Thoughts on putting your wedding ceremony together.
Research, research, research. When your brain is happy, your heart will tell you what to do.
Start with the broad strokes. Here are a number of terms that can be used to describe general wedding themes. Some of them will appeal to you more than others. Consider making a list of the ones you like in their order of importance to you. Add as many as you can think of. Have each partner make their own list and see what you have in common.
Faith in the Future
Faith in Humanity
Media (Movie/TV/Book theme)
Think about the message you want your vows to send. What is most important to you?
Almost all weddings have one special event, the giving and receiving of rings. But don't be limited by this. You may not LIKE rings. You might want to exchange something else, or something in addition to rings. Consider adding something special to your wedding. Some of these include -
Giving away the bride
Memorial to those not present
Spiritual/Religious reading by family/friends
Personal statement by officiant about the couple
Most weddings follow a general pattern. Here is a typical example. Use it or change it as fits your preferences.
1) Opening statement and welcome, may contain a prayer, benediction, or evocation
2) Giving away/presenting the bride
3) Optional addition such as remembrance of a loved one not present or an objection
4) An Officiant statement about the purpose and joy of marriage
5) Optional addition such as asking parents and/or guests to support the marriage
6) Officiant asks each spouse if they wish to be married, and they respond "I Do"
7) A special addition may be inserted here. (Such as a poem reading)
8) Exchange of vows, what you promise to each other. (For richer or poorer, etc.)
9) Opportunity for Special Addition (Such as a handfasting)
10) Exchanging of the rings
11) Opportunity for a Special Addition (Such as a sand ceremony)
12) Final words of summation from officiant, with pronouncement of the marriage
13) Sealing your union with a kiss
14) Announcement of the married couple
15) Signing the documents.
For most weddings you may wish to consider limiting your ceremony to under 2,000 words. A typical custom ceremony is 1,000 to 1,500. I usually sense guests getting restless at about 1500 words unless there is an interesting special addition. A good rule of thumb for wedding ceremonies is 100 words per minute. So a 1500 word ceremony will take about 15 minutes, not including the wedding party and bride coming up the aisle, and the recessional at the end. Most word processing programs will tell you how many words you have in a document. The "1) Traditional" ceremony from the Four Simple Ceremonies page is about 800 words, the "3) Gender Neutral" ceremony is about 500 words.
Here is a video example of a complete 800 word wedding. Including the processional, recessional, and announcements, the ceremony itself was a little under 12 minutes. It started about 10 minutes after the scheduled time, which is pretty typical. By the time all the clapping and shifting around was done, it was about a half hour for the whole thing. By the way, note the guests taking pictures and videos. Some couples don't want that look in their wedding pictures/videos. You may want to consider adding an announcement asking guests to leave the imaging to professionals that you hire. It depends on how formal you want everything to be.
Some couples want very traditional ceremonies.
Others want to have ceremonies that are very personalized. Some
ceremonies are very formal and serious. Others may have fun and
humorous moments. If you want to add personality to your ceremony there
are many options. For example you can provide information about your
lives and relationship to your officiant who can include that in the
ceremony, often during opening remarks on marriage. Pastor Dave
provides this service through his "Personalized Ceremony" service -
Creativity with your ceremony is another optional service. With a Custom Ceremony you can choose from parts of different example ceremonies, add in your own material, shake things up and change the order of what happens when, or add special elements like a book exchange or a handfasting. Pastor Dave will spend as much time with as you need in person, by Skype, or exchanging emails to create a perfect ceremony that is uniquely yours. Here is a perfect example from a creative couple.
Many couples like to include readings in their ceremonies. The readings can be done by the couple, the officiant, or a guest. While you can use pretty much anything, here are a few selected readings that you can use, or can use to inspire something else. You can use a reading if you are having a non-religious ceremony, but it might make a mother or father feel better to read a bible verse or inspirational message. You may also include a non-religious passage from a religious source.
You can also do it yourself. As a part of your ceremony you will make vows, or promises, to each other. Many vows are quite traditional, promising to stay together "For better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health", etc. But you can certainly add to your vows with fun things like "I promise never to leave the refrigerator door open", or "I promise never to give you a treadmill on your birthday". It can either be in statements that you read to each other, or they can be mixed in with more traditional vows and your officiant will ask you to repeat them. That way you don't have to remember them!
Some families/couples want to have a religious service to precede the wedding ceremony. This can be a Humanist service that does not include a god or worship. Here is an example of such a service.
There are many examples of ceremonies available in books and on the internet. We have a selection of ceremonies that do not refer to a god or other supernatural forces on our web page. The bottom ceremony on that page, Set N, is an interesting adaptation from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer from the 1700's. Are you ready to "plight your troth"? Cut and paste to your heart's content to create the ceremony that is right for you.
If you look closely, somewhere on the "Tie the Knot with Pastor Dave" web pages you will find a little easter egg. Click on it for some fun ideas.
Enjoy, and feel free to write or call any time for consultation on your ceremony.