Wedding Ceremony Format

Learn about the parts of a wedding ceremony so you can format your own. Here we examine the structure of a basic ceremony, break it down to its constituent parts, and explain each individual event.

Parts of a Wedding Ceremony

  1. Processional Entrance of the Wedding Party
  2. Invocation *Introduction of the Couple
  3. Declaration of Intent *The Verbal Declaration to Wed
  4. Vows & Rings Exchange Exchange of Vows and Rings
  5. Pronouncement *The Marriage is Declared Official
  6. Recessional The Wedding Party Exits

* In a basic wedding ceremony, the minister has only three main speaking parts: the Invocation, Declaration of Intent, and Pronouncement.

Wedding Ceremony Parts Explained

1Procession Here comes the bride...

The procession formally marks the beginning of the wedding.


2Invocation "We are gathered here…"

The minister greets the reception, introduces the couple, and announces the purpose of the gathering.


3Declaration of Intent “Do you take…”

The couple publicly declares their intent to marry.


4Vows & Rings Exchange "I promise to…"

The couple exchange vows, rings and promises of commitment to each other.


5Pronouncement “"I now pronounce you…"

The marriage is declared official!


6Recessional Celebrate!

The ceremony ends and the wedding party exits.


This is the format for a basic wedding ceremony. All weddings include these parts however there are many types of ceremonies (candle, hand fasting, etc) that may involve extra duties and speaking parts for the minister. It is your responsibility to coordinate the details of the ceremony with the couple.

Additions to the Ceremony

The above outline describes a very straightforward, recognizable version of a wedding ceremony. Many weddings also include additional parts to reflect the beliefs, values, and personal preferences of the couple. Some common additions include:

  1. Blessing - A blessing to the couple can be offered by the minister or a member of the wedding party. Blessings can be religious or secular.
  2. Charge to Couple - Similar to the Declaration of Intent, a charge has the minister emphasize the seriousness of the marital contract to the couple. It is often punctuated by acknowledgements such as, "I agree" or "I understand."
  3. Giving of the Bride - The minister calls out to the wedding party and asks who gives the bride in marriage. Traditionally, the father and/or mother of the bride reply that they consent to giving their daughter in marriage.
  4. Prayer - Many religious ceremonies include a prayer given by the minister.
  5. Readings - Poems, religious texts, and/or literary passages can be read by the minister or members of the wedding party.
  6. Sermon - Many religious ceremonies include a sermon given by the minister.
  7. Unity Candle - A unity candle ceremony involves the ceremonial merger of flames. Two candles are lit and the couple joins their individual flames together to light a third candle (representing two lives joined as one). Variations include participation from family, such as candles for children to join in the union of the new family.
  8. Sand Ceremony - Sand ceremonies are a variation of the unity candle symbol. Two vessels of sand are poured together, mixing the sand. Each grain of sand is representative of a thought, feeling, or experience. A common variation is to give each member of the wedding party a small pebble. Each person offers a blessing as they deposit their pebble into a container, which the couple uses to combine their sand.

Remember, there are no limitations! We encourage you to work with the couple to craft a unique ceremony that reflects their wishes.

That's it!
A typical ceremony lasts only 10 - 15 minutes.
Keep it simple and have fun!