Remember, the ceremony is the real wedding, so don't neglect it in the whirlwind of planning your reception. Exchanging your vows will be both a public and a private pronouncement of the love you two share, and you'll want it to be unique and meaningful.
Options abound for making a ceremony uniquely yours. Many couples prefer a traditional religious ceremony, officiated by a clergy member and personalized with selected readings, poems, original vows, or symbolic candle lighting. Others might prefer a civil ceremony performed by a public official, or a non-denominational ceremony without religious restrictions. And if you're an interfaith couple, you may choose an ecumenical ceremony in which an officiant from each faith is present. Whatever you desire, your ceremony should satisfy both your feelings and beliefs, and it should acknowledge the serious nature of the commitment you're making.
It's up to the two of you to decide whether you will follow that exact format or add your own touches. Here are some suggestions.
Readings and Prayers Readings and prayers may be used to turn even the most strictly religious ceremony into a highly personalized event - or to bring a note of spirituality to an ecumenical ceremony. You might choose a scripture that has special meaning to you, or read a prayer that represents your feelings about marriage. For non-religious readings, there may be a romantic poem or even a song lyric you'd like to include.
Rites & Rituals Ask your officiant about religious or cultural rituals to incorporate into your ceremony. For instance, some African-American couples honor their heritage by 'jumping the broom' as a symbol of jumping into a new life together.
Candle ceremonies (often called a unity candle are very popular. The altar is prepared with three white candles, which symbolize the love that the newlywed couple will keep burning for each other throughout their marriage. After the vows, the bride and groom light the third candle with the flames of their individual candles, representing the unity of marriage.
No Regrets: Planning the Ceremony of Your Dreams Make sure you get to know your officiant enough to be sure that this is the person you want to join you in marriage - and be sure he or she knows how to pronounce your names!
If you're combining different faiths or cultural traditions in your ceremony, or incorporating an element your guests may not be familiar with, don't leave them in the dark. A program explaining the ceremony will help them share its significance with you.
Don't sweat the small stuff. It doesn't really matter if your unity candle won't light or your flower girl doesn't make it all the way down the aisle; what counts is that you truly believe in the vows you're making to each other.