Congratulations! You and your beloved have decided to get married. Romance and excitement fills the air as you think about what you will wear, what your bouquet will look like, who will be invited, and where the wedding reception will take place. But don’t forget the wedding ceremony. These days there’s so much emphasis on planning the “fun” parts of a wedding (reception, music, food, gown, etc.) the ceremony itself can easily become nothing but an afterthought.
So what is a wedding ceremony? It is a rite of passage in the form of a public exchange of vows. Note the keyword here – “public.” Two people state their vows in the presence of their guests, who are active witnesses, and an officiant. It is interesting to note that the officiant (minister, pastor, judge) doesn’t actually marry the couple, instead they marry each other, by means of stating their intent, reciting their vows, and the other formalities customary to the wedding ceremony. The officiant is merely the formal representative of your witnesses. Your officiant can also lead you through the customs and rituals associated with the ceremony.
Does this mean that you have to have hundreds of “witnesses?” Of course not. You may have your heart set on inviting hundreds of friends and family members to celebrates, and have a maid of honor, best man, bridesmaids, groomsmen, jr. bridesmaids and groomsmen, ring bearers and flower girls. Then again, you may prefer to have a simple ceremony in front of your immediate families with only have a maid of honor and best man. Some areas only require your officiant to be the official witness. Be sure to inquire at your marriage license bureau to see what local rules apply.
Sit down with your fiancé and decide what style of ceremony will be the most appropriate for both of you. Do the two of you prefer a religious, non-denominational, or perhaps civil ceremony? Do you want readings, and if so, would you prefer them to be from scripture, literature or from another source? Are there any cultural or ethnic customs you want incorporated into your ceremony? How many guests do you want? Don’t forget to think about your parents, and the expectations, if any, they may have for your wedding day.
Adding personalized touches to your ceremony is fun, and can make for a much more meaningful event, not only for your friends and family, but for you and your fiancé. Personalization can make the difference between a cookie cutter wedding and one that is charming and expressive.
The variety of ways to add personalization is easy and abundant. You can include a special reading or prayer. A special hymn or song can be played. You may choose to compose all of your vows, or just a portion. The observance of ethnic or family customs is a nice touch. Perhaps you can carry a handkerchief or pin that was carried by your grandmother or mother when she got married or incorporate a flower that was in your sister’s bouquet into your own . . .
Be sure to inform your guests as to the meaning behind any unusual or particularly special personalization, or cultural rituals. Keeping your guests informed during your wedding ceremony, and allowing them to understand and appreciate the events happening before them will make your event more meaningful and memorable for everyone. One of the easiest, and inexpensive, ways to provide this information is by using a program, which also makes a lovely keepsake of your special day. With the use of a home computer, a color printer, and some pretty paper from your local craft store, you can easily design and create a unique program for your wedding.
But regardless of how simple or how elaborate your wedding ceremony will be, please give it some serious thought while planning your wedding. After all, your ceremony is the reason for the day, and the celebration that follows, isn’t it?
About the Author: Jean Neuhart is the owner of Weddings From The Heart. As a Professional Bridal Consultant, she helps busy brides and their fiances plan creative, personalized and stress-free weddings. Visit Jean at www.weddingsfromtheheart.net. You can email her at jean[at]weddingsfromtheheart[dot]net.