After deciding on an outdoor wedding ceremony overlooking the ocean in Southern California, my husband and I went to work deciding on the actual ceremony content.  We knew we wanted it to last about 30 minutes, not too long but not over in a flash.  We wanted a couple of meaningful readings.  We didn’t want to write our own vows (too many nerves, emotions, and pressure!) but didn’t want to say the traditional vows either.  We wanted to incorporate ideas that set our ceremony apart from the countless weddings we see on TV and have all been to…we wanted it to be more “us.”  We are what I would consider spiritual, grateful, emotional people, but not what I would call religious in the traditional sense.  And we wanted to include our guests.  And after it was all said and done (literally) we had a beautiful, emotional, and sincere ceremony.  Isn’t that the point?

Anyone who tells you that you can’t do or say something you want to do or say in YOUR wedding should, in my humble opinion, be ignored.  Listen to what your heart tells you that you want to do and say.  It is your wedding, after all…

Here is a basic outline of what our ceremony consisted of, which was combined with our officiant’s remarks.  I hope it helps you planning brides who don’t want to go the pre-written/traditional route but are having trouble writing their own ceremony:

Warming of the Rings:  Also called a Ringwarming Ceremony.  This was done during the prelude music prior to the ceremony.  Our rings were passed around all of our guests in a bird’s nest and guests were asked to place their good thoughts and blessings on them.  This is how we explained it in our program:

The wedding rings are the strongest and most visable sign of the bond these two people are about to make. As these rings are passed amongst you, please hold them and give them your personal blessings. The ring warming means the rings will not only be a gift from the bride and groom to each other, but will be given with the love, support, and wisdom of all present.

Prelude Music  (a variety of songs by the Vitamin String Quartet – if you don’t know them, check them out on itunes!  They do string/classical versions of popular music.  We had Yellow by Coldplay, God Only Knows by The Beach Boys, Just Like Heaven by The Cure, All I Want is You by U2, to name a few)

Processional (I Want to Hold Your Hand by The Beatles, the T.V. Carpio version from Across the Universe)

Welcome Remarks and Opening Thoughts (written and said by our officiant which included fun little anecdotes and stories about us as a couple, our long history (we were high school sweethearts, dated off and on for a few years, and then were together again for about 6 years before we got married).

First Reading:  “Why Marriage” by Mari Nichols-Haining, read by a family friend (this really described what being married meant to us and what we wanted it to be):

Because to the depths of me, I long to love one person,
With all my heart, my soul, my mind, my body…
Because I need a forever friend to trust with the intimacies of me,
Who won’t hold them against me,
Who loves me when I’m unlikable,
Who sees the small child in me, and
Who looks for the divine potential of me…
Because I need to cuddle in the warmth of the night
With someone who thanks God for me,
With someone I feel blessed to hold…
Because marriage means opportunity
To grow in love in friendship…
Because marriage is a discipline
To be added to a list of achievements…
Because marriages do not fail, people fail
When they enter into marriage
Expecting another to make them whole…
Because, knowing this,
I promise myself to take full responsibility
For my spiritual, mental and physical wholeness
I create me, I take half of the responsibility for my marriage
Together we create our marriage…
Because of this understanding
The possibilities are limitless.

Group Declaration of Support for the Couple: (Guests respond by saying “We Do”)
As family and friends,

You form a community of support
That surrounds ________ and _________
Each of you, by your presence here today
Is being called upon
To uphold them in loving each other
Always stand beside them, never between them
Offer them your love and your support
Not your judgment
Encourage them when encouragement is needed
And listen to them when they ask for advice
In these ways, you can honor this marriage
Into which they have come to be joined today
Do you offer your love and support
To strengthen their marriage
And bless this family created by their union?

{We Do.}

Exchange of Vows:
I, bride/groom take you, groom/bride, to be my husband/wife, my constant friend, and my love from this day forward. I vow to be your faithful partner, in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, in joy as well as sorrow. I promise to love you unconditionally, to support you in your goals, and to cherish and respect you. I will love and honor you all the days of my life.

Exchange of Rings:
Groom, take Bride’s ring and place it on her finger and repeat after me:
I give you this ring as a sign that I choose you
To be my lover, my partner and my best friend, to the end of my days
Wear it, think of me, and know that I love you

Bride, take Grooms’s ring and place it on his finger and repeat after me:
I give you this ring as a sign that I choose you
To be my lover, my partner and my best friend, to the end of my days
Wear it, think of me, and know that I love you

Second Reading:  A poem written for the couple and read by a family friend
Blessing of us as a married couple
Introduction of the Couple
Recessional  (Vitamin String Quartet’s version of Jason Mraz’s I’m Yours)

Music is another important element (I think) in your wedding ceremony, so use this as an opportunity to let your personality come through.  If you don’t like Canon in D, then don’t play it in your ceremony just because lots of other brides do.  At the end of the day, this is really the most important part of your wedding, what it all should be about, and it should reflect you as a couple just as much (if not more!) than the style, decor, cake, florals, etc.

What was/is your ceremony style?  I’d love to hear your favorite part, a unique element you incorporated, or a tradition you chose to keep.  Your comments and sharing will help other planning brides, so share away!

Photos by Jennifer Roper
You can find more about my ceremony here.  Also, if you’d like to see more full ceremony content for help and ideas, Kathryn from Snippet & Ink shared her ceremony as well, and it’s really lovely so check it out.  Good luck!