All of your planning leads to this day-- the main event! Our guide gives you a step-by-step walkthrough of each element of your ceremony to ensure that it’s smooth, stress-free, and full of love!
There can be many elements to a wedding ceremony, possibly more than you’d expect if you’ve never attended or planned a wedding. Here are the standard elements of a ceremony program:
Exchanging Of Vows and Rings
Pronouncement of Marriage
To help get you started, check out thesethree tips to keep in mind!
We’re going to take some time to go a little more in depth on each of these elements. Keep in mind that elements are not concrete and can be moved around, personalized, added, and removed depending on your personal taste and wedding wants. No need to stick with the traditional way; it’s your wedding, so make it your own!
In a nutshell, the processional is the entrance. All members of the wedding party, the ring bearer, the flower people, officiant, close family (parents/guardians, grandparents, children), nearlyweds, and any other special entrances make their way into the ceremony space during this time. This is an opportunity for everyone to take the time to admire the newlyweds and those close to them; this is also where tears may start to well up.
Traditionally, all of these processional entrances happen down the main aisle and toward the altar. And there are a couple standard entrance orders that you can choose from depending on who you would like recognized during your ceremony.
Officiant, Flower Person/People, Close Family, Wedding Party (One-by-one Or Two-by-two), Ring Bearer, Nearlyweds
Officiant, Flower Person/People, Ring Bearer, Partner #1’s Close Family, Partner #1’s Wedding Party, Partner #1, Partner #2’s Close Family, Partner #2’s Wedding Party, Partner #2
Officiant, Close Family, Wedding Party, Flower Person/People, Ring Bearer, Partner #1, Partner #2
There are a few things to take from these order options. First, remember that your processional can be as long or as short as you want and in whatever order you desire. And who is chosen to walk is completely up to you! For example, the officiant may already be waiting at the altar versus getting a moment to walk down the aisle. Also, many choose to only have the wedding party walk down the aisle versus also including close family. You can also mix and match you and your partner’s family and wedding party members or keep them respective to your separate entrances. Or, you and your partner might be entering together versus having your own separate spotlights. Take the time to really think about how long you want this element of your ceremony to be and who you would want walking down the aisle. For some more ideas onhow to incorporate your loved ones into your wedding ceremony, read here!
Also consider what music will be playing during this time. In the movies, this is normally where “Here Comes The Bride” is played. Depending on the entertainment that you’ve booked, you may have a live band, individual performers, or a DJ. Considering that, decide if you want to go with a classic instrumental approach or if you have a couple specific romantic songs in mind to be played or performed.
The ceremony greeting consists of the opening words and welcome. It is traditionally done by the officiant-- though you can choose whoever you’d like. Something along the lines of “Friends and Family, we are gathered together to celebrate the very special love between Partner #1 and Partner #2. On behalf of the nearlyweds, welcome and thank you for being here to witness this momentous occasion…”. It’s only a few sentences; whoever you choose as the greeter can write it themselves or you might want to write it for them.
Wedding readings can be a really nice, heartwarming touch to your ceremony. Essentially, readings are meaningful words or passages meant to capture the essence of your wedding. They can be from any media that contains messaging that represents you and your love! For example, they can be from sacred religious texts, movies, shows, books, poems… they can even be originally written if you or someone around you has a way with words!
If you’re not sure where to start, take a look at our simple tips forfinding a wedding reading that means something to you. And for some inspiration, here are somesecular wedding readingsideas that make for beautiful, love-filled moments.
Not everyone is religious or spiritual, so not everyone chooses to incorporate a prayer or blessing into their ceremony. But, for those that embrace a specific faith, this can be a very integral moment. If you don’t have a specific vision in mind, there are a couple of options. You can have someone perform the blessing or you and your partner can recite prayers yourselves. Another option is to incorporate a moment of silent, individual prayer for everyone in attendance. If your officiant is not a priest or church official, then you can choose to call one up to lead this section. Or, if that doesn’t matter, you can have your officiant or someone close to you lead.
In this moment, you gaze into your partner’s eyes and profess your lasting love for each other. If you need advice on how to bring your partner to tears (happy ones of course) with your vows, read our detailed Wedding Vows Guide. During this time, you may also exchange rings or bands as a physical symbol of your connection and partnership. Check out our Wedding Ring Guides for some more info on choosing and insuring your wedding bands.
This is it. This is where you and your partner finally say “I Do”. But it’s not official until your officiant says the words: “I now pronounce you…”. Make sure you have a conversation with your officiant on the titles you want them to use when pronouncing your marriage-- “Mr. and Mr. Last-Name”...“Husband and Wife”...you could even ask them to simply pronounce you married. It’s ultimately your decision.
If the processional is the entrance, then the recessional is simply the exit. To keep things easy, you could just reverse the processional entrance order with you and your partner exiting first together and everyone else behind you. Or-- you could follow the same order so that you and your partner are last and get the final spotlight. And in the same way that you chose music for the processional, you can choose recessional music as well.
The decoration of your ceremony venue is a little different from your reception venue, if they aren’t taking place in the same space. Take a look at our Wedding Reception Guide for decoration tips specifically for your reception. Here are some of the main elements to consider when decorating your ceremony space:
Seating and Aisle
Walls and Ceiling
For somefresh and bright ceremony decorideas, check out this article!
With this being one of the main elements of your wedding planning process, you’ll want to make sure it’s commemorated well so that you can remember it for years to come. Capturing plenty of good photos and videos is a great way to do this. Make sure you and your photographer/videographer are on the same page with the shot-list and moments to be captured. Look through some of ourfavorite ceremony shotsthat you’ll for sure want in your wedding album for some inspo.
If we can give you any advice, it would be to make sure that your ceremony issuper uniqueand representative of both you and your partner. Think of ways to take the standard ceremony and switch it up so that it’s a day that you and your guests won’t forget. Read our article for some ways tostep outside the boxwhen it comes to planning your wedding ceremony.
Hopefully, this gave you some guidance into the run-down of a wedding ceremony. There are some need-to-know basics and traditions..but the key is to learn the rules so that you can break them. Take the average wedding ceremony and make it completely unique to you and your partner. Check out the articles below for some more ideas and inspo, in the meantime. And happy planning!