Custom Made for Two

Personalizing Your Wedding Ceremony

Months have been spent organizing the details to make your wedding day perfect. The gown is being altered.  The ideal reception menu has been selected. The band comes highly recommended and is certain to have the guests dancing the night away. But, have you spent time planning the ceremony or just left it up to the person who will be officiating?

The ceremony is, after all, the most important part of the day and the reason for your celebration. It should reflect your own unique personalities to give you and your guests lasting memories.

It is important that you check with the officiant to make sure you can modify the ceremony. Once you have done that, feel free to express your creative side. Search the internet and library to get ideas. Ask others about clever things they have seen at past ceremonies.

Begin with decoration. It is important to create a unified theme throughout the ceremony site to avoid a disorganized look. Sometimes, simple is better. Incorporate one favorite flower into the bouquets and boutonnieres, on the chairs or aisle endings, on the candelabras and add petals by the unity candle.  Tulle is very inexpensive, goes a long way and creates a soft, romantic look. You can swag the aisles with it, make bows or arrange it on the guest book table to have a soft effect. At Christmas, affix all of your bridesmaids bouquets to a different brass horned instrument. If the wedding is outdoors, don't compete with the scenery. Bring the natural elements of nature into your decorating scheme to enhance the beauty you already appreciate.

Music is an area in which to compliment your ceremony. Work along with the musician who will be playing to select music that has special meaning to you. This may require providing the composition in advance so they will have ample practice time. Instead of hiring an organist, hire someone to play hand bells or utilize the local high school ensemble or gospel choir. Guests can be invited to join the musicians in song. Have a bagpiper or saxophonist lead you into the church or down the aisle. If you are musically inclined, write your own song for the ceremony and serenade your new spouse. Do you have a great voice but are nervous about performing? Record the music ahead of time. One bride recorded all her favorite love songs and played them during the prelude as guests arrived. It was a wonderful added touch. You can surprise guests by picking a fun, up-beat and unexpected song for your recessional. 

If you prefer literature to music,
consider having special pieces read during the ceremony. Write a poem or search books for something that is perfect for the two of you. One brave couple asked several friends and family members to select and deliver their readings. There was not a dry eye in the house as a close friend read the poem she had written just for them. Involve a grandparent or special relative by asking them to say a prayer. As the father of the bride "gives away" his little girl, he might use that moment to say something special to her, the groom or both. Using words, the two of you can honor your parents or remember a loved one.

Many books and internet sites are available to help with selecting wedding vows. Traditional vows are wonderful, but you can also write your own. Both the bride and groom can select different vows to surprise the other. If you do choose to have alternative vows, be sure to give your officiant a copy in advance so they will be familiar to him. Consider two sets of vows. During the traditional ones, invite all of your married guests to stand, face each other and reaffirm their love. Couples with children from a previous marriage may want to use this time to share special words to the children or present them with gifts. This helps the children feel included and realize that the new marriage is also a joining together of families. Don't be afraid to add facets of humor. Everyone enjoys a good laugh and sometimes, it relieves the tension.

Wedding programs can express an artistic touch.
One groom sketched a drawing of the church along with the couple's initials and it adorned the front of the program. Hand paint or personally decorate each one.  Include your favorite quotes and the words to your special song or reading so guests can follow along. You can add your new address and phone number or even a special note of thanks to your parents, the guests or others who are involved in making your wedding day extraordinary. Introduce the members of the wedding party with detailed information about each one.

Research different cultural aspects and include them in your wedding ceremony. For example, in France, the groom typically walks his mother down the aisle before taking his own spot at the altar. In the Latin culture, the groom gives his bride symbolic coins which are blessed by the priest and carry a promise of care and support. Consider wearing attire that represents the nationality of your families. The Jewish wedding is rich with wonderful traditions such as the Ketubah signing and the Chuppah. Embrace customs that have symbolic meanings you admire, even if they were not a part of your upbringing.

When deciding the elements to make your ceremony distinctive, add individuality in small parts because too much may overwhelm your guests. Have fun and be imaginative. Let your ceremony be one that you will remember and leave your guests anticipating what is to come at the reception ahead.

Lisa Manning is a local wedding coordinator with Southern Weddings. Visit her websites at or

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