Wedding Ceremony Format

Here you can learn all about the different parts of a wedding ceremony, which will allow you to construct your own. We examine the basic structure of a ceremony, break it down into its fundamental parts, and explain how each part works.

1. Processional

The procession marks the formal start of the wedding.

  • Before the processional can start, the guests must all be seated.
  • The officiant and wedding party enter and stand in their designated places, or the officiant stands at the lectern and the wedding party enters.
  • Music often accompanies the processional, and typically the wedding party enters in a prescribed order (officiant and groom, bridesmaids and groomsmen, maid of honor and best man), all prior to the bride.
  • Traditionally, everyone stands as the bride enters last, accompanied by her father or another person of significance in her life acting as her escort.

2. Invocation

The officiant greets the guests, introduces the couple, announces the purpose of the gathering, and shares a few words on marriage.

  • The officiant welcomes the guests.
  • The officiant introduces the couple to the guests and states the purpose of the gathering. "We are gathered here today to join…"
  • This introduction is your opportunity to share a few personal words or thoughts on marriage and love.

3. Declaration of Intent

The couple publicly declares their intent to marry.

  • The officiant asks the couple if they will have each other in marriage.
  • The couple responds with, “I do,” or, “I will.”
  • This is the verbal equivalent of signing the marriage license. The Declaration of Intent is the couple's public declaration that they are knowingly and willingly entering the contract of marriage.
  • The officiant can address the wedding reception to ask if there is anyone that objects to the marriage. This is not required, but is sometimes included out of tradition.

4. Vows and Rings Exchange

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

  • The couple exchange vows that they have prepared.
  • The officiant facilitates the exchange of vows with a simple announcement such as, “As you place this ring on your partner’s finger…”
  • Rings are presented and exchanged.
  • Conduct the ring exchange, assisting ring bearers as necessary.
  • If other rituals are included in the ceremony, fulfill your part in those customs. These may include a unity candle, a sand ceremony, or something similar.
  • Prior to the wedding, have the couple rehearse their vows with you separately. This allows them to prepare, without ruining the surprise of hearing their partner’s lines for the first time.

5. Pronouncement

The marriage is declared official!

  • Declare that the couple is married, “I now pronounce you…”
  • Many pronouncements begin with the phrase, "By the power vested in me by the State of…" This phrase reflects the fact that marriage is both a spiritual and legal event, and that the authority to solemnize marriage is regulated by the government.
  • Tell the newlyweds to kiss!

6. Recessional

The ceremony ends and the wedding party exits.

  • The officiant introduces the newlyweds, “It is my honor to introduce…”
  • The couple makes their way down the aisle.
  • The wedding party exits next, followed by the guests.
  • That's it! You're now ready to review some examples and compose your own ceremony.

Test your understanding of the wedding ceremony format by taking the Wedding Ceremony Quiz!

Continue to view a sample wedding ceremony based on this format.