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Designing Your Ceremony

Facing Your Guests (Modern Format)
Backs Turned (Traditional Format)
Examples of Wedding Vows
Effective Seating
Aisle Runner or Petals
Children in Wedding Ceremonies
The Escorting of a Bride
Taking Parental Vows
The Use of Music
Using a Pedestal
Using a Wedding Carriage
A New Role For Grandparents
Wedding Ceremony Readings
In Memoriam

Ceremonies in Special Places
Ceremonies in Theme
Taking Your Ceremony to Others
Staying in Character
What Name Should I Use?
What if it Rains?
Fibbing Your Start Time
Ceremonies in Candlelight
The Reception Line

The Order of Events

Primary Options:
Read this First
The Unity Candle
Champagne Sharing
The Sand Ceremony
The Blessing Tree
Tying the Knot
Tasting the Elements
Using a Photomontage
The Giving of Roses

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Butterfly Release
Dove Release
Balloon Release
Tossing Petals
Bubbles in a Wedding Ceremony
Applause Walk

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Creating a Wedding Ceremony Order of Events
wedding ceremony order of events

Below are listed 16 events associated with wedding ceremonies. Each has a description, and a photo icon to help you visualize what I'm describing. At the bottom of the page is an example of a typical wedding ceremony and the order of events that would accompany it.

If you are a bride or a groom, you will ultimately be picking up a marriage license at your county courthouse. Take a good look at it. It will ask for your names, the location where you are going to be married, the name and title of the person who performs your ceremony etc. That's pretty much it. Most marriage licenses issued in the counties of Chicagoland, as well as nationwide, require anywhere from 7 to 16 blanks to be filled in.

What the marriage license does not do, is ask you to describe your ceremony in any way. It does not ask if the bride wore a wedding dress; if the couple lit a Unity Candle; if any readers participated; or if you exchanged vows or rings. None of this is required to be married, and so none of this is required in a wedding ceremony.

Therefore, everything you do in a wedding ceremony is optional. So as you plan your ceremony, choose the options you want, and leave out those you don't. Those options, the things you want to do in your wedding ceremony, becomes its Order Of Events (also known as an Order Of Services).

Now let's look at the typical events of a wedding ceremony...

Wedding Usher Your ushers are to seat only your immediate family members and VIPs, not your guests. Showing 200 guests to their seats could take up to an hour. Upon joining us, your ushers should welcome your guests and invite them to sit wherever they wish. In this way your audience will have a balanced look, not favoring either family.  
Bridal Party Let your groomsmen escort their bridesmaids. Don't use the Chippendale entrance of a gaggle of tuxedoed guys entering with a groom, only to leave the bridesmaids to make unescorted entrances. This defeats the male/female nature of the ritual. Each groomsman will escort his lady to place, and then will walk over to the groom and congratulate him before his on looking guests.  
Escorted Bride Confident, poised, and elegant, are just some of the words your guests are going to use to describe how you made your entrance. Whatever anxiety you may have had about walking down the aisle, my thorough rehearsal is going to remove it. I'm going to extensively coach you, and your entrance is going to be smooth baby, just like an actress.  
Opening Commentary I will begin your ceremony by speaking to you and your guests about what your marriage means to all of us. This commentary is spoken from the center of the audience, allowing everyone to hear me while they are treated to seeing you and your magnificent bridal party fully arrayed before them. For guests and photographers,- this format has no equal.  
Declarations of Intent This is a series of questions whereby you are Declaring what you are Intending on doing- namely joining your lives in marriage. The Declarations of Intent are the mission statements of a wedding ceremony. You both answer my questions with "I Do." The Declarations of Intent, along with the exchanges of Vows and Rings lay the foundation for virtually all wedding ceremonies.  
Wedding ceremony reading The use of readers is very important stagecraft for your ceremony. They connect you with your guests because they come from the audience, not the bridal party. Their presence is photogenic and thereby develops your photo album. The reading should be brief; no one wants War And Peace! After their reading, the reader will give each of you a hug. A perfect contribution indeed!  
Wedding ceremony vows Here you verbally commit your lives to each other. I use some very beautiful vow sets but I enthusiastically invite you to consider composing your own! Your guests will be delighted with you and this act alone will take your ceremony to the next level. Write your words on an index card and while holding hands, read them to him/her. Your guests will be enrapt!
Wedding Ceremony Reading I am a very big advocate of using two readers in any given ceremony. One reader associated with the groom; the other the bride. You can find these readings on my website, on the Internet, on blogs, or your reader can compose his or her own. Some love to do this! If only one reader is used during your ceremony, he/she is used here and not in position 6 above.
Exchange of Rings Here you give each other a physical expression of fidelity. A bridesmaid and groomsman each are given a ring before the ceremony begins. It matters not who gets which ring as your guests do not study this. Do not give your bridal party members the rings in their boxes or pouches. Also, do not give rings to children, give them costume jewelry on the ring pillow. Only adults hold rings.
Wedding Options Choose one of these options to be the focal point of your ceremony. Highly entertaining to watch and eminently photogenic, these five options are the heart and soul of my ceremonies. Guests 70 rows deep will lean forward in their seats to watch you do this. No other event- in any "traditional" wedding ceremony- can rival these. Typical primary options are: The Unity Candle, Wine Sharing, The Sand Ceremony, The blessing Tree, and Tasting the Elements.
Exchange of Rose As the Primary Options shown above join the two of you in marriage, so the Giving of Roses joins each of you to your new families. The greatest expressions of joy for a bride and groom can be seen in the faces and body language of the attending guests at this moment. The Giving of Roses is the emotional high ground of my ceremonies.
Supplemental Wedding Options

Your marriage will touch many lives just as your lives were touched by many. Family and friends (living and deceased), your children and your culture start the list. If honoring these contributors belongs in your ceremony there are many photogenic and meaningful ways of doing it. These five are but a sample list. There are dozens you can choose. Typical supplemental options include: Actions In Memoriam, Parental Vows, Using a Photo Montage, Signing a Marriage License and Ketubah Signing.

Closing Words I can see it in the faces of my brides and grooms when I speak these final words of their ceremony. It's the look of joyful expectation infused with triumph. They know they have aced the test, that their ceremony has well exceeded their guests expectations, and that the richly deserved compliments of those guests await them.
First Kiss Your married life begins with affection! What could be more fitting? And yes, during rehearsal you both will learn correct posing and arm placement for this embrace. I leave nothing to chance in my ceremonies. This photo is a one shot deal; we don't get to repeat it.
Recessional Walk

I'll ask all of your guests to come join me in center aisle. With photographers in place, and a great choice of music playing, you both, hand in hand, will begin slowly moving through these well wishers. They will applaud you, or toss petals, or ring hand bells as you kiss again in the middle of it all.

Imagine the photography!

Reception Line The compliments begin here, and they will go on all night long. If you haven't done so, please read the Letters of Appreciation page of my website to read what my couples said their guests told them about their ceremonies. Make every effort to include time for a reception line after your ceremony. Your guests are dying to tell you how happy they are for you!

For our example, Michael and Hayley are planning a wedding ceremony that will include the following: a reading from Hayley's uncle Matt, the exchange of personally written vows, the exchange of rings, Unity Sand, the giving of roses to their parents, and parental vows to their son Andrew.

A suggested Order Of Events for this ceremony is shown at right. This Order of Events would appear inside their wedding handbill as distributed to their guests prior to the ceremony.

I cannot emphasize this enough- everything you do in a wedding ceremony is optional!! And how you describe your wedding ceremony in its handbill, can be done as briefly or as extensively as you like. Once the ceremony begins, guests will no longer look at the Order Of Events; they'll be looking at the drama unfolding before them. So don't get carried away with the details! It's not a scorecard or a check list.

The primary purpose of your Order Of Events is to let your guests know what to expect in your ceremony, from whom, and what to photograph. All intermediate and large scale wedding ceremonies, regardless of how "formal" they are, deserve a published Order Of Events.


The Seating of Our Guests
The Entrance of the Groom
The Entrance of the Bridal Party
The Entrance of the Bride
The Opening Commentary
The Declarations of Intent
The Exchange of Our Personal Vows
A Reading ..... from Hayley's Uncle Matt
The Exchange of Rings
The Joining of Unity Sand
The Giving of Roses to Our Parents
Taking Parental Vows to Our Son Andrew
Final Commentary
Our First Kiss and Introduction
Recessional Walk With Our Guests
Our Reception Line

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