Published: Thursday, Dec. 24th, 2020
Weddings are a blend of tradition and new ideas, and we want you and your couple to embrace that philosophy. Marriage itself is a longstanding, cross-cultural tradition, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get creative and try things that aren’t hundreds of years old! Even a highly unconventional wedding ceremony -- say an underwater scuba diving ceremony -- is just a modern interpretation of an age old ritual.
After you get ordained, start planning early so that you and your couple will have time to get creative. Meet with your couple to map out preparations for the ceremony. The initial meeting is your chance to ask questions, take notes, and gather as much information as you can to make this the perfect wedding ceremony for your couple.
The first question we always ask couples is, how much thought have you given to your wedding ceremony? You’d be surprised, answers can vary widely.
That's because planning a wedding is a lot of work and everyone focuses on different details. We've met with couples who show up ready to go with a ceremony script, while others are more focused on the reception. But with this bit of information alone, you’ll probably be able to form an idea of the best tone for the ceremony.
Most couples are able to imagine and describe what they’d like their ceremony to look like, or at least what they know they don’t want in their ceremony. Wedding ceremony trends come and go, sometimes forming their own mini-traditions. A common refrain is, “We saw ___ recently and we liked it” or, “We’ve seen ___ too many times, so we definitely don’t want that.”
If your couple has paid attention at the weddings they’ve been to, they’ll probably have a few thoughts. Listen up when they tell you what they do or don’t like. If your couple tells you they want a serious ceremony and the fun can wait for the reception, don’t pack the ceremony full of zingers!
The following ceremony ideas should help you find an appropriate fit for your couple.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to create a personal and meaningful ceremony. Without even looking at examples, you can probably recall some classic lines from movies and the weddings you’ve been to:
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today…”
“Do you take this person to be your lawfully wedded… ?”
“With the power vested in me by American Marriage Ministries, I now pronounce you…”
Beyond these basic phrases, there are also many similes, metaphors, parables, and poems that frequently appear in wedding ceremonies. Like the Electric Slide at a reception, ceremony classics are classics for a reason. When a work of literature is recognized for its words on marriage or commitment, it tends to start showing up in ceremonies.
It's the combination of influences, readings, and rituals that make a wedding ceremony truly unique. As any chef will tell you, the same set of ingredients can be used to prepare many different dishes, and so it goes for weddings, too. If a couple wants to use a quote or Bible verse they heard at another wedding, it won't make their ceremony less personal or unique. Quite the opposite -- recognizable symbolic markers will give the audience a sense of your couples’ values.
Wedding traditions are predictable because we’ve seen them repeated many times over. If your couple wants to push the envelope, plan a ceremony that sets the audience up to expect one thing, then give them another. Two ministers? Sure! The underwater wedding we mentioned at the beginning of this article? Why not!
Intentionally going against the grain is not for everyone, but if your couple embraces the non-traditional and wants to get creative, go for it! Today’s irreverence may be tomorrow’s boring tradition. Just remember to be respectful where appropriate.
Take for example the “giving of the bride,” or as we now prefer to call it, the “end of aisle question.” This is where, traditionally, the minister asks the bride’s father if he consents to the marriage. But it’s the 21st Century. A woman doesn’t need anyone’s permission to get married. Instead of scrapping patriarchal tradition, some choose to subvert it by altering the language from “who gives” to “who supports”, and by asking both sets of parents or the entire audience. Modern brides now routinely choose this once subversive variation on tradition.
The reason these “rule-breakers” work is because they take place within the framework of a traditional wedding ceremony. In other words, a bride could walk down the aisle with her dog, instead of her father, but guests will still understand what's happening.
(Read Thinking of Walking Down the Aisle Alone? We Asked Former Brides how they did it… for real life examples of how modern brides subtly subvert tradition and the end of aisle question.)
Tradition is nothing more than what’s been done before, and you’re free to use it or lose it. You're continuing the tradition of marriage itself, and your creativity with rituals to celebrate it will help define tradition for future generations. When you officiate, choose your words carefully and deliver them with conviction on stage. Have fun and remember that the enduring traditions are the memorable ones!
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