Asking a friend or family member to perform your wedding ceremony is only the first step. After that moment of agreement comes the critical work of preparing the wedding ceremony… which means deciding what should be included, and in what order. And with wedding plans changing so much these days in response to the COVID-19 shutdowns, friends and family are stepping up like never before. That’s why we think it is important to revisit the components of conventional wedding ceremonies -- so that your officiant has a starting point.
Below is a basic list and starting guide on the sections of a ceremony. Keep in mind that it's just an outline, and it's ok to move, include and/or exclude components to fit the type of ceremony that is being prepared.
1. Opening Remarks – Usually a couple paragraphs that welcome the guests, welcome the couple, and set the tone for the ceremony. We always have opening remarks in our wedding ceremonies.
2. Family and/or Guest Blessings – Options for this can be worded to let the guests know how important they are to the couple followed by a question of support asked to everyone, or, this could be wording to honor the importance of the parents and the couples upbringing. Not required or used in every ceremony but a nice touch when a couple is very close to their family and friends.
3. Readings/Religious Words – Options for these can include beautiful readings about love and commitment, poems, song lyrics, religious readings, etc. If you are aiming for a 15-20 minute ceremony, usually going to have a couple readings.
4. Personal Stories – Use this section as the perfect place to relate a bit of the couples love story to all the guests. Can include how they met, how they got engaged, how they describe each other, etc. Not necessary in the ceremony but really makes it more personal.
5. Vows – Some form of vows would be done in this section. Most states require vows to make the marriage legal. Read our previous blog posts about vows to get a good idea of options.
6. Ring Exchange – Can include an intro (short paragraph) on the meaning of the rings and the ring exchange and/or just the ring exchange wording. Usually included in the ceremony.
7. Reading/Spiritual Words - Options for this can include beautiful readings about love and commitment, poems, song lyrics, religious readings, etc. If you are aiming for a 15-20 minute ceremony, usually going to have a couple readings.
8. Additional Component – These can be added to make the ceremony more than just a “speech”. Some people refer to these as rituals. Can be a Sand Ceremony, Unity Candle, Ring Warming, Handfasting, etc. Not required but makes the ceremony more interesting and involving.
9. Closing – Usually a paragraph or two to wrap up the ceremony. Words should match the tone of the opening remarks. We always have closing remarks in our wedding ceremonies.
10. Pronouncement – Some mix of words pronouncing the couple as married. In most states, this is required to make the ceremony legal.
11. Kiss Introduction – A sentence introducing the kiss. Not necessary but gives the couple a cue to know when to kiss.
12. Announcement – A sentence announcing the married couple for the first time. Not necessary, but most couples like to have it. Also a good way to start the recessional!
Again: these components are not set in stone, but should serve as a guide to help a first-time officiant get started on the process of creating a well-rounded wedding ceremony.
And if this article is helpful, be sure to check out a book we wrote just for people like you: Asked to Officiate. It’s a comprehensive guide to planning and executing the perfect wedding ceremony and if you’re the sort of officiant that likes to be 100% prepared, then this is the book for you!