Published: Tuesday, Nov. 27th, 2018
The wedding ceremony sets the tone for the rest of the wedding celebration, from the bride or groom's first entrance to the start of the cocktail hour and reception -- when the real party kicks off! If you've ever been to a wedding with a great ceremony, you probably noticed that the guests carried those feelings of love and joy from the ceremony right into the reception -- and well into the night. A great wedding ceremony starts the whole wedding experience off on a positive note, for the couple and for their guests.
“The wedding ceremony sets the tone for how the guests will see the couple’s relationship,” explains Stan, a wedding officiant from the Houston area. “If the couple has a good mix of love and laughter, their ceremony should reflect that, instead of being boring and full of negative marriage advice.”
Stan says that couples often feel pressured to check certain 'boxes' for a traditional wedding ceremony, things like religious or spiritual readings. But often, he explains, that’s not being true to who they really are.
If the couple isn't religious, he says, then the wedding ceremony should include different kinds of readings instead. Couples can choose passages, poems, quotes, and even song lyrics, that will remind them (and their guests) of how they feel about each other. Their readings should center around their shared love and commitment, instead of on religious content that doesn't reflect their values or personalities.
What matters most is that your ceremony is authentic. Period. And creating an authentic ceremony is all about including elements -- such as a meaningful location, specific unity rituals, personal vows, and special readings -- that expresses who you are as individuals and as a couple.
It’s your big day, so don’t feel obliged to give lip service to any traditions that you and your partner don’t ascribe to.
In order to plan and perform a ceremony that truly represents the couple, the officiant and the couple need to sit down and discuss the 'feel' and 'tone' that the couple want the day to have. Do they want something offbeat, casual, and funny? Or something more traditional, but still loving and sincere? Do they want to elope, or have a big bash? Do they want to have guests participate in their ceremony?
There are plenty of questions and details to consider, but with good communication, this will lead to a perfect ceremony -- one that will carry those feelings of love and excitement for the future into the reception and beyond!
Even if the couple isn’t writing the wedding ceremony, they should still see a partial draft a few weeks out from the ceremony, to make sure that the words being said represent and fit them. This draft doesn't need to include personal stories, vows, or any other pieces that everyone wants to keep secret until the special day, but it should include essential elements like the intro (wedding welcome, invocation, and words on marriage), any special readings, and other content that is going to represent the couple.
Although it might seem like this will spoil the 'surprise', it doesn't. It eliminates the worst kind of surprise -- a ceremony that doesn't fit the couple one bit -- and can actually help the couple feel more relaxed and excited about their upcoming wedding ceremony.
Shireen, a wedding officiant from Seattle sums this up perfectly:
We couldn't say it better ourselves. To set the tone for the entire wedding celebration, from start to finish, focus on the ceremony!
Updated March 2021
Asked to Officiate is our comprehensive and easy-to-use guide to writing and conducting wedding ceremonies. From writing personalized vows to planning and officiating weddings, this book empowers you to conduct an authentic, meaningful, and memorable ceremony.
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