If you’re getting married in a church, the priest or minister or “church lady” are going to help you form the elements of your wedding ceremony. This blog is meant for those brides who are having a non-denominational ceremony and really have to build it all themselves. The easiest way is to think of this whole ceremony as a 20-30 minute script you’re writing. It’s a choreographed theatrical event. If you have a Justice of the Peace or hired Officiant run your ceremony, ask them which parts they typically cover. You can usually incorporate more elements into the ceremony upon request, so don’t be afraid to ask! Or if you’re having a friend marry you, this is a good list to begin building your ceremony with:
PRE-CEREMONY: You’ll want music playing as guests arrive to the venue. Silence is no Bueno!
SEATING GUESTS: Typically, guests aren’t seated until shortly before the ceremony begins. Ushers are VERY helpful in reserving seats, and ensuring the front rows of your ceremony are filled.
PROCESSIONAL (WEDDING MARCH): This takes practice (do this at the rehearsal), but you need to decide how everyone will get to the front of the aisle. This part is typically slower, controlled, peaceful. Beautiful, emotional music is great, or even something with personally important lyrics. This is the order:
- Officiant at the front of the ceremony, escorting the groom and best man, walk in from the side
- Mother & Father of the groom
- Mother of the Bride
- Bridesmaids (and Groomsmen, if escorting the bridesmaids, otherwise the groomsmen can walk in with the groom)
- Ring Bearer & Flower Girl
- Bride & Father of the Bride
BLESSING (GIVE AWAY): Practice this at the rehearsal too. The Father of the Bride (or whomever is “giving the bride away” should greet the groom, then literally hand her off to the groom. This signifies you’re leaving her in good hands and you’re giving you approval! The officiant will ask who gives the bride away, and the appropriate answer is “her mother and I.”
CONVOCATION (WELCOME): This is explaining why we’re here today! Just a quick welcome.
INVOCATION (OPENING BLESSING): A short blessing of the wedding day.
SERMON (ADDRESS): Often a story, or some words about the couple. If you’re not going to do this element, this is a great place to substitute some custom elements, like: Readings, Poems, Stories, Music performances, or custom elements (wine ceremony, sand ceremony, candle lighting)
CONSECRATION (DEDICATION BLESSING): This is another small blessing following the sermon, to reiterate the words that were just spoken, and to bless the union.
DECLARATION OF INTENT: Legally required! The “I do” part of the ceremony.
VOWS: You can find the standard vows online, or you can write your own! Have your maid of honor or best man hold these for you – you have enough to remember on your wedding day, and getting put on the spot without your vows could be really stressful!
RING BLESSING: Explains the purpose of exchanging rings
EXCHANGING OF THE RINGS: The physical exchanging of the rings and the “repeat after me” part of the ceremony.
PRONOUNCEMENT OF MARRIAGE: Legally required also! This is the “I now pronounce you man and wife” section of the ceremony.
THE KISS: Doesn’t need a definition, but it should be discussed on how you’re going to do this part! Practice so you’re not awkward and caught off guard, because this moment WILL be photographed!
BENEDICTION (CLOSING PRAYER): This prayer sends off the new couple into their future with one another.
PRESENTATION: The part where they say, "I'd like to introduce Mr. and Mrs. _______”
RECESSIONAL: This is the order in which everyone leaves the ceremony. This is the beginning of the celebration! Upbeat, fun, exciting! Frequently, bridesmaids are paired with groomsmen, and follow the bride & groom down the aisle. Ushers would then help escort guests row by row, starting with the front row and moving down the aisle, alternating sides.
COCKTAIL HOUR: We always suggest some sort of a break between the ceremony and the reception, so you can get family pictures together! If you’re doing a cocktail hour, make sure to inform your officiant, so he can announce where all the guests are to go! The officiant typically does this after the wedding party has exited the ceremony.