Arguably the most important part of a wedding is when you exchange marriage vows at the wedding ceremony. Yet, sometimes vows get written at the last minute, a quick I Do is spoken, and before you know it… the actual ceremony can feel like an afterthought.
For some, a speedy set of vows and a healthy smooch will suffice. For other couples, the ideal wedding ceremony is rooted in tradition, religion, or completely self-designed. Both styles take careful planning.
The best way to make sure you have the ceremony you want is to start thinking about what you actually want! In fact, start considering yourself a student of weddings. Like all students you have to do your homework. Observe other weddings you attend or watch on TV. Yes, this is an excuse to watch every wedding movie you have ever wanted to watch. Make sure you take notes! Start keeping a journal of meaningful moments shared between you and your soon-to-be. Add in thoughts about your soon-to-be; how does he or she make you feel, what did you think when you first met, when did you realize you were in love, and how do they enhance your life? Give yourself time to think of the sentimental moments, don't try to cram them all down on paper the night before!
Consider the following when imagining your ideal ceremony:
1. Will your ceremony be religious?
2. Who will be conducting the ceremony? A religious leader, judge, or certified friend?
3. Are you a mixed faith couple? How will both faiths be honored and represented?
4. What cultural aspects would you like to include?
5. What family members, children from a previous marriage, honored guests, or close friends do you want to involve?
6. Is this a military wedding?
7. Is this a same-sex wedding? If yes, are you in a state that has legalized same-sex marriage or will you be conducting a commitment ceremony?
8. Is this a second wedding for you or your soon-to-be? If yes, you might want to remove traditional references to virginity from vows.
9. What sort of ceremony music would you like while guests are taking their seats, for the walk down the aisle, and for your exit? Will it be live or recorded? Are their site restrictions you need to consider?
10. Will children be involved in the ceremony as flower girls or ring bearers?
11. Are there items such as a candles, water, or religion-specific alters you need?
12. Are there readings you would like, who will read them?
Don’t feel like you need to answer all these questions yet, it is only the beginning of your studies! But, the more you are aware of the varying ways a ceremony can be conducted, who is involved, and what is involved, the easier it will be to plan a cohesive and meaningful ceremony. Last but not least, we encourage you and your soon-to-be to start thinking about that kiss. Maybe even start practicing, after all practices does make perfect!