All About Planning Your Wedding Ceremony 

 Originally Written: January 5, 2011

By  Hanna Trafford

Last Updated on January 11, 2011 by Hanna Trafford

The wedding ceremony is perhaps the most important part of your special day. After all – this is the moment that will make it all official and turn you two into a married couple! There are definite points to consider, review and plan for to ensure a great ceremony. From choosing the right location, to figuring out who should be the officiant, what kind of questions you should be asking, what to do with children – especially your own – what should be the order of your processional, what to do about setting the scene…. So you will need to consider a number of points and make some serious decision.

Start with:

Choosing Your Site:

How do you find the right place? It may be a good idea to consider where your reception will be and if you don’t have a church or a temple, you may be very wise to consider having the ceremony and the reception in one place. It will actually make everything easier, simply because you will have only one location to deal with and you will be creating only one destination point for you and your guests. Talk to the management of the location and get their input of where they suggest to set up for the ceremony and how it will work out with the rest of the wedding plans you already have.

If you want to get married in a church or a temple, you will need to do your research. That means checking out your local sites, unless you have a specific church either of you or your family belongs to. If you don’t belong to one, and select the one you want to get married in, make sure you visit few services together to see how the officiate conducts the services. That will give you a good idea on how he or she will perform at your wedding.

Maybe you want to check out the great outdoors. Outdoor wedding can be beautiful, but there are a few things to consider – mainly the weather. Let’s say you decide to have an outdoor ceremony and a reception in the same location under a special tent. Consider inclement weather –  like a real bad thunderstorm with huge downpour and have a plan B just in case.

Choose your Officiant:

You will have a number of choices to consider –

Religious Officiant – that mean a minister, a rabbi or a priest – anyone who can perform the ceremony so that you become legally wed. And if you are both devote, but of a different faiths, talk to both religious leader to see if the can create an interfaith ceremony for you.

Nondenominational Minister – this would be an appropriate choice for a couple who want to combine both of their faiths in a ceremony without having two officiants, or for a couple who want a wedding with spiritual component without making one particular religion central focus of the ceremony.

Civil Officiant – You can turn to a Justice of the peace, mayor, county clerk, judge, magistrate or clerk of the Superior court – all you have to do is find out from your county clerk’s office who can legally marry you

Loved one – Yes, that can also be a consideration. There are states and countries where a person only need to fill out a few forms online to get a legal authority to pronounce you husband and wife. If there is someone you have in mind who fits this picture, and he or she is comfortable with public speaking and knows both of you well, check with your county clerk’s office to see what needs to be done to make your loved and officiant for your special day.

Here are important question you need to ask your officiant:

  1. How long will the ceremony last?
  2. Will you do the sermon and what will you discuss?
  3. What types of readings and what songs can we include?
  4. So we need to have any prenuptial counselling?
  5. What is not allowed during the ceremony?
  6. Who needs to file the licence?
  7. Can we write our own vows?
  8. Will you be available for wedding rehearsal?

These are just a few questions – it is quite possible that you have questions of your own, so make sure you write them down and ask them!

Writing Your Own Vows:

Lot of couple would like to do this – it makes the ceremony that much more special when words spoken to each other are from one’s heart and not from a prescribed text.

How to go about it? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Go on a Vow-making date: Spend an evening or a romantic dinner date together talking about things that make your relationship special.
  2. Check with your friends: Check around with people who know both of you and get their input on why they think your relationship is special and unique. No doubt that their thoughts will get you started.
  3. Loosen up: If you are having trouble knowing where to start, write a letter to your fiancé. Some of the thoughts you come up with maybe perfect to use in your wedding vows.
  4. Get a little inspiration: Think about the first time you realized you loved each other, the reason you are sure he or she is THE ONE, the kind of marriage you hope to have and the promises you want to make. These will all become excellent points for your wedding vows.

Showing Unity:

There are a number of ways that couple use to symbolically show unity during their wedding ceremony – here are a few:

  1. Breaking a Glass: in the traditional Jewish wedding ceremony, the groom steps om a glass to shatter it. There are several interpretations of this ritual – the most modern is that it symbolizes break with the past and a new life for the couple.
  2. Exchanging Flowers: This is traditional in Hindu and Hawaiian ceremonies – the bride and groom drape flower garlands over each other to signify their union.
  3. Lighting  Unity Candle: Usually included in Christian ceremony – the bride and groom take separate tapers to light a single candle to show that two separate people have been joined together as one. Variation of this can be pouring from two separate bottles of wine into one glass to two separate vessels of sand into one vase.
  4. Tying the Knot: Ribbons or a rope are used to bind the couple’s clasped hands. This is a component of Celtic and pagan wedding ceremony. In a Latino ceremony, a rope called Lasso is used to place it over the couple in a figure eight to demonstrate their eternal bond.
  5. Wearing Joined Crowns: A Greek Orthodox couple wears two crown joined together with a ribbon to symbolize their union.

Remembering Loved Ones:

Many couples would like to acknowledge and honour deceased family members and friends at some point of the ceremony. The trick here to do it so it doesn’t put a damper on the joy of the day. Here are a few suggestions on how to go about it:

  1. Put it in the program – you can include a short paragraph that sums up just how special that person was and perhaps your thoughts on how he or she will be with you in spirit.
  2. Incorporate what they loved – if you know what flower they liked, incorporate it in your décor, have their favourite poem read, play their favourite song, wear your parent’s wedding ring around your neck – you can make it as personal as you need to.
  3. Write them into the prayer – If you are having a religious ceremony, ask your officiant if he could include a brief mention of your loved one. And here is one suggestion that comes from a personal experience: We have left one space open on each side of front row of church pews and during the ceremony we each put one white rose on each seat – one for my mom and one for my fiance’s dad  who are no longer with us. The minister mentioned what we were doing, it took very little time and everyone was touched by the gesture.

Including Your Children :

Yes you can – actually including children (especially your own) is a good idea. It will make them feel important and in most cases, they come through with flying colours.

  1. Ask them to serve as attendants – You can have your son walk you down the aisle or have your daughter serve as a maid of honour.
  2. Exchange family vows – You can share promises including your children to show them that they are a very real and important part of the new marriage.
  3. Give them a special gift – present your children with necklaces, bracelets or watches after the exchange of vows.
  4. Create a Unique Ritual – Meaning – you can plan to tie a set of balloon together and release them after the ceremony or similar idea
  5. Walk out of the ceremony as family – join hand with your children for your grand exit.

Getting in order:

It will be your job to get a whole bunch of people organized and make sure that they are in order to be able to glide down the aisle before the processional song ends. Try these suggestions:

  1. Mother or parents of the groom
  2. Mother of the bride
  3. Bridesmaids – with or without groomsmen
  4. Ring Bearer and or Flower Girl
  5. Maid or Matron of Honour
  6. Bride with Father

This is the traditional Christian processional – other faiths have different orders

Creating the Scene:

You will need to determine what is already at your chosen location, what you can add and what you would want to add that is not allowed. You can start by thinking beyond the traditional “theatre” style setting. It is perfectly OK to set up in a round so your guests surround you or in a semicircle. Considering these options will actually create a great view for your guests.

If you are dealing with a set space, all you have to do is to consider just how best to dress up the existing elements. Your florist can be of great assistance here – especially if it is one who does lots of weddings. You can be as simple or as elaborate as you want to – and some of this will depends of what your budget says. The only thing you need to remember is to set up adequate seating for your most immediate family members and for yourselves if you have a ceremony where you will need to sit.

One more thing for your ceremony:

How to calm your jitters:

  1. Breathe – take a few deep, calming breaths – that will settle you down and clear your mind.
  2. Focus – if you are worried about hundreds of eye looking only at you – find a focus point to be able to ignore that fact. Suggestion – keep focus on the groom
  3. Practice beforehand – rehearse your vows, walk the aisle, go over the ceremony. Practice does make perfect and the more you go over individual points, the more comfortable you will be
  4. Eat – you will most probably not feel like it, but skipping meal, especially before the ceremony can make you will lightheaded. And I am pretty sure that you wouldn’t want to faint before the big moment!

I hope this information was helpful to you and I welcome any comments, suggestions and your experiences – please send them in, it is very mcuh appreciated!

Hanna Trafford

Hanna is the mother of two grown sons Dan and Dusan Nedelko, and is also the Grandmother to Jax, Cohen and Mila. She is the lead editor of Mama Knows and is hoping to create an exchange of communications with other grandmothers, mothers and daughters - giving everyone the opportunity to learn and share about everything that is "Mama"

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