I love meeting with couples to plan their weddings! They typically have a venue selected...caterer, flowers, cake, dress...all are either decided upon, or they have ideas in the works.
But the ceremony... THE CEREMONY!! "We have no idea where to begin with the ceremony!" is what I typically hear on our first meeting.
And why would you? We are used to church weddings where the ceremony script is decided by the powers that be within that particular organization. Couples who want to be married in a church basically ask the pastor, reverend, minister, etc, what the procedure is, and follow the ceremony plan established. What I typically hear is, 'I know what I DON'T want'. This is followed by scrunched-faced comments such as.... 'long'....'boring'....etc.
When you choose to use a Celebrant, and have a custom ceremony written, it can feel like a daunting task. The truth is, the reason you choose a Celebrant, is because they are experts in creating ceremonies...so stop worrying! The following is a guide to help you understand how this process works.
There are only two required parts to be officially married. Yes two! You must have some sort of vows. Meaning....you must say in some way/shape/form... that you want to marry each other. The second requirement is for the person officiating your wedding to pronounce you married. THE END.
Ok...not so exciting you say? Well, that is why we call it a CEREMONY! We want a little flair. We want it to be special, unique, celebratory! We want it to speak to the love between the two people getting married. You didn't invite your closest friends and family (who, by the way, had to buy something nice to wear and get all dressed up, buy you a gift, find a babysitter, and a hotel, gas up the car...I could go on, but you get the idea) to sit through a generic, five minute wedding ceremony. You also don't want them to have to sit through a boring hour-long wedding ceremony. Sheesh! Why do couples ever consider doing that to the people they love?!
Most personally created ceremonies run about 20-25 minutes. Tops! And when done right, not one person will be looking at their phones to check email or to ... yawn.... see how much longer it will last. In fact, the time should fly by and your guests should feel connected and engaged throughout the entire ceremony. A little laughter, a few tears of joy, and when the Pronouncement comes, they should be thinking, 'That was the most beautiful ceremony I have ever.....' You get the picture.
So - where to begin? With the Processional of course. The first thing you need to decide is how you want everyone to end up at the ceremony location. There is no right or wrong answer for this. Decide who will be walking down the aisle with whom. You can look up traditional ways for a processional, but the honest truth is, you should do what you want. The couple can walk down the aisle together or start in the front together with no walking at all. Play a song and dance down the aisle. Why not?!
As the ceremony itself begins there are some general elements that can be included.
I like to start with a Welcome/Introduction. Thanking everyone for being there is just polite. Add a little personal touch. Perhaps you want to also remember those who are not able to be there, but you wish they were.
Do you want to include anyone special in your ceremony? You may want to have someone come up and do a Reading. You may also want to include Music in your ceremony. Maybe you know someone who sings or plays the guitar, harp, sax. Mix it up a little and personalize your ceremony with something that is special to you.
Hopefully you have chosen a wedding officiant who is able to personalize your wedding with the telling of your unique story. The heart of your ceremony will be the sharing of your story. What brought you two together and how you came to be where you are now. Celebrants specialize in this!
The Vows, as previously mentioned, are required and I feel, are what makes your wedding completely unique! There are several ways vows can be shared. Briefly, you can write and say your vows to each other. You can have the Celebrant share the vows and you say, 'I Do'. Or.... you can do the 'repeat after me' thing. You can do one of these, or a combo deal.
The Ring Exchange is typically next. The ring exchange follows a similar pattern to the vows. A Celebrant will share many options and samples for both vows and ring exchange wordings. If they don't, find a new one.
You may want to have a Ceremony Element/Ritual included in your wedding. The most commonly known is of course, the Unity Candle. There are, however, hundreds of ways to personalize your ceremony with various elements and rituals. Here are a few to get you started, but you can use your imagination to find ways to make your ceremony a one-of-a-kind.
You are now so close to being married, it's ridiculous! The final component to your ceremony is the Pronouncement. How you want the Celebrant to pronounce you, though, is not as customary as it used to be. You have options! Lots of them. Yes, if you are a groom/bride - you can be pronounced 'Husband and Wife'. That is perfectly fine. Just know, that there are lots of other choices. All couples, can be pronounced married, in unique ways that are special to your relationship. A couple I married this week put a spin on 'partners for life' and had me pronounce them 'partners in crime for life'. It was absolutely perfect for them!
The KISS comes next. Don't forget that! And of course, the Recessional. You will need to figure out how the heck you are going to bust out of the ceremony space and begin the PARTY!
When all else fails, ask your Celebrant to guide you through these steps so you can work together to create the ceremony that you want....that you've dreamed of....even if you never really knew where to begin!
Donna is an award winning Humanist Celebrant. Her ceremonies are custom written to focus on the unique story of each couple.