It’s true, we have seen hundreds of wedding ceremonies over the years, some traditional and some are unique, but one thing each ceremony has in common is how meaningful and perfect it is for each couple. Some couples choose to join in marriage in a church, some choose a beautiful outdoor setting like the lake side ceremony at Harvest View Barn at Hershey in Elizabethtown, PA or as grand as the Cathedral Basilica in the heart of Center City Philadelphia.
Whichever setting feels perfect to you, will feel perfect for all of your guests as well. We have combed through some of our weddings over the years and created a list of our 10 favorite tips for creating a ceremony that speaks to you as a couple:
I get it, this probably feels like the most overwhelming part of your wedding ceremony, but it’s also going to be the most meaningful. Your vows are heartfelt promises and commitments that you are making to each other, usually in front of your most supportive friends and family (we hope, that’s why they were invited!) The promises you make can cover whatever speaks to you as a couple.
Some include love, support, loyalty, partnership, maybe even something specific about always promising to surrender the remote during Sunday Night Football (cough that’s for you guys!) or to vow to program the coffee machine the night before (okay, this one is maybe just meaningful to me). For more advice on writing your vows, check out our top 5 tips on writing your wedding vows here.
All of this to say, some couples choose to go the tried and true traditional route, and that’s completely okay too! As long as your partner feels your commitment and promise in your words, what you say is perfect.
Many years ago we were photographing the most perfect Pennsylvania spring wedding at Penn Oaks Golf Course outside of West Chester, and saw one of the most interesting unity ceremonies. We are all familiar with the sand ceremony, or the tying of the knot (a cord of three strands is not easily broken!), but this couple chose to bring dirt from each of their childhood homes and together mix the dirt to plant an olive tree. Just like their lives can no longer return to just one, neither can all of the pebbles within the dirt they just mixed together. As a unit, this couple will water their tree, feed and nourish their tree, and enjoy the fruit of hard labor the same way they will tend to their marriage. It was a beautiful representation of how two families have become one. If you are looking for more unique ideas, check out our top 5 here.
Many of us have traditions that we hold close to our heart. Traditions can be passed down for generations and we honor those by continuing to perform them, or you can start your own traditions as the beginning of your new family.
Some common ways we have seen traditions in wedding ceremonies are primarily religion based, like a foot washing ceremony, breaking of the glass, lighting a candle, taking your first communion as a couple. We have also seen things like ring warmings (passing your wedding rings to be held by each guest for a moment), or taking special note to who is walking you down the aisle.
Are you walking together; a parent or siblings; maybe your own children?
Just like who you choose to walk you down the aisle speaks to the family (blood or chosen) that is meaningful to you, many couples will invite and encourage special people to be part of their ceremony as well.
Some ways we have seen this include singing a song, reading a poem, or who your choose to stand alongside of you during the ceremony (I’m talking about you wedding party!)
Many ceremonies are not complete without selecting a few special pieces that resonate with your own beliefs and values. They often nod to the unique nature of your relationship and add a meaningful touch.
Being a fellow dog lover, one of my favorites is always “how falling in love is like owning a dog”, (if you are still looking for a reading, this one is perfect for anyone incorporating pets in their ceremony!). It’s lighthearted (and fairly accurate) and gives your guests a pretty good giggle.
Some other common readings might be prayers or blessings, readings from the bible, poems, or movie quotes. Anything can be a reading if it speaks to you!
It’s always fun for guests (and me!) when the officiant talks about getting to know you as a couple. Sometimes your officiant will be an old friend or mentor, or sometimes it will be someone with no prior relationship to you at all. Couples and guests always get a giggle when the officiant shares answers to questions the other person didn’t know were being asked, like “what are your favorite qualities in your partner”, or “share one story that highlights why you fell in love”.
Those are things that can’t be replicated and guests who might not know your partner too well love getting to know them this way too! Other things your officiant can share to weave together your story is how you overcame a difficult time, maybe significant moments in your journey, or any other details that are important for you to share.
This is a tough one, but always so important. Just recently we had a including a framed picture on their seat, that way you know they are there with you. We have also seen setting a chair with shoes, a flower, or other memorable item. A moment of silence, lighting a candle, or sharing a prayer are all great ways to create a moment for them.
Okay, this one might not seem that interesting, but photographically it makes a huge impact! Having your guests throw things like beach balls as you exit your wedding ceremony would be perfect for the Jersey Shore (we love the Icona in Avalon!) or throwing rose petals creates big impact at a garden venue like Tyler Arboretum!
And finally, this is such a big one. Take little moments to savor your ceremony. Look into the eyes of all the people that have gathered to celebrate you, and look into each other’s eyes while you take it all in. Savoring the moment can feel difficult when we all want to get to the food and the party, but remember that it’s the ceremony that makes you married!
We recommend limiting distractions by asking guests to be present with you and to put their phones away to enjoy the moment. I promise we are there to capture every laugh, tear, and moment that unfolds!
At the end of the day, your ceremony will reflect you as a couple. It’s worth taking your time to plan and cherish every aspect of it. When done right, your ceremony will take guests on the journey of your relationship, will bond you in marriage, and leave everyone in the room feeling a little more love than they did 30 minutes ago.