Image by Sarah McEvoy Photography
What Type of Service?
The two main ceremony options are civil and religious. You might already have an idea of which one you’re leaning towards but with so many variations in between, the answer may not be clear cut. The type of service you choose will form the basis for many of the other ceremony decisions such as the venue and readings. Even if you and your partner have different faiths and don’t plan to merge them in the ceremony, you don’t need to forgo religious elements. A nondenominational ceremony can be the answer for those couples who believe in God but don’t identify with an organised religion or who simply want to engage in the tradition of a religious ceremony. For some, religion is not an active part of their lives, and this is where a civil ceremony comes in. It fulfils all of the requirements for a legal union, without any of the religious traditions.
Think about Your Location
One of the easiest ways to simplify things is to choose a ceremony and reception venue located close to each other. This makes things easier for those guests who may have already travelled long distances to be with you on the day, and it’s also less stressful for you! If travel time is cut to a minimum, you will have more time for photos and socialising with your friends and family. For many brides and grooms, not having the time to mingle with their guests is their biggest regret of the day. Some venues have spaces for both the ceremony and reception; this option will save you time as well as money on transport, photography and sometimes venue hire.
Image by Patina Photography
Get to Know Your Marriage Celebrant
Get to know your marriage celebrant and let them get to know you. The more your celebrant understands you as a couple, the more personal and special your ceremony will be. Exchanging vows can be a nerve wracking and emotional time; it definitely helps having another friendly face up there with you! Some venues, like churches, may have a celebrant that you’re required to use, so it pays to check before you make any personal arrangements.
What Will You Say?
Your vows are your promise to each other and are undoubtedly the most meaningful words you’ll ever say. Whether you decide to stick to traditional vows or write your own is up to you. If you’re stuck, your celebrant can be a great source of advice. They may even be able to help adjust the wording of traditional vows to make them a little more ‘you’. Readings are a great way to share your ideas of marriage with the congregation and a special way to include those close to you in the ceremony. Remember that many people find speaking in front of a group stressful and difficult, so don’t be offended if the person you ask declines. Make sure you’re organised; it’s polite to give those you ask a few weeks to get familiar with the reading.
Image from Sudbury
Be Savvy with Your Décor Arrangements
There’s no need to go all out with your decorations and cover every inch of the ceremony space. The attention of your guests and photographer will be on you, meaning the aisle and altar will also be focused on. Prioritise these areas, and then spend the rest of your ceremony décor budget on the entrance to make an impression on your guests as they arrive.
Take Your Guests’ Comfort into Consideration
If you’re planning a standing ceremony, do you have chairs on hand for older guests? If it’s outdoors, will the ground be firm enough for ladies’ heels? If the service is long, should you place cushions on the pews? Thinking about the weather ahead of time can also save you a lot of stress on the day. Will you need a backup plan in case of rain? On the flipside, a sunny outdoor space can be uncomfortably hot without any shade. If your guests are comfortable and relaxed, they will enjoy themselves and set a great vibe for the rest of the day.
Image by Anna Munro Photography
The Perfect Programme
Most ceremonies have a typical structure that your guests will expect, so don’t feel the need to include absolutely everything in your programme. Stick to the basics. Make sure you include the order of events, the name of those giving readings, and the details of any special traditions included in your ceremony so your guests don’t feel lost. Think beyond classic paper programmes! A chalkboard sign placed outside can be a great way to display all the details for your guests to read as they arrive.
The right music will set the tone for your ceremony. The processional and recessional are the two key moments to think about, but it might also be nice to play some background music while your guests arrive. When choosing your music, consider your style and venue. Are you traditional or modern? Is the music appropriate for a church setting? If you’re outdoors or in a public space are there any noise restrictions you need to be aware of?
Image by Patina Photography
Get to the Church on Time!
Being late is stressful for you and waiting is tedious for the guests. Save the worry and make sure you have plenty of time for your ‘pre-wedding’ preparation. Ask your makeup artist and any other professionals who are involved for a realistic time estimate, then add 15 – 30 minutes on top of that as your ‘safety net’. You’ll be happy to have it if something unforeseen occurs, like your Mum misplacing her car keys!