and Flower Girl. Music changes to acknowledge Bride processional (optional) . Bride is escorted or walks down the isle unattended. Music ends. In most cases, the Bride and bridal attendants traditionally stand on the left, and the Groom and Groomsmen on the right. If the Ring Bearer and Flower Girl are young, you may want to consider having them be seated in the front row after the processional.
Optional wedding processional: Processional music begins (optional) General Guests are seated, immediate family is seated, the mother and father of the groom are seated, the mother of the bride is seated. The officiant enters, Groom and best man and groomsmen enter and stand to the left of officiant. Bridesmaids enter and stand to right of officiant. Maid-of-honor enters and stands to right of officiant. Bride walks down the isle without escort.
Optional gathering of guests for small intimate weddings: Officiant enters, then groom and groomsmen, best man enter and stand to left of officiant, then bridesmaids and maid-of-honor enter and stand to the right of officiant, then bride is escorted or walks down the isle alone. Officiant will ask guest to gather together.
The Opening/Welcome : A statement of we are gathered for a wedding, and acknowledgment and thank you to all the guests.
Optional giving in marriage : If the Bride is escorted, her escort can remain standing with her until the officiant asks “Who gives this woman in marriage?” to which they responds “I do,” or “Her mother and I do.” The traditional wording is “Who gives this woman to be wedded to this man” but in modern weddings many couples opt for something such as “Who present this women to be married” “Who present the bride to be married to this man” “Who supports this couple in their marriage?” or “Who supports this woman in her marriage to this man?” or choose to leave it out altogether.
Optional Message by Officiant: This is when a message is shared with your guests, a speech from the officiant, sometimes including readings. In a church wedding this would be when the minister gives a sermon or you may want them to tell a personal story about you and your partner or explain how you met. You might want the officiant to share a reading or song lyric, proverb, or religious reading.
Optional Reading or Prayer : You may want someone to read a poem, lyrics, or a Bible passage. Your officiant will introduce the reader, the reader will stand or come up to the ceremony platform , and then proceed with the reading.
Definition of Marriage: Here the officiant says some words about marriage in general. He or she will most likely talk about the vows you are about to make, and the new life together you are creating.
The Declaration of Intent “The I do’s” : The expression of intent is when you and your partner are asked if you take this person to be your legally wedded partner, and you say, “I do,” or, “Absolutely!” or, “We do,” or “Yes, yes, a million times yes.”
Optional Vows: There are options with the vows. Your vows, you read them. Or your own vows, the officiant reads them, and you repeat them. You write them, or you don’t. Or you don’t do vows at all.
Optional Exchange of Rings: The officiant speaks for a moment about the meaning of rings. It usually is along the lines of, “Rings are a circle which is eternal, as is love,” but varies with different religious and cultural contexts.
Optional Ring Blessing: A prayer or statement by the officiant.
Optional Ring Vows: This is when you present your partner with their ring. I find that most couples want to repeat their ring vows after the officiant. You’ll place the ring on your partner’s finger and say something to the effect of, “With this ring I thee wed.” Again, you can get as creative as you like with the words to choose to say before you place the ring.
Optional Specialty Ceremony: Sand Ceremony, Unity Candle, Cord, Rose, Unity Cross, or something you create.
Closing: It is the concluding statement made by the officiant.
The Pronouncement: the officiant will pronounce you husband and wife.
The Kiss: You may kiss your bride or please celebrate your marriage with a kiss.
The Recessional: Wedding party exits the platform in this order, groom & bride, best man & maid-of-honor, flower girl & ring bearer, brides maids & groomsmen, officiant.
The Signing: Groom, Bride, Officiant, and two witnesses, sign the marriage license. Officiant takes the bottom portion of license and files it with the Clerk of the Court. Couple keeps top copy of license.