Wedding Ceremony 101
As a recently-married, the exhilaration and frustration of planning a wedding is still clear in my memory. I hope to use the my insight - and hindsight - to help other brides-to-be. It's easy to get so caught up in all the details - the dress, the decor, the vendors - that the ceremony becomes more of an afterthought. Don't let this happen! The ceremony, remember dears, is the real reason for the celebration.
If you plan to have a religious ceremony, your choice of officiant may be narrowed to the clergy of your particular church. Some groups require that you and your fiance attend counseling sessions or classes, and in some cases you may be asked to complete an application process. Start a dialogue with your preferred officiant early in the planning process, and book them as soon as you're able. Some couples have been saddened to find that a favorite childhood pastor (or priest, or rabbi, or bishop, or...you've got the idea.) has already been booked for their wedding date.
When it comes to what will take place during your ceremony, a lot depends on the conventions of your church. Some religions have hard-and-fast regulations for how a wedding ceremony must be conducted. Others allow some flexibility as long as certain requirements are met. As soon as you decide you'll be having a religious ceremony, start talking to your local church leader(s) to find out all of the particular rules and restrictions you'll need to adhere to.
If your church prohibits you from having some of the bells and whistles that you really want, like bridesmaids or certain types of music, you can always incorporate those things into your reception later!
What Makes a Ceremony; Do I Really Have To Do All This Stuff?
Really, your ceremony can be whatever you want it to be. It really doesn't matter what is or isn't said from a legal perspective, as long as a legal officiant pronounces you married at some point and you turn in your paperwork on time. So, if you aren't bound by any particular religious parameters, your options for creating a wedding ceremony are limitless.
While this freedom does exist, most couples choose to keep their ceremony at least loosely framed in a basic template. The following is the usual order of things to give you some guidelines to start with. You can add, omit, and re-arrange as you see fit based on your particular situation and beliefs.
- Procession - The procession is the entrance of the bride and bridal party (if there is one) into the ceremony space, usually set to music. It is steeped in tradition, and serves to represent the bride's moving away from her life as a single woman and toward a new life with her groom. Most often, the groom enters with his mother, father, or both. He stands at the head of the room and the bridesmaids and groomsmen then travel up the aisle in pairs (or threesomes, as logistics may dictate). The ring bearer usually comes next, followed by any flower girls or sign holders. Last, of course, comes the bride.Typically, the music changes for the bride's entrance. "Here Comes The Bride" isn't your only option for processional music, of course. You can use absolutely any song you want. The bride, in tradition, is escorted down the aisle by her father. Today's bride walks down the aisle with her dad, her mom, or maybe both. Some have their children accompany them, and others still choose to take the walk alone. The point is that it's up to you.
- Convocation - This is basically the thesis statement of the ceremony. The officiant welcomes everyone and gives a rundown of what is about to transpire, providing an introduction and transition into the meat of the ceremony. Guests are usually thanked and acknowledged for sharing in the day with the couple.
- Invocation - This is a prayer or blessing that places a spiritual context around the ceremony. God, a higher consciousness, or any other sacred entity you choose may be called up to witness and sanctify your union. A prayer is not necessary at this juncture; an invocation can simply be a call for all present to recognize the importance of what is taking place before them.
- Readings - Some couples opt to include readings in their ceremony. These can come from religious texts, favorite novels, poems, even movies and TV shows. A reading is simply a great way to add further depth and personality to your ceremony. Readings can be used to convey the way you feel about your partner and about marriage in general. If it suits your personality, use a humorous reading to keep things lighthearted. I hereby promise to write at least one hub chock-full of excellent suggestions for ceremony readings.
- Sermon/Address - This is the part where the officiant talks about marriage, what it means to be married, and so forth. Depending on who you've chosen as your officiant, you may have a lot of flexibility here. If you aren't writing your own ceremony, be sure to tell your officiant what's important for him or her to say - and also not say - during your ceremony. A good, experienced officiant can incorporate your unique ideas into his or her sermon.
- Consecration - The consecration is sometimes a closing prayer -- but, of course, doesn't have to be. It's really the segue between the officiant's address and the part where you start addressing one another as a couple. It can serve to affirm what has been said already and to drive home whatever points are being made in the overall wording of the ceremony.
- Vows - Ah, the vows. These, of course, are the promises you make directly to one another. You can write your own vows in their entirety, or simply ask that your officiant include certain specifics in the wording of the vows. Those less comfortable with public displays of emotion might feel more comfortable simply saying, "I do" after the vows are read by the officiant. Others prefer reading aloud their own vows to each other.
- Rings - The exchange of rings is rather self explanatory, and is usually preceded by at least a brief explanation of what is represented by the rings.
- Pronouncement - The officiant will declare that you two are now joined in marriage from this day forward. The wording here can be as traditional or as unique as you want.
- The Kiss - The kiss is, well, it's the kiss. We all know about the kiss and it's up to the couple whether they want to have a discreet peck or an all-out PDA. It's all good; it's your day.
- Benediction - The benediction is the end cap for your ceremony. It's usually quite brief, and announces that you two are married and sometimes includes a few final bits of wit and wisdom for your future.
- Recession - The recession, most times set to music, is just what it sounds like. Everyone goes back down the aisle in reverse order. Hooting, hollering, and general giddiness is perfectly acceptable at this point.
A Question For You
Your Ceremony: How Conventional Will It Be?
No matter how it goes down, your wedding ceremony should be a day you and your partner look back on together with fondness. Make sure you do what feels right for you two as a couple, and that you don't give in to pressure from family, friends, or even society in general about what you should or shouldn't do.
Your loved ones will be glad to share in the joy of your union, however you choose to celebrate it!
One more thing: congratulations!! May your ceremony -- and the rest of your life after it -- be divine!