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Wedding Ceremony Outline & Order : Understanding the Parts of a Wedding Ceremony

Published Friday, Feb. 24th, 2023


Use this simple outline to learn the parts of a wedding ceremony and organize your wedding script.

 

 

Listen now on AMM Audio Articles: 

AMM Audio Articles · Wedding Ceremony Outline & Order : Understanding the Parts of a Wedding Ceremony

 

 

 

A great piece of advice for anyone planning a wedding ceremony is this:

 

Start with a ceremony example you like and then personalize it to suit your style. 

 

This approach is a lot easier for first-time wedding officiants than attempting to write a ceremony script from scratch. And it usually turns out better, too, because working from a tried-and-true template ensures that you include everything that’s required and can deliver the ceremony in a structure that’s familiar to the wedding guests. 

 

Start with the simple wedding ceremony outline below. Then, take out anything you don’t want, and add in any additional elements you’d like to include. If you don’t like the order of the ceremony, move each piece around until it feels right to you. The only things you must include are the declaration of intent and the pronouncement. 

 

Related: Are there legal wording requirements in a wedding ceremony?

 

It’s really that easy! Once you have each element in the order you want, it will be easier to add personal stories and special readings and write a thorough wedding script. Click on the links provided for each part for inspiration and examples of what to say or do.  

 

Remember: Some religious denominations have a specific order for their marriage rites, so check in with a clergy member or experienced wedding officiant if you’re planning a traditional religious ceremony. 

 

Otherwise, feel free to go with the flow! Non-religious, non-denominational, and non-traditional ceremonies are more informal, and can follow any order that feels right to you. 

 

 

 

 

Close up photo of a couple pouring sand during a unity sand ceremony

Colorful sand poured during a unity sand ceremony

 


12 Parts of a Wedding Ceremony 

 


1. Housekeeping & ‘unplugged ceremony’ announcements

 

This is an optional announcement made by a wedding officiant before the official start of a ceremony, to let guests know important details about the celebration to follow. Announcements are usually lighthearted and casual, and might include instructions to put away or silence cell phones and cameras (as in an unplugged ceremony), where to head for the reception afterwards, or where the restrooms are.

 

 

 


2. Procession 

(Sometimes called the Processional)

 

The procession is the traditional start of a wedding ceremony. During this part of the ceremony, the wedding party enters, followed by the couple to be married. This is the familiar ‘walk down the aisle’ that signals a wedding is about to take place. 

 

 

 


3. Welcome & Invocation 

 

This is the wedding officiant’s first speaking part, if no announcements have been made. The officiant welcomes the guests, introduces the nearlyweds, and talks about the purpose of the day – marriage! The wedding officiant might also share a short reading or say a few words to the couple and their guests about the importance of commitment and what marriage means to them. 

 

“Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today to celebrate the marriage of…”

 

 

 

 

A minister officiates a wedding ceremony for a bride and groom, photo shows the couple holding hands and looking at the officiant as he holds his hands out and speaks during the ceremony

This minister speaks directly to the couple during the invocation

 


4. The Couple’s Love Story

 

The purpose of sharing the couple’s ‘love story’ is to include guests in the couple’s journey by giving them a better understanding of the couple’s relationship and their plans for the future.  

 

During this part of the ceremony, the wedding officiant shares details about the couple as individuals and partners, and how their relationship has developed and deepened over time. The officiant might share a sweet story that captures the essence of their time together, or talk about the challenges and triumphs that have brought them closer together as a family. 

 

“When these two met five years ago, after each being stood up by a Tinder date, they never could have predicted the adventures that lay in store for them. Today, they begin the most exciting adventure yet…”

 

 

 

 

5. Declaration of Intent (Required)

 

The Declaration of Intent is the part of the wedding ceremony when the officiant asks the couple if they want to marry each other – a verbal confirmation that both parties are voluntarily entering the marriage contract. This part of the ceremony is required, but the exact wording is up to the officiant and the couple.

 

“Do you take this person to be your lawfully wedded spouse?”

 

 

 


6. Exchange of Wedding Vows 


Most couples choose to exchange marriage vows on the wedding day. Vows can be exchanged as ‘repeat after me’ style promises (spoken first by the officiant and then repeated line by line), as joint ‘we do’ promises, or as personal written vows. 

 

“I promise to love and cherish you…”

 

 

 

 

Close up photo of two brides in white dresses exchanging wedding rings

A sweet ring exchange between brides

 


7. Exchange of Wedding Rings 

 

Many couples also exchange wedding rings, as a physical symbol of their commitment to each other in marriage. Some couples exchange rings during the vow exchange (combining these two parts). 

 

“With this ring, I thee wed…”

 

 

 


8. Unity Ceremony 

 

A unity ceremony is any symbolic ritual included in a wedding ceremony to celebrate the couple’s decision to join their lives and hearts together in marriage. Think: ‘two uniting as one.’ Common unity ceremonies (or ‘unity rituals’) candle lighting, sand blending, and handfasting with a ribbon or cord.

 

 

 


9. Closing words or Blessing

 

After the couple has made their promises to each other, the wedding officiant might say a few words to bring the ceremony to a close. They may speak on the importance of the ceremony and their hopes for the couple’s future, give a short reading, offer parting advice to the newlyweds, or give a blessing for love and happiness in marriage. Some couples might ask their officiant to include a special reading (presented by a guest or the officiant) or a period of prayer or meditation. 

 

“Let the love you’ve celebrated and spoken here today carry you into tomorrow, and into each new day together…”

 

 

 

A bride and groom embrace, about to kiss, on the wedding day

You may now kiss! 

 

 

10. Pronouncement (Required)

 

This is the part of the wedding ceremony where the officiant declares – or pronounces – the couple as officially married. This part is required, but the exact wording is up to the couple and their officiant and should reflect the couple’s unique relationship. 

 

Often, this declaration is followed by a joyful and familiar exclamation of “You may now kiss!” 

 

“By the power vested in me by American Marriage Ministries and the State of Nevada, it is a great honor to pronounce you…”

 

 

 


11. Introduction / Presentation of the couple 

 

At some ceremonies, an officiant will ‘introduce’ the couple to their guests by their married name for the first time. This introduction is usually considered to be part of the pronouncement, but it’s entirely optional. Click the links above for examples of our favorite wording! 

 

“Friends, let’s give it up for the newlyweds, Tyra and Hannah Harold-Long!”

 


12. Recession

(Sometimes called the Recessional)

 

This is the official end of the wedding ceremony, sometimes called the 'wedding exit.' The newlyweds and wedding party ‘recede’ from the room, walking back down the aisle while guests cheer and clap happily. 

 

 

 

 

A happy groom carries the bride in his arms as friends watch, after getting married in a wedding ceremony on the beach

A unforgettable wedding exit!

 

 

For a more detailed explanation of each part of the ceremony and how to officiate a wedding, visit AMM’s free Officiant Training resources:  

 


 

 

A step-by-step workbook for first-time wedding officiants

 

Asked To Officiate

Have you been asked to officiate a wedding ceremony for a friend or relative?

This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know to plan, write, and deliver a unique and memorable wedding ceremony, including how to write personalized wedding vows, examples of what to say and wear, and more.

ORDER NOW

 


 

 

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Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

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