Your wedding ceremony bares your heart and soul to the people you love and who love you, inviting them into your marriage to support you and your beloved in your journey together. Your ceremony celebrates what you believe about marriage and proclaims those things that are essential to your marriage. It is your public declaration of your love and devotion to your partner.
Memorable ceremonies are often rich with symbolism. The act of walking through your assembled guests to a special place, the order of that procession, the blessing and exchange of rings, the kiss – these things and more help seal the experience in the hearts and minds of all present.
Here’s a good and time-tested framework for your ceremony:
• A processional into the wedding space by the key participants in the ceremony, in a deliberate order. The processional often includes music.
• Words of invocation, introduction, and welcome from the person conducting the ceremony.
• A declaration of intent that states what you are about to do. This is the part where the officiant asks if you will do those things and you answer by saying, “I do.”
• Some number of readings, usually two or three, from texts that you hold sacred in their meaning regarding marriage.
• A short sermon, remarks, or address by the officiant about marriage in general and yours in particular.
• A recitation of your promises – your vows – to each other.
• The exchange of rings.
• An official pronouncement of marriage by your officiant.
• A kiss, symbolic here in much the same way a wax seal is traditionally used to seal an important letter.
• A blessing, often but not always spiritually focused.
• The recessional, again in a specific order and often including music.
Do you need to include all of these things in your wedding ceremony? Of course not. What you and your beloved believe regarding spirituality, among other things, will inform your use or not of each element, and may call for specific form and language to be used. I encourage you to give each element careful consideration. See what meaning each has or could have for you and your family and friends, and how including or excluding that element affects the contextual and physical flow of your ceremony.
There are other elements that can add meaning to your ceremony. They include words of presentation (“Who presents this person to be married?”), the tying of cords about your wrists from the handfasting tradition, jumping the broom, wine and sand rituals, breaking a glass, lighting a unity candle, and calling the quarters, to name a few.
The look and feel of your wedding ceremony should reflect who you are as a couple. I remember someone describing good wedding ceremonies as being serious without being somber. I love that. We can be serious about being joyful! Add some color, wear something that makes you feel special, and play the music that says, “This is the soundtrack of our love!”
Your wedding ceremony is a great opportunity to create a meaningful, shared experience that will carry you into your marriage with joy and intention, and with the enthusiastic support of your family and friends. Give it your good and well-considered attention, and make it special.
Next time: Congrats, you’re engaged. Now what?
- David L. Egan is the proprietor and steward of Chase Court, a wedding and event venue in downtown Baltimore. Visit Chasecourt.com, and follow ChaseCourtWeddingVenue on Instagram and Facebook.