Whilst there is a lot of fun and excitement in planning all of the fancy bits of a wedding day, decor, dress, delighting your guests etc. There's something beautiful about channeling a lot of love and attention towards the actual wedding ceremony too. After all, this is the part of your day where you and your beloved actually join in union. And whether you're inviting religion or traditions into your nuptials. Or whether you're writing the entire ceremony yourself... We've come up with this handy resource so you don't miss a beat of the most important part of your day.
The Ultimate Guide To Your Wedding Ceremony
At this point, all of your guests have arrived and chosen their seats. You can either choose to have a side for your family and friends and a side for your other half's or you can invite guests to mingle together as they please. Once everyone is seated, it's time for the wedding party to enter. Traditionally, the groom will be standing at the top of the aisle awaiting his bride along with the best man. Then the order of entrance is as follows: groomsmen and bridesmaids, maid of honour, flower girl and/or page boy, finally followed by the bride and whomever she has chosen to walk her down the aisle. This is a very general order and can of course, be adapted to suit your own preferences/wedding party.
Words of Welcome
Once the couple are united at the top of the aisle, the officiant will welcome the guests. Depending on how well you know your officiant, or if you have chosen an officiant who will take the time to get to know you as a couple, they may choose to say a few things about your relationship at this point in order to set the scene.
Although readings are typically read at this point in the ceremony, you could choose to pepper them throughout instead. Perhaps leaving one for after you've said 'I do' and shared your first kiss. We have a few posts that will help you choose the perfect readings for your big day, both here and here. And if you want even more inspiration, check out our podcast episode on wedding readings here.
Exchange Vows & Rings
Your wedding vows are the part of your ceremony that you'll reflect on for many years to come. Whether you choose traditional wedding vows or decide to personalise those vows or write your own, these words form one of the most intimate and special parts of your day. We've got a post full of tips and tricks for personalising your wedding vows if you need some extra help.
Well, this part needs no explanation. Except to say that that first kiss as a married couple comes with massive relief and joy after saying those beautiful vows. Also, kissing your beloved whilst all your family and friends cheer and shout has to be one of the best feelings on the planet.
Some couples will choose to have a symbolic unity ceremony at this stage. There are a host of unity rituals you can choose from. One of the most popular by far is the hand tying ceremony. This symbolises your union and commitment to each other.
If you're having a religious ceremony, your officiant will usually take this opportunity to bestow blessings on the newlywed couple. This is something you can discuss with your chosen priest, minister, rabbi etc. It's a way to close out the ceremony in a kind and loving way that reflects your beliefs.
The Signing of The Register
The legal bit. After you're married, you, your officiant and your witnesses will be required to sign the necessary paperwork. This will then go on to be registered and you'll receive your marriage license. This is a nice opportunity to play some music to entertain your guests. Music can encourage them to relax and chat amongst themselves. A quick note here about your marriage certificate. Your celebrant will give it to you there and then in an envelope so make sure you have someone responsible to pass that on to who can keep it somewhere safe for you.
Personalise your ceremony
You can go to town with personalising your ceremony. It's the most important part of the day; the entire reason you are there; to get married. Where you can it's nice to write your own vows and explore all of your options when it comes to your celebrant. Check this article out to learn all about what a celebrant can bring to your ceremony.What does a wedding celebrant do
The happy couple are now free to exit the ceremony space. Typically the order of the recessional is the direct reverse of the processional. The couple exits first (likely smiling massive grins at their loved ones in elation of finally being wed) and the rest of the bridal party exit with guests following after.
Of course, this entire order is a very generic one. If you're having a religious ceremony or even just religious aspects of your ceremony it's important to talk through everything with your officiant. That way you'll know which traditions are required and where there may be room for customisation.
Wedding ceremonies typically last anything from 25 minutes to 90 minutes. Depending on the number of readings and whether there are religious practices involved. Although it's common for the bride to be slightly late, try not to leave the entire room wondering whether you're going to turn up at all! Leave plenty of time after getting ready for photographs, breathing space and traveling to the ceremony.
Music can carry enormous depth and meaning for you and your other half. Incorporating that into your day can help add personality and make the ceremony feel extra special. Even if you're choosing religious songs or hymns, deciding together with lyrics that mean something to both of you can be a lovely way to bond with your partner during the wedding planning process. Not only will the music of your ceremony set the stage for your guests, it can also go a long way in helping you and your partner relax and settle into the moment.
Have a think about your exit photos. If you're planning on a confetti exit, it may be wise for you and your new spouse to hide away in a separate room after the recessional down the aisle, to allow guests to exit the building first and get prepared to shower you with confetti!
Stationery & Signage
Depending on where your ceremony will be held, consider signage to guide your guests. You could also have an order of service to let guests know what to expect during the ceremony. As well as the words to any readings or songs you have chosen. Although it's not absolutely necessary for you to have one, it can serve as a lovely keepsake for the day.
Decor & Lighting
More couples are designing the backdrop of the wedding ceremony, with floral arches, moon gates and the like. However, it's also important to consider the lighting on your big day. If your venue lacks the right lighting for beautiful well-lit photographs it might be worth exploring the options to hire some. Or if your venue has multiple spots for your ceremony, think about which will be the best most even light.
Choosing Your Celebrant
If you have the option of choosing your celebrant for the day then we highly suggest doing your research. Make sure you check out our Recommended Suppliers. So, we asked them what advice they would give for couples planning their wedding ceremony. They had these nuggets of wisdom to share:
Find a Celebrant that really listens and understands you as a couple, and can help you to create a ceremony that truly represents you as a couple. The Celebrant will be taking a journey with you and it is important that you trust them and feel comfortable speaking with them about all aspects of your ceremony. The journey could be over months or even years, so it really does matter – if you get this right, you will have found someone who is as passionate and committed to your special day as you are.
Deciding to keep vows a secret until revealing them to each other on the day itself adds to the emotional impact, and there have been tears when people hear what their partner for life promises them. Be sure to look at your future husband/wife as you’re saying your vows – eye contact is an absolute must and if they’re the only one that hears you, that’s fine…it’s all about them.
If you wish to represent your background, religion, or culture, then go ahead and include a tradition that resonates with you both. There are so many wedding traditions that can be adapted from different cultures, and incorporated and made your own! One of my couples next year are definitely going to have a Log Sawing ritual, which is very often carried out as the first task for a couple to perform, in southern Germany. It is here too that I recommend choosing a multilingual Celebrant if you have guests who might welcome the inclusivity this offers them.
There are no rules on length of vows… Some are brief, other couples can’t express their promises in just a sentence or two, although if they decide to keep them secret from each other and we notice there is an imbalance in length, we may diplomatically prompt one or the other to make tweaks in order to have a harmonious balance.