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Wedding Words: Writing a Personal Wedding Ceremony
Writing a Personalized Wedding Ceremony
The ceremony is the heart of your day. It's the reason for all the celebration that follows. Make it your own by writing your story, including readings, music and poetry that have special meaning for the two of you, honoring family and friends, and creating vows that describe the marriage that is to come.
Writing Your Story
Before you start to craft a ceremony, you need to know quite a bit about yourselves. You might think you already know absolutely everything about yourselves and each other, but writing has a way of helping to bring memories, hopes and dreams to the forefront - thoughts that sometimes surprise you. Before you start to write as a couple, write separately. Take a pen and some paper and find a quiet spot. Ask yourself what you really want your ceremony to accomplish.
As you begin to answer these questions, you'll think of other things. Just relax and get your thoughts onto paper. Don't edit yourself or worry about spelling and grammar. This is your brainstorming session.
You can use any of the following questions as guides or starting points:
1. What was my first thought on meeting him/her?
2. Where have we gone together, and what things have we shared, that are special? What is "our place" or "our song?"
3. What obstacles have we faced together? How did we grow as a couple and as individuals?
4. What are the things I love most about him/her?
5. What are some of the quirky or annoying things about him/her that drive me absolutely nuts? (When you include something like this, your guests will chuckle, you'll smile, and everyone will feel more relaxed. They'll also know a little more about the two of you and what makes you tick.)
After you’ve both answered these questions, write the story of your meeting, courtship and proposal. It doesn't have to be a novel, and it doesn't have to be perfect. It just has to come from your heart and let your wedding guests know what the two of you are all about. Tell the story of your meeting, first date, special places or "your spot," favorite music, people, family, pets, etc. Include the reasons you love each other, and those silly little things you do.
Talk about the proposal at the end of the story. If your ceremony is a half-hour long, break your story into two parts and end Part Two with the proposal. Write about everything that happened leading up to the actual proposal. Was it a surprise? Did anything unusual happen? End with the "yes" that brought you to the present moment.
Choosing Ceremony Elements
Find some music sites online where you can listen to traditional wedding music, and any other music that appeals to you. You don't have to be bound by anyone else's idea of what music "should" be played at a wedding. You can choose to walk sedately down the aisle to the traditional "Wedding March," or dance your way to the altar to the sounds of your favorite band.
Choose at least three songs: One for the processional, when the bridesmaids, maid of honor and flower girl enter, one for the bridal processional, and one for the recessional. If you'd like to have an interlude during the ceremony, a time for listening to the music and allowing reflection, choose songs accordingly. Or if you'd like to have a vocalist perform, consult with the singer. A talented and willing family member or friend can be included in your ceremony that way.
Make a playlist and burn a CD. You can either use the CD itself at the ceremony, or give it to your musicians so that they can get the sheet music they'll need.
Decide whether you'd like to include any religious or secular rituals or ethnic traditions in your ceremony. Do a little online research for examples. You might begin to see a theme emerging at this point. For example, if either or both of you are of Irish descent and love Celtic rituals, you might decide to include Celtic music and poetry in your ceremony, and even extend the theme to your reception and decorations.
Some traditional rituals are the Unity Candle, Sand Ceremony, Wine Ceremony, Handfasting and Jumping the Broom. For a ceremony of a half-hour duration, one or two rituals will fit perfectly. If you're planning to have a shorter ceremony of 15 minutes (which is the minimum amount of time needed for a ceremony to have an impact), one ritual will suffice.
Find readings and poetry. You really don't have to re-invent the wheel. There are many beautiful wedding readings available online, and some are designed to be used in a "do-it-yourself" ceremony. Choose the elements you love, explore some poetry sites, do searches using the keywords "wedding readings" or find some books at your local library.
Having a family member or friend read poetry or prose during your ceremony is another way to include those special people who aren’t in the wedding party.
Writing Your Vows
You can find many wedding vows online, some elaborate and some simple. Or you can write your own. Since you've already written your story, you can draw from that and make promises to each other that are truly personal and meaningful. Don’t be afraid to be original. If it’s important to your happiness that you promise to set aside a date night once a week and you want to include it, then do it. If you’re both lighthearted people who want your vows to reflect that, then write lighthearted vows. The vows should come from your heart and be meaningful to both of you,
Your ring vows are spoken during the exchange of rings and, although you might be tempted to write or use something very flowery, lengthy and complicated, it's better to keep it short and sweet. This is the moment at which you’ll probably feel the impact of the step you’re taking. Both of you are likely to be in a very emotional state and, even if the officiant is speaking the ring vows for you to repeat, you might have trouble remembering what to say. Just look into each other's eyes and say, "With this ring, I thee wed."
Putting It All Together
Here is a general template for a wedding ceremony:
Introduction, Greeting or Welcoming
Foundation (a short reflection on the nature of marriage and the couple about to be married)
Parental Honoring, Memorials or Remembrances
Your Story (Part One for a longer ceremony)
Your Story (Part Two for a longer ceremony)
Ritual--Unity Ritual, Sand Ceremony, etc.
Introduction as a Couple
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