Your wedding ceremony is the heart of your special day-the part of your day when you share your vows and commitments, your hopes and dreams for the future. We know that the wedding ceremony hold real significance, yet it’s all too easy to let other things take over – the dress, the catering, guestlist, music, photographs, to name a few.
There are a lot of arrangements to make when planning a wedding and couples often feel overwhelmed, especially if it’s all new to them! I have put together a handy checklist that will help you navigate some of the decisions that need to be made about your wedding ceremony. These are the subjects I cover in discussions with my couples when we are planning their perfect wedding ceremony.
1. Decide on the style /tone of your wedding ceremony
How do you envisage your ceremony…lighthearted, fun, traditional, formal, inclusive, family-orientated? Deciding on the style will help your celebrant create exactly the right vibe for you, your personalities and your big day. Your venue will help to inform your decision – for example if you getting married in a circus tent (and it has been done!) it’s unlikely that you’ll be wanting a highly structured and traditional wedding ceremony.
2. Think about music
There are generally 4 points where music is included in your wedding ceremony: when guests arrive as they take their seats, when you walk in, when you sign the certificate, and when you exit. If you are having live music your musicians will help you choose the right pieces for the day and will usually have some suggestions.
When you are walking down the aisle choose a piece of music (or part of a piece) that is 1 – 1.5 minutes long. Avoid playing a longer song as it feels awkward to be waiting around for the music to stop.
Of course, in a celebrant-led wedding ceremony there are no rules so if you want your gospel choir to sing a song partway through for your guests to join in, go for it! One wedding I officiated had a choir teach the guests the chorus of an Elbow song (One Day Like This) and we all sang the Grooms back down the aisle at the end of the ceremony.
3. Plan your entrance
You may decide not to make an entrance at all and just to wait in the room for your guests to arrive. This is very informal and allows you to mingle with your guests before the ceremony begins.
If you do decide to walk down the aisle there are various options – one partner can wait at the front for the other to join them, both can walk down the aisle together, one can walk partway and be joined by the other, and you can be accompanied by friends, children, other family members or even pets!
4. Involve your guests
A wedding ceremony is rarely just about the two of you – it is an ideal time to thank your friends and family for their support and guidance. There are several ways you can include your guests in your ceremony – one simple way is to get your celebrant to ask them all to make a promise to you (Do you promise to lend a listening ear, babysit at a moment’s notice and be there whenever Jo and Chris need you?).
Guests can provide readings during the ceremony – this could be religious or non-religious, song lyrics, a poem, whatever you wish. It’s becoming popular to ask a guest to sing or play an instrument during the ceremony, and also your celebrant will have lots of ideas for special additions to your ceremony to include guests such as a unity candle ceremony or a sand ceremony.
5. Your story
Your celebrant will typically write your script to include the story of when, how and where you met, anecdotes from your lives together, what you love most about one another, your hopes and dreams for the future. I work closely with my couples to create the wedding ceremony that perfectly reflects them, their personalities and their style. It’s important to communicate with your celebrant to make sure your ceremony script is absolutely right for you and has the right mix of humour, sentiment and lighthearted moments.
6. Wedding certificate
Most couples do choose to sign a wedding certificate during their ceremony as they want an element of tradition and a great photo opportunity! Although a non-legal document, your wedding certificate can be counter-signed by up to 3 guests and is a lovely keepsake of your special day.
7. Exchanging rings
The ring exchange is an opportunity for you both to share promises to one another and is another fabulous photo opportunity! If you have younger guests they can come up and be witnesses to the ring exchange – giving them a special role in the ceremony.
8. Your vows
You can write your own vows or ask your celebrant to write them for you. Typically your vows would take 2-3 minutes to read out. I always provide couples with a small booklet containing their vows, as trying to memorise them creates too much pressure on a day that can already be quite stressful!
Decide whether you would like your guests to be ‘in the moment’ during your ceremony and to refrain from taking photos until the certificate signing, or whether you are happy to have them take photos right from the start.
Photographers can have some difficulty getting good shots of the couple coming down the aisle if guests are reaching out with their phones, so you may want to consider the size of the venue (can your photographer get a good shot without outstretched arms holding phones in it?) and also ask your photographer’s advice. As a celebrant, I am happy to ask guests to refrain from taking photos during the ceremony if that’s what the couple decide on.
At the end of the ceremony it is customary for the couple to exit first and then for guests to gather in an adjoining room for drinks and to mingle. You do not have to join your guests straightaway – I always advise to take a 10-15 minute break to be together, gather your thoughts and recharge your batteries ready for the rest of the day!
If you’d like to discuss your wedding ceremony I’d love to chat with you – just get in touch.