Over the last century, cultural loyalty to tradition "for the sake of tradition" has gone to the wayside. Weddings in particular have gone from mountains of "unquestionable" etiquette and protocol, to now using tradition as more of a guideline while personalizing anything and everything. One of the most common paths to personalizing your wedding is the vows, or in some cases, the entire ceremony. If you decide to do the latter, you'll find that building a ceremony from scratch is a daunting task. Personally, I begun to question why I was even trying to do it. But if you are one of those brave and creative souls that has your heart set on a ceremony that is unlike any other, here are a few tips.
1. Check with your local government to determine what your ceremony absolutely must include in order for it to be legal. For the most part, all you need is "an oral expression of consent to marry", and the signatures of your officiant witnesses, and of course yourselves, on the license to back up that this indeed did occur.
2. Determine a style that will match your relationship. If you are a rather romantic couple, use your favorite poems, or if you are a different type of serious, say lovers of logic, incorporate quotes about love from scientists or philosophers. If you are a goofy pair, be goofs! It's a celebration of *your* relationship, and if too much seriousness won't reflect you properly, throw the whole notion out.
3. If you aren't a born writer, craft a ceremony built from famous writings. A few places to look for inspiration include books, movies, songs, poetry, and even legal writings. You might be surprised to find how many people incorporate the refreshing simplicity of love in children's books like Dr. Suess and The Lovely Love Story by Edward Monkton.
4. If you have no idea what direction to begin in formatting your ceremony, it's not a betrayal of your creativity to use the skeleton of your average ceremony. Here's a sample outline:
Welcome of Guests (This is where someone, usually your officiant, lets everyone know you're about to begin, and to please be seated, turn off your phones, etc)
Processional (This is the part where you and your gang all make your way down the aisle)
Gathering Words (This part is rare, and is used to thank parents or specific loved one who contributed greatly to helping pull the wedding together. You can choose to do this during your toast instead.)
Declaration of Intention (This is the real beginning of the ceremony, the traditional, "Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today..."; the officiant talks about you both and your relationship, perhaps your story, how long you've been together, and what they personally have witnessed.)
Definition of Marriage (This part describes the "seriousness of the actions you are about to take", including the personal and cultural importance of marriage. A popular choice for couples is to quote Goodridge Vs. Department of Health)
Vows (This is where you make promises to one another, list your reasons for deciding to marry, or just talk about your love!)
Ring Exchange (It can be as simple as giving each other the rings, or poetizing the moment with something like Richard III Act 1 Scene 2)
Pronouncement (This is the part of "You are now married; Kiss please!")
Recessional (Cue music as you and your party head back down the aisle under a shower of birdseed, petals, bubbles, or ribbon wands)
Readings usually go after the Definition of Marriage, and before the Pronouncement, so there's a lot of freedom there. If you want to add in a unity ceremony, that usually comes just before or after the vows.
No matter what you decide to do with your ceremony wording, just remember, it's *your* wedding, and it should feel like it!
Posted by Kendall Arelleis, Event Coordinator with The 530 Bride