Published: Thursday, Apr. 4th, 2019
A wedding ceremony can be pretty much anything that you want it to be, as long as it reflects the couple and their relationship. However, having performed quite a few weddings between us, and heard about many more, we thought we should help out first time, or newish, officiants by reviewing some serious “ceremony killers” that we’ve encountered in our years in the wedding industry.
Below, we review some traps to avoid when it comes time to plan your wedding ceremony.
We shoot for 20 minutes, but you can make it a bit longer if you feel you have enough solid material to keep the audience engaged. Just remember, no matter how good the ceremony is, most people will naturally tune out after 30 minutes.
The guests came to see the couple get married; they didn’t come to see wedding ceremony theatre. (If in doubt on this one, ask anyone who has sat through a 45-minute-plus wedding ceremony.) So, unless Bill Murray is your officiant, err on the shorter side of things.
Wait - didn’t you just say to keep it short? Well, yes and no. Although we personally shoot for 20 minutes, you can make it a bit shorter, but not too short.
Here’s why: There is no possible way to celebrate the couple, and their relationship properly in an 8-minute wedding ceremony. Obviously, there could be an exception if, for example, it was a quick elopement or one of the couple could only stand for a short period of time. If there is any doubt on this one, ask anyone (including us) who has sat through an 8-minute or less ceremony.
Ad-libbing is fine for improv comedy, but not for a wedding ceremony. Write the entire wedding ceremony in advance and bring it either printed out or on a tablet, or similar electronic device. Even if you memorize it, it’s a good idea to have it at hand in case you forget a piece. There will be lots of emotions and nerves during the ceremony, and you don't want to find it necessary to ad-lib.
It is okay to share a light-hearted story about how they met or when they first said they love each other, but if the first time they said they loved each other was after a wild night of sex, it’s probably best to keep that to yourself. We recommend the Grandma filter… if something you are thinking about adding to the ceremony would embarrass Grandma, then leave it out.
The focus of the ceremony should be the couple and their relationship. It is absolutely okay to be a dynamic presenter and to do a great job when delivering the ceremony, but the audience should never doubt for a moment that the ceremony they’re attending is 100% about the couple. Think of it this way: as the officiant, you are the couple's storyteller, and the guests are there to hear the couple's story -- not yours!
In conclusion: This is the couple’s special day and they have given us, their officiant, the honor of celebrating who they are as a couple – let’s make sure we do it right.
If you’ve still got questions, you’ll want to check out our bestselling book on ceremony creation -- Asked to Officiate. It distills decades of experience into easy to apply advice, and we guarantee your ceremony will be a big hit if you utilize its valuable information.
Updated March 2021
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