It seems that more and more couples these days prefer to have a more personal experience with their wedding ceremony. Bypassing the religious, they opt to write their own wedding ceremony script. Since we have an officiant on our staff, let us share some of her top tips on how to write your own wedding ceremony.
1. Discuss What Is Important
Different people have varying views on what they would like their wedding ceremony to consist of. Truly we find that they are as unique as each couple we encounter. For some, the preference is for it to be short yet symbolic, for others it is centered around a celebration of your relationship, and for some couples they view it as a chance to showcase the talents of creative family members and friends. First determine the general tone or underlying theme. Do you prefer for it to be romantic, emotional, or fun? First decide what you want your ceremony to be and the rest of your decisions will fall right into place.
2. Get Cracking on the Legal Bit
Determine what the rules are in the state you are getting married in. Who is able to marry you varies depending on where you are wed. For example, the state of Tennessee recently passed a law stating that online ordinations are no longer accepted. Unless your officiant is a a member of the clergy, an elected official or a Humanist celebrant, your ceremony will not be legally binding. You do have a couple of options here, however. You can have a private ceremony at your religious institution another day or ahead of your actual wedding ceremony or have a Humanist celebrant perform the legal ceremony with your guests present. In some cases they will even permit your friend or family member to do the ceremony on the actual wedding day and will perform a very quick private ceremony with just the two of you to make everything legal and official on your actual wedding day. You also have the optio to simply head off on your honeymoon to Vegas or New York and do it there. Either way, make sure you plan out all the legalities as well as the details for your personalized ceremony.
3. Choose an Officiant
An officiant isn't totally necessary, you and your fiancee can lead the proceedings, you can enlist the assistance of a pair of your best friends to do it, or we've even seen ceremonies MC'd by the couple's children. The whole point of planning your own wedding ceremony is that there are no rules!
That said, we tend to recommend that you have an officiant as it will keep things slightly within the realm of tradition and organization. Here are a couple of traits that we feel make for excellent officiants:
Someone charismatic and confident. Nervous nellies are either too quiet or stumble over their words.
Someone who is excited to perform your ceremony, as it is quite an honor to be asked. You want someone who will work with you to create something perfect for you both.
Someone who knows you well or makes the effort to get to know you prior to the wedding day.
Someone who will make your guests feel at ease, guiding them through you personalized wedding ceremony. This is particularly important if you have older guests or anyone who's a little reluctant about the idea of a non-traditional ceremony.
4. Structure is Key
Whether you have an assortment of readings, songs, prayers, a unity candle, tree planting, hand-fasting, just your vows, some form of speeches, or you ask your guests to bless your rings as they are passed throughout your assembled guests, structure is important. This is key in putting your guests at ease and will provide a flow to the overall ceremony rather than having it go in fits and starts. We always recommend beginning with an outline...welcome remarks, a reading, a song, vows, and a prayer or blessing over the couple and a final song - is a basic outline to help get you started.
5. Short and Sweet
Guests get antsy when things are too long winded. 15-30 minutes is plenty of time for a beautiful, personalized declaration of love followed by the grand finale of that first kiss as a married couple!
6. Music, Readings & People: Select Those Important To You
Don't select your ceremony readings because they seem romantic...select something that truly resonates with you and your partner. The same rule goes for the music you select. Search for song that has meaning and inspires emotion. Whether you have ceremony musicians or a close friend or relative singing/delivering a reading, these are the elements that truly make your ceremony memorable and uniquely yours.
7. Selecting Creative Locations
The beauty of planning your own wedding ceremony is that you can have it anywhere. We have planned quite a few micro-weddings with our sister company, Elope in Tennessee, and our couples have picked some really fabulous locations to wed. We've had ceremonies on the Pedestrian Bridge in Nashville at sunset overlooking the beautiful skyline of the city, celebrated a ceremony amongst the pillars at The Parthenon and even wed a couple at the Historic RCA Studio B where Elvis, Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton and The Everly Brothers recorded their hits. The possibilities are endless, so really have some fun with it!
8. Have a Unifying Element
That said, there's something to having one unifying element ensuring your guests that "we are all in this together." It will immediately put them at ease especially if you are planning something that is far less traditional. We suggest starting with a group song, a few jokes that get everyone laughing or even some kind of game to bring your guests together as a community within your wedding ceremony.