Over the course of the last 5 years I’ve had the pleasure of officiating almost 200 wedding ceremonies. A few of the ceremonies were simple elopements. The couple with just two witnesses,  and myself. Others were full Cecil B. DeMille productions with lights, sound, pyrotechnics, photographers, videographers, drones, etc.

In my opinion weddings are celebrations. As such they should emphasize the love and commitment of the couple. Everything else, while important, takes a back seat. The ceremony should be as religious or as secular as the couple themselves. They should include as many family members or friends as active participants of the ceremony as they see fit. Regardless of format or exact flow the wedding ceremony should be sweet, meaningful, humorous and memorable.

Here are the elements I consider as I prepare the ceremonies. Not every ceremony will have each of these elements, but some combination of the following will be present in all ceremonies:

Seating of VIP’s 

The parents of the groom, as well as, the mother of the bride and others such as grandparents, aunts, etc may be seated in places of honor prior to the onset of the ceremony.

  1. Procession

Not every wedding has a procession. Often the officiant will enter alone, or with the groom to begin the ceremony. After we have entered the wedding party will enter either in pairs, or in sequence. The entrance of the Bride completes the procession, usually escorted by her Father or other escort.

  1. Introduction and welcome

I let the audience know immediately who is getting married and why. This seems pretty basic, but Dawn and I attended the wedding of a friend of ours in a Presbyterian Church. There were two hymns and two prayers and about 10 minutes devoted to generic love and commitment prior to learning that Sam and Heather were the bride and groom. I believe the wedding ceremony should introduce the couple immediately and be completely about the couple.

  1. Story –

I learn about the couple prior to writing the first draft of the ceremony.  I learn how they met, how they fell in love, why they know that being married to each other is exactly the right thing to do. The main focus of the ceremony describes and celebrates the love the couple share. I ask out about the families, the pets, and anything else that is meaningful and pertinent to the ceremony as a marriage unites families and not just individuals. To me the story is the most important part of the wedding ceremony.

  1. Ceremonies within the wedding ceremony

There are dozens of ceremonies that may be celebrated within the wedding ceremony to enhance the experience.. These ceremonies  fall into several broad categories.

  1. Unity
  2. Ethnic Tradition –
  3. Romance –
  4. Commitment

(These will be discussed in a later blog.)

  1. Vows –

The vows are the commitments made between the couple. They may be exchanged in a variety of ways. All methods of exchanging vows are equally valid and lovely. In my experience the couple writes their own vows about 20% of the time. I’ll write a piece on vows soon. I promise. (How’s that for a vow?)

  1. Affirmation – I like to end the ceremony with an affirmation of support from the audience to the couple. It is important for friends and family to be as supportive and helpful to the couple as possible.
  2. Kiss and Close – I suggest the couple kiss, bask in the thunderous applause, and announce the new couple.

To me the wedding ceremony is the most important event occurring on the wedding day. A great party is wonderful way to cap off the wedding, but the marriage ceremony itself should be what is truly memorable.