Let’s face it. Sitting down to plan your wedding ceremony can be more than just a little overwhelming! Especially if you happen to be sitting at your computer and all you see is a blank document with the curser blinking in your face. It can bring on flashbacks of final papers from university or College and that need to write something… ANYTHING to feel like you have done something.
If you have ever been to a wedding you know that there are a bunch of components that you should include in your ceremony. But where exactly should you begin and what exactly do you need to have? Well, look no further! Because we are here to help. After all the ceremony is THE MOST important part of your wedding. Why? Because this is where you will publically state your love and commitment for each other and ALSO where you become legally married. So here are some helpful tips that we have complied to help get you started and hopefully get those creative juices flowing in anticipation for your big day.
First things first. You need to sit down with your partner and decide how long you want the actual ceremony to be. Do you want something long and elaborate? Short and sweet? Or somewhere in between? Also, if you haven’t had this discussion with your significant other by now you need to find out what traditions are important to them or their families. And most importantly you will need to decide, together, if your ceremony will be religious or civil. Knowing all of this will help you answer this initial question of “how long should our wedding ceremony be?” If you opt for a more traditional ceremony (with either religious or cultural traditions included) then chances are your ceremony will be longer, whereas if you opt for a less traditional ceremony chances are it will be shorter.
You should work together and try to consider other invested parties (such as your parents or other close family members). For instance, do your parents or your partners parents value, or want, certain religious or traditional aspects? Can you accommodate those values in your wedding ceremony and be OK with having them included? This is where you need to decide what style you would like your ceremony to reflect. For instance do you need to consider a ceremony with Jewish and/or Catholic touches or will it be a totally secular ceremony with no religious incorporations at all? For example, if you opt to incorporate religious values and traditions some traditions (like the Quakers for instance) offer a time for silent reflection along with a chance for everyone to speak. Trust us, it is best to know the answers to these important questions before you meet with your officiant (the person who will be performing the legal part of your union) and before you start making big plans regarding your ceremony!
Speaking of officiants … get to know them! After all this is the person who is going to lead you and your partner through the emotional commitment you are about to make in front of all of your friends and family. They are often great sources of information and direction when it comes to planning your ceremony. Not to mention, they are an important part of your day so it’s crucial that you are comfortable with them. Besides, the more they know you the more personal they can make your service. Getting to know them doesn’t have to be hard you can offer to meet them for coffee once or twice or you could opt to have your premarital counseling with them (if they offer that service). As an aside, if you are not required by a particular religious institution to use a particular officiant, you could chose someone you’re already close with, like the pastor from your childhood church or a friend who has known you both forever. Just check what the requirements are for getting them certified in your area, if they aren’t already.
Next on the list is, Location, location, location! And this isn’t just about appeal or aesthetics either, but is the location you want practical? Will it accommodate your guests? Is it accessible, does it need to be? And most importantly how far away is it from your reception venue? If you pick a location that is further away from your reception you will have to account for travel time for your guests and you will also need to make sure that your directions between both event locations are clear to ensure that no one gets lost. You will also need to make sure that there is enough time for things like photos afterwards and mingling with your guests before dinner.
OK so you have discussed with your significant other what elements you want included in your ceremony, you have met with and chosen an officiant and your location is chosen and booked. Now what?
Now for the fun part! You get to decide which of the following components you want to include in your ceremony and what other elements you might want to add into the service on top of it. So here are the central wedding ceremony components in their most basic order that people generally use. Just remember this is a guide only and there is no reason you can’t flip things around or even remove things entirely! Because, this is your wedding and you want it to be as comfortable for you, and your guests, as possible.
1) At just about every wedding ceremony there is nearly always an “opening” or a “welcome” that is typically issued by the officiant. This is where people are usually gently reminded to turn off their cell phones and a thank you is given to all the guests for attending this special moment.
2) Following the “welcome” there are oftentimes readings from designated guests. The readers are usually people who are close to you but not already in your wedding party. They could be a close friend or relative. In religious ceremonies this is typically where the religious texts are read, for a non religious ceremony a special poem or special reading can be read. Your officiant may introduce the reader, but usually the reader is listed in the wedding programme.
3) Following the readings there is what is called “The Address” This is where a message is shared with your guests, which is generally a speech from your officiant, which sometimes includes religious or other spiritual readings. If you are attending a Church wedding “The Address” is the part where the minister gives a sermon. Sometimes The Address is as simple as a meaningful poem or as complex as a hearfelt message delivered by a close friend, family member, or the officiant.
4) After the welcome, readings and the address usually comes “The Expression of Intent.” This is THE MOST important part of your wedding ceremony and HAS to be included because it is the part of the ceremony which is legally mandated. You have to have this as it 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 some other creative version of “Yes.”
5) Then come the vows (which are sometimes before The Expression of Intent, it depends on your officiant and your personally preference). This is the part of the ceremony that can be uniquely you because they are your vows and you will be reading them. You can opt to write your own or you can use some of the prearranged vows that you typically hear at other weddings. What you say here, and how you say it, is totally up to you!
6) Now for “The Ceremony of the Rings.” Your officiant might speak here about the significance and meaning of the rings. Which is usually something along the lines of, “Rings are a circle which is everlasting, as is love,” but this varies with different religious and cultural contexts.
7) Here comes the big moment. “The Ring Vows” (otherwise known as the Exchanging of the Rings). This is the point in your wedding ceremony where you present your partner with their wedding ring. For the most part the wording here is fairly simple is goes along the lines of, “With this ring I thee wed.” But again, you can get as creative as you like with the words you choose to say before you exchange your rings.
8) And now… “The pronouncement” which is exactly what it sounds like. This is the point where your officiant will pronounce you wed. And then… THEN you will get to kiss!
Remember, you do not need all of the parts we just listed here. You should use whatever parts make your wedding feel just the way you want it to. Traditional, secular, religious, or some combination. If you want to move all the parts around do it and if you want to just leave some parts out all together (with the exception of the Expression of Intent) then you can do that too! This is your ceremony, get creative and have fun!