Ceremony Ideas to Ponder and Make Your Ceremony Uniquely Yours
Because a wedding is a gathering of loved ones and friends on behalf of the two individuals marrying, the participation of your guests is neither neutral nor irrelevant. As bride and groom you seek their blessing and in exchange for honouring you with the grace of their presence, you inspire them with the example of your love. Because a wedding is really an emotional interchange of this kind, the more your guests can join in the ceremony, the more deeply felt the experience will be for everyone. Therefore I have listed more ceremony ideas to ponder and make your ceremony uniquely yours!
Following are more ceremony ideas and suggestions for special personal touches that you may want to add to your ceremony and wedding. Some of them were inspired by original ceremonies at contemporary weddings; others are based on cultural customs and ancient traditions. As you will see, the function of these ceremony ideas is to involve both you and your guests more fully in your celebration. Used liberally and with imagination, they will enhance the energy, heighten the feeling and deepen the intimacy of your wedding.
Find a Way to Honour Your Parents
Each of you may want to choose a moment in which to make a personal tribute to your parents. For example, if the bride’s father gives her away, she might turn to him before commencing the formal part of the ceremony and say, “By the way Dad, thanks for being such a great father all these years. You were a wonderful example of a loving man and a hard act to follow I might add. And, Mum, thanks for always taking such good care of me. I wouldn’t be here without all the wonderful love you showered on me”.
The point here is to give a very specific expression of appreciation that tells your parents how much you treasure and value them for all they did to bring you to this place. Include some special memories that will touch their hearts and truly acknowledge how much you value them.
You may also want to thank your spouse’s parents for all they did to turn him, or her, into the wonderful person you’re marrying: “Thanks for bringing Joel into the world, for giving him all the love that turned him into the man who’s irresistible to me. Thank you for loving him first. I promise to keep up your good work”, or “Thanks for being such great parents. Without your love, I know she wouldn’t be the wonderful person I’m marrying today”.
Although all these things could be said at the reception, or even the rehearsal dinner, finding a way to say them at a wedding ceremony, in front of all the people who are sharing the experience, will suddenly take them to a very touching depth. You’ll enlarge the circle of intimacy and create a deeper bond with your parents by speaking so frankly about your feelings in the presence of your guests. These are the kinds of words parents wait a lifetime to hear; hearing them spoken at your ceremony will give your parents a lifetime treasure.
Allow Your Parents to Talk About You
Scary concept I know! Invite your parents to tell a brief story or share a reminiscence about you. This is a wonderful way for them to go through a conscious, public ceremony of letting “you go” and also of reaffirming their special relationship with you. Your father can do this just before he gives you away, or both sets of parents can do it after you’ve walked down the aisle or just before “The Address”.
Along with having your parents participate, this is a lovely way of inviting your new spouse to share in some of the secrets of your childhood.
For example, the groom’s father might say: “David always talked about growing up and marrying a beautiful princess. I’m, so happy to see that his childhood dream is coming true”.
Or it can take the form of a little inside advice. John’s mother, for example, turned to his new wife, Sara, and said, “He’s always late, but don’t take it personally. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you”. And Sara’s mother told John, “She’s a wonderful cook and she’ll be happy to spoil you, but she’ll spoil you longer – and better – if you take her out to dinner one night a week!”
Once again, these words can be shared at the reception, but the mood there will be lighter. Decide if you want them shared in humour or in the sanctified spirit of the ceremony itself. In any case, they’ll be all the more touching if spoken during your ceremony.
Speak Some Personal Words
Read a poem, the lyrics of a song, or a brief paragraph that has moved you and, at some point during the ceremony, tell your partner how this expresses your feelings about him or her. Don’t be afraid to make your ceremony uniquely personal by using it as an opportunity to express the deep feelings you hold in your heart for the person you are marrying.
All too often we’re embarrassed by our feelings, as if the things that move us most deeply, that touch our hearts and change our lives, should be somehow shrouded in secrecy. But this is your wedding after all, the most touching occasion of your life – so be emotionally brave. Saying some carefully chosen heartfelt words to your bride or groom, especially in front of your family and friends, will create a depth of experience you can treasure for the rest of your life.
Write a Beautiful Wedding Song
Write a special song or poem for your wedding, or rewrite the lyrics to an old favourite song (“The New Year’s Eve we did the town…., the night we tore the goal post down….”) For example, Alastair, a musician, wrote and performed a beautiful song when he married Susie in an outdoor wedding. A total surprise, it chronicled all the special events and magical feelings of their courtship and it was a smash hit not only for Susie but for all their guests.
A specially tailored song can be an absolutely magical way of remembering all that is special about your relationship, putting it in a form that will be truly unforgettable. You can write (or rewrite) a song to tell the story of your romance in particular, or just to extol the virtues of love and marriage itself. Be witty, humorous, tender or serious. Whatever your inclination, a song tailored to your experience will give an exquisitely personal touch to your ceremony. If what you have in mind doesn’t seem quite appropriate for the ceremony, compose it anyway and save it for the rehearsal or reception.
Share Your Story
Before you say your vows, tell a wonderful little vignette or the highlights of your romance in front of your guests. There’s nothing so enchanting as a love story and telling yours will not only delight your guests, but also remind you why you’re getting married. Remembering the sweet early days of your relationship will give you a wonderful and nostalgic feeling and will also inspire your guests. They will be delighted to be privy to the secrets of how your love came to be. It will remind them of their own experiences of love, or inspire them to be open to the return of love in their lives. Hearing a true love story is inspirational: our spirits are uplifted; we take heart when we’re reminded that love is alive and well in the world.
Let Your Guests Reaffirm Their Vows
After you recite your own vows, invite the married couples at your ceremony to stand and reaffirm their own. You can have your Celebrant prepare some appropriate words and the couples can repeat them; or the Celebrant can suggest that they can turn to each other and quietly speak their own personal words of affirmation to one another.
If you decide to have the Celebrant lead them, you can choose a few lines from any of the vows in this book, or the Celebrant can lead them as follows: “I love you and thank you again for the gift of your love. Thank you for being here to love me all these years, in every way you have, in all the ways you will. I pledge again to love you for the rest of our days.”. Many couples attending weddings have said that hearing the vows of the bride and groom has inspired them to remember their own vows. Including this option in your ceremony is a lovely way of allowing your guests to use your wedding as the occasion to renew their own relationships.
Share Your Happiness
Because weddings often represent great expense and personal indulgence, many couples have chosen to use their wedding as an opportunity to take note of the hardship of others and as an occasion to share their resources. Bearing this in mind, you may want to encourage your guests to make a contribution in your name for the homeless or to a charity of your choice.
So this doesn’t come as a complete surprise to your guests, you might want to mention this in your wedding invitation. You could say, for example, “Instead of bringing us a gift, we ask that you make a donation to those who don’t share our many blessings. We will provide a basket for this purpose at the reception. This is our way of sharing our good fortune with others and of starting out our marriage with the recognition that none of us is separate from the whole.”
Pass the Peace
Before or after the Opening of your ceremony, you might want the Celebrant to suggest that everyone turn to and embrace the person closest to him or her and say a few words of greeting or blessing. You can use the traditional “Peace be with you”, “And with you”: or the simpler, “I’m so glad you’re here”. Any greeting of this kind will more closely unite those who are celebrating your marriage with you, drawing them into a community that is truly connected in spirit and can more fully support you.
Do Something Offbeat
Suzanne and Phil had an outdoor garden wedding and, at the “altar” constructed a maypole with coloured ribbons. Before exchanging their rings, with a beautiful recording of Renaissance music playing the background, they wove the streamers of the maypole together, symbolising their union, the weaving together of their two lives.
Include the Children
If you have children, grown or small, you may want to invite them to say a few words – of welcome, of well wishing or of celebration at your wedding ceremony: “Well, Mum, you’ve finally found the man of your dreams”, or “Dad, I’m really glad you found Julie. You two are wonderful together”. You may also want them to serve as your attendants, or to fulfill the function of “giving you away”.
Whatever form it takes, do invite your children to participate in the ceremony, not only so they won’t feel left out, but also because our children so often deliver the startling insights that with a life time of thinking, we could never arrive at ourselves.
Create a Feeling of Community
Consider making a whole weekend of your wedding with a small group of family and friends. Rent a block of hotel rooms (Motel Friendly or Versace, depending on your budget), or a series of campsites that will allow people to share several days of the wedding experience with you.
Bringing people together for an extended period of time creates an experience of almost tribal bonding. As the community of your guests is gradually drawn together through shared time, the web of its support will be strengthened until, by the time the wedding actually occurs, you’ll be surrounded by a very powerful community of support.
Create a Talisman
Prepare a special garment or talisman for your sweetheart to wear or carry at the wedding. Amanda, who was married in a flower filled garden, embroidered a shirt for her new husband, Stephen, to wear. On the inside of the collar she embroidered a heart, the words “I Love You” and the date of the wedding.
Lance prepared an exquisite “sceptre of flowers” for Gwen to carry as here bridal bouquet. Rather than have something arranged by a florist, he fashioned a tower of roses laced with ribbon streamers, delivering his love and his creativity to her in this most special way.
Include Creatures Great and Small
You may want to have your pet participate in some gracious way in your wedding ceremony. Suzette, who has three elegant whippets, had them precede her down the aisle at her outdoor garden wedding. Lucinda and Reg had a cage of white love birds ensconced in the flower bedecked arch at the front of the ceremony venue for their afternoon wedding.
Chose an Unusual Attendant
In many relationships, the bride or groom’s ‘best friend’ may not be for the bride a female and for the groom a male. Be daring, and ask a male to be your “Attendant of Honour”, or a female to take the place of the “Best Man”. Elizabeth’s brother had always been her dearest, most nurturing friend, so she asked him, rather than one of her girlfriends, to be her “Attendant of Honour” at her wedding.
Include a Vow of Support
After reciting your vows you may have the Celebrant address your guests and invite them to make a vow of support to you. After all, it is within the context of this community that your marriage will be enacted.
For example, the Celebrant may say, “Now that you have heard _____ and _____ recite their vows, do you, their family and friends, promise, from this day forward, to encourage them and love them, to give them your guidance and to support them in being steadfast in the promises that they have made?” “We do”
Extend a Personal Greeting
Personally greet your guests after the formal procession. For example, after they have arrived with all their attendants in position, Jill and Scott walked aisle by aisle welcoming each person individually and thanked them for coming to their wedding. When this was finished they rejoined the bridal party and proceeded with the ceremony.
Particularly at a small wedding, this is a beautiful way to bring the guests together, a chance for each person who shares the occasion to feel bonded to the bride and groom at the outset of the ceremony.
Add a fanciful, even theatrical touch to your wedding. After all, as we’ve said, a wedding is one of our few occasions for ceremony, take advantage of it! You have free rein to include anything you’d like, no matter how sacred or outrageous, to elevate the level of ritual.
Jessica and Paul, who were married in Renaissance costumes on her parent’s sweeping lawn, had a lutenist and a band of jugglers strolling among the guests before Jessica walked down a petal strewn aisle. Later they introduced a baroque string quartet and four trumpets, heightening the mood in preparation for the more serious aspects of ceremony.
What they communicated with their playful jugglers, wasn’t just that marriage can be a juggling act, they also reminded themselves (and their guests) that marriage is both serious and playful, fanciful and holy; rather than speaking to this truth, they had it very imaginatively dramatised.
Include a Time for Singing
At a designated point in the ceremony, perhaps at the beginning or end, invite your guests to join you in singing a song, the words of which you have printed in advance and distributed to the guests. There’s nothing like music in general, and singing in particular, to create an emotional bond – to draw people together – and there’s certainly nothing more wonderful than singing a song about love!
Create a Wedding Memory Book
Along with photographs or a DVD of your ceremony, it’s lovely to have the written words of your guests and friends. A nice way to do this is to have one of your guests or attendants make sure that every guest writes a special message – a wish, an observation about your wedding, a reflection on the special portents of the day – in a special memory book for you.
Have the person who passes the book around tell everyone that you are looking for freewheeling expression of anything your guests would like to say about the occasion, whether humorous, serious or philosophical. Of course, many guests will have already included their wishes on cards or with their gifts, but a book specifically for this purpose will provide an anthology of the wishes and wisdom of the entire group of people who shared this precious occasion with you.
Have a Potluck Reception
Wonderful if you are on a tight budget (or even if you’re not!), consider having a potluck reception meal. On the invitation ask each of your family and friends to prepare a favourite dish (one you remember as their speciality, or one you assign to them so you’re sure you’ll have the appropriate courses), and create the feast together.
You, of course, should provide all the drinks and the wedding cake, but featuring a home-made meal, the handiwork of your guests, can lend a sense of community much warmer than the usual expensive, catered affair.
Create a Bride’s Pre-Wedding Ceremony
If you are the bride, a short while before the wedding you might like to join with some women friends for a special ceremony. Men have bachelor parties, but aside from bridal showers, where the focus is on building a dowry, women rarely have an opportunity to bless and send off the friend who is getting married.
For example, Lydia chose to meet with her friends on the beach and asked each of them to bring a natural object (a shell, a leaf, a stone) that had meaning for her. Sitting in a circle, after sharing a meal, each one of her friends spoke a blessing to Lydia that was symbolised by the object. Afterwards they gathered the items into a velvet bag for her to keep.
As you depart the community of single women and join ranks with your spouse in married life, you may want to do something similar by preparing a special ritual to serve as your rite of passage. Think of exactly how you’d like this mini-ceremony to be conducted, then send invitations to your special women friends to share it with you.