When creating a wedding ceremony, one of the big questions that first-time officiants ask is, "What pieces or parts are absolutely necessary in a wedding ceremony, and what else can be added to make the ceremony special?"
The answer to this question could be, “whatever the couple wants.” But that still doesn’t give you a starting point, and it’s likely the first time the couple has considered this matter, too. Good ceremonies are like Christmas trees. You start with the bare branches -- those are the required parts -- and you add ornaments that tailor the couple’s ceremony.
Let’s start with the basic wedding ceremony requirements.
The only parts that are “required” by most states are the Declaration of Intent and a Pronouncement. Yes, it is that simple… a question asked of each of the bride and the groom (or both brides or both grooms) to verbalize their intent to be married, and a sentence or two pronouncing the couple as married, and voila!, they are married.
Technically, that means asking, “Do you take So-and-So as your lawfully wedded husband/wife,” and then saying, “I now pronounce you…” is all that’s truly required in a ceremony.
However, that wouldn’t make for much of a wedding ceremony in front of friends and family, and even many elopement couples would prefer a script with a little more oomph.
So, what can you add to a ceremony to make it personal, meaningful, and beautiful?
We recommend that you start with an introduction, add a reading or two within the ceremony, and maybe some personal words or stories about the couple (nothing embarrassing, though). Most guests will also expect some form of vows and a ring exchange. You may also find that some closing words that mirror the sentiment of the opening are a nice way to tie everything together. From there, you can jump right into the required pronouncement, and finally, you can ask the couple to kiss (not necessary, but almost always a desired part of the ceremony) and finish by announcing or presenting the married couple, if they choose.
Want the ceremony to be a bit more complex, and last longer?
There are plenty of components that you can add -- such as a guests’ blessing, ring warming, or a sand ceremony. Ask the couple if they want to include a reading. If they are religious folk, First Corinthians is a tried-and-true wedding favorite and there are a plethora of popular secular options as well.
Do you need to say or do everything we mentioned here? Of course not! Depending on the length of ceremony you are aiming for, and the personality of the couple, you should select which pieces fit best as you work through creating the ceremony together.
Remember, the ceremony is only as complex as you make it!
Want even more inspiration? Check out our Wedding Officiant Training, and if you want to hit a real home run, order Asked to Officiate, our bestselling guide to writing and delivering wedding ceremonies for first time officiants!