With the vast amount of wedding advice and inspiration available, planning your wedding ceremony can feel complicated. Couples planning non-secular weddings are left to write their ceremony on their own, for better or for worst. For those seeking a straightforward way to put together your wedding ceremony, it's time for a simple guide.
Ashley Lachney, the owner of the wedding planning company Alston Mayger Events, helps us make a simple wedding ceremony a piece of wedding cake. For couples seeking the most basic answers to the, “What should we include in our wedding ceremony?” question, this is it.
Ashley shares a very customizable order of events starting from the moment you walk down the aisle to the moment you walk back together a married couple. Feel free to move things around, add special moments and remove anything that doesn't sound like you. And, if you're looking for unique, non-religious ceremony readings, we've got that covered, too.
A Simple Wedding Ceremony Order
Your florist is booked, your planner is contracted, and your aunt has already informed you that she’s bringing her “party pants” to your wedding. You’ve thought of every detail, except how you want your ceremony to stack up against the rest of the evening. How do we want guests to feel, and what do we want to convey during this treasured time? This checklist will give you artistic license to go with the flow while providing a simple structure of items that are traditionally included in ceremonies.
Decide here who’s walking with whom. Any VIP family members that are being escorted in and seated will be included in this moment. After they’re seated, there’s typically a song change, and the officiant comes out and remains at the altar. Traditionally, the groom enters alone, or with one (or both) parents, seats them, and remains at the altar. However, for same-sex couple weddings, choose who you'd like to enter first, you can still use the same simple order that follows!
After this, your wedding party will enter, splitting and standing farthest out from the altar. This shape will build until your attendants of honor enter and stand closest to the altar. If you’re having anyone toss petals, they’ll enter next, followed by ring security – then it’s the bride's (or groom's) big moment! Make sure your officiant or celebrant asks that everyone stand when the music change happens.
When you reach the altar, hand your bouquet off and turn to face your partner. Don’t forget to hold their hands!
Welcome & Introduction by Officiant
An experienced officiant will take the time to get to know both you and your partner, so these initial opening remarks will typically lean on your story and history as a couple. If preferred, a prayer can happen here as well.
Special Readings & Live Performances
Some couples prefer to involve those closest to them in their ceremonies by asking them to read a cherished verse or poem, or perhaps perform a song. These moments are always special, but your ceremony absolutely will not suffer without them.
To write your own, or go with the ol’ call and response? Depending on you and your partner’s comfort level with speaking publicly, this choice is completely your personal preference. I always encourage couples to follow their hearts here. There are plenty of other times throughout the day that you two can exchange personal vows if the thought of saying them in front of everyone is not your style.
Ensure you designate someone to keep a close hold and watch on these about thirty minutes before guest arrival. This is typically the officiant, celebrant, or attendant of honor (even a trusted pup!). During rehearsal, be sure to pass along what the verbal cue will be for the hand-off.
If you choose, a unity moment accompanied by a song (live or recorded) can occur within your ceremony. Popular ways to signify this include lighting a unity candle, planting a tree together, or having your officiant or celebrant perform a hand-fasting ceremony.
Declaration of Marriage & Kiss
The good stuff! Once your officiant or celebrant wraps everything up, they’ll ask you and your partner to turn towards your audience for the presentation of you as newlyweds. You get to share a kiss at their prompt (here's how to get the best first kiss photos). Finally, it’s time to head back up the aisle and celebrate!
Be sure to collect your bouquet, grab your partner’s hand, and start back up the aisle. Couples traditionally pick a fun, upbeat song for this moment. All other attendants should wait to exit until the newlyweds have reached the very end of the aisle. Your celebrant or officiant will stay behind to let your guests know what to expect next, and you’ll head off to sign your marriage license with your photo and video team, your witnesses, and your officiant when they join you.
Find more sage advice and checklists in our Wedding Planning section.
Ashley Lachney is the owner of Alston Mayger Events, a boutique wedding planning company in the Pacific Northwest creating timeless celebrations for couples from Seattle, Washington to Portland, Oregon. She resides in Southwest Washington with her husband Garrett, and their two dogs Martin and Theo.