Planning Your Wedding Ceremony

From the Desk of Sarah Nadler Troutdale, Oregon

Hey there!  

If you've been planning your wedding for a while probably have a venue, cake, decorations and a dress picked out.

But have you given any thought yet to the most important part of the day - the ceremony?

In my experience, most couples think of this last...which is really sad, actually.

You'd think that the REASON you're getting together would be to witness the joining of these two lives! But in the materialistic world we live in, the dress and the catering are the top two things brides stress about.

As a wedding industry professional who started out as just an ordinary clergywoman...and later fell in love with the planning and design, I thought it would be a good idea to do a blog on why the ceremony is soo important to prioritize.

I'll also share the format for traditional ceremonies, and how to plan it all out so you wow your guests and make your day truly meaningful for you both.

What Goes On The Ceremony Script?

The ceremony script is what your wedding officiant or minister will read from at the ceremony itself. It should include all the things you want him or her to say, in what order.

It's important to have the script completely nailed down at least a few days ahead of time, so the officiant can practice. There's nothing worse than a stumbly minister at your wedding! I require any final changes at least 7 days before the ceremony, and I always drill the script on my own prior to the wedding - even if there is no rehearsal.

That being said, having a rehearsal is a very important step! If you're trying to save on the expense, rehearsing several hours earlier (rather than the day before) is a good option. But always at least sit down with the officiant and go over the script.

DOWNLOAD: The Wedding Budget Workbook

Step #1: Decide Who Walks First

One of the simplest mistakes a couple can make when planning their ceremony is to forget to work out who walks with whom. Beyond just the two of you, there are many people who can be affected (or insulted) if they are not considered:  

The processional may include: 

  • Minister or wedding officiant
  • Groom or partner
  • Wedding party
  • Flower girl
  • Ring bearer
  • Bride or partner
  • Parents
  • Children of couple

Traditionally in a Christian ceremony, the minister or wedding officiant walks first. The groom then escorts the mother-of-the-bride or his own mother down the aisle, followed often by pairings of bridesmaids and groomsmen. The flower girl proceeds the bride who is escorted by her father or whomever is giving her away.

Other religions may alter the sequence of these, and various traditions exist.

Step #2: Opening Remarks

The minister or wedding officiant is a bit like the DJ/announcer for this period of the day. Usually some opening remarks precede the actual ceremony, such as, "Dearly beloved, we are gathered here..." or "Folks, listen and be still!"

This is a good point to open with your Couple Story, explaining in a few short romantic words how you arrived at this moment.

Step #3: Officiant Addresses the Couple

One of the traditional responsibilities of ministers, chaplains and keepers of the peace (the original wedding officiants) was to ensure the couple understand the seriousness of their decision, and are prepared to enter into this legal union.

In modern times, this moment in the ceremony is often used as an affirmation of love & commitment (or a last chance to back out!) For religious ceremonies, a prayer may be inserted; for others perhaps a reading of a favorite quote.

Click here for 33 bible verses to include in your ceremony.

Step #4: Exchanging Vows & 'I Do's

Your vows are your promises to each other. The words you choose to exchange are like the guardrails on the road toward the future.

Many couples choose traditional, "to have and to hold, for better or for worse" vows, but writing your own words can be both fun and meaningful. No matter which route you choose, your vows will be a powerful influence on your future happiness.

Here are some tips for writing your own vows.

Step #5: The Ring Exchange

Wedding rings represent an undying commitment to love in many cultures around the world. The tradition began over 3,000 years ago in Egypt, where couples exchanged rings because, "the circle has no beginning or end".

The Romans & Greeks, believing that this finger contained the vena amoris, or the vein of love, made the fourth finger on the left hand popular.

More recently, other religions and cultures added further meaning. During World War II, American men began to also wear a ring as a reminder of the brides waiting for them at home.

And last century, Scientologists added a tradition of visualizing a triangle in the center of the ring during the ceremony, to symbolize the "affinity, reality and communication" which must remain unbroken for a marriage to go on.

However you choose to do it, placing a ring on your partner's finger normally seals the ceremony.

Step #6: The Pronouncement

In many states, the Pronouncement is a legal requirement of marriage. "By the power vested in me, I now pronounce you..."

Depending on how feminist you are, and the gender of the couple, you can switch the wording a bit to match your tastes:

  • husband and wife
  • wife and husband
  • Mr. & Mrs. Smith
  • the Mrs. Smiths (two brides)
  • the Mr. Smiths (two grooms)

Step #7: The Kiss!

Step #8: Closing Remarks

The officiant may wrap things up with some last words, offer congratulations or a blessing. Check out these 90 love quotes to add to your ceremony!

Step #9: The Recessional

A fancy term for walking back down the aisle away from the officiant once the ceremony is finished. Normally the couple exits first, followed by the wedding party and the officiant or minister leaves last.

“The best thing people can do to make wedding planning easier AND save a lot of money is do a few hours of consulting with a planner up front. That often ranges from $70-$150 an hour, and I think it’s worth EVERY PENNY... Why? We didn’t know the local lay of the land, and we didn’t know what all our options were.” – Meg Keene

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About the Author

Sarah has been in the wedding industry for eleven years and with that experience came the passion to help engaged couples go from broke to brilliant & empowered. With that in mind, Sarah came up with 6 Steps to Wedding Sanity, a simple, yet proven wedding budgeting & planning system.

Outside of the wedding world, Sarah is a big fan of the outdoors, a published author of three books for teens, and loves creating stellar graphic designs that impress the masses.


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