How to Get Innovative with Your Wedding Ceremony
By Lorna Urwin

12 December 2016

For modern brides who want to infuse their wedding with unique, personal touches, the traditional wedding ceremony can seem restrictive. While it’s true that some ceremony types are less flexible than others, often there’s more room than you might think for putting your own stamp on the proceedings! Below we plot out the traditional wedding ceremony timeline and share creative ideas for how to break the mould each step of the way.

1/ Ceremony length

Image by Mint Photography

Around 20 to 30 minutes is usually sufficient for a basic traditional ceremony, including a short welcome, readings, vows and ring exchange, and the pronouncement of the married couple. Once you’ve made decisions about the elements you want to include, your celebrant will be able to give you a clearer view on typical timings. Don’t forget to add in time for the processional, which may vary depending on how many people will walk down the aisle!

Make it your own:

  • If you simply want to be married without all the trimmings, think about ways to keep the ceremony short and sweet. For a non-religious ceremony, the minimum requirement is that you each agree to marry the other, and that your officiant pronounces you married, so the rest can be as concise as you like! 
  • Extend the ceremony with things that are most important to you, like an additional reading, a live performance of a significant song, or alternative vows.

2/ Seating your guests

Image by Gary Sexton

In the past, guests were directed to a side by ushers (bride’s guests on the left and the groom’s on the right). This is no longer set in stone, however. Many couples prefer the seating to reflect the union of the two families and allow people to sit on whichever side they wish, though typically the front few rows will remain reserved for immediate family members.
Make it your own:

  • If your ceremony is intimate and short, you may like to foster a feeling of solidarity and community by having your guests stand rather than sit. Guests’ comfort should still be paramount – announce the standing ceremony on the invites, provide seating for older guests and don’t leave people standing for longer than 15 minutes!
  • Rather than have linear rows of seating, placing chairs in a circular pattern is a growing wedding trend that has the potential to allow better views to a larger amount of people. 

3/ Processional

Images by Archetype Studio and Tec Petaja

The processional is when immediate family members and the bridal party either enter from the side or walk down the aisle to take their seats or standing positions at the front. The timing depends on a few different factors – how many people will be making their entrance, the length of the aisle, and how quickly they’ll walk. Rehearse these to ensure the music timings fit perfectly!

Make it your own:

  • Change the dynamics of the bride’s processional, whether that means the bride having both parents walk her down the aisle, another relative or close friend, walking in with the groom, or walking down by herself.
  • Have the bridesmaids carry something other than a bouquet, whether that’s a pretty parasol or a candle or lantern (these are especially magical for evening ceremonies!).

4/ Officiant’s welcome and opening remarks

Image by Bohemian Simplicity

The officiant will address everyone, thanking them for their presence and welcoming them to the celebration. They may then offer some reflections on the significance of marriage or recount your personal love story. 

Make it your own:

  • For an extra-personal touch, many couples choose to have a close friend officiate their marriage. This can create an especially warm rapport and convivial atmosphere.
  • Traditionally, the officiant faces the guests and the bride and groom have their backs to them. So long as the celebrant is still audible, there’s no reason why you can’t turn this around and have the bride and groom face the guests instead!

5/ Readings

Image by Patina Photography

Readings by friends and family members offer additional perspectives on love and a chance for them to play a role in this special occasion.

Make it your own:

  • Put a twist on traditional readings by having guests provide words of wisdom on their RSVP cards and compiling these to be read aloud at the ceremony. 
  • It’s common for couples to want to involve guests in creating a positive atmosphere around their marriage. ‘Ring warming’ is a sweet way to achieve this: the rings are passed around and each person has the opportunity to hold the rings and project good wishes onto them. Depending on the amount of time required for readings, this can be a good time to send the rings out!

6/ Vows and rings

Image by Michael And Carina Photography

The vows and the symbolic ring exchange are the heart of the ceremony. Whether with standard wording or personalized with your own expressions of love and devotion, this is one component that every wedding has in common!

Make it your own:

  • In secular ceremonies couples often look for rituals that can encapsulate their unity without reference to religion. Unity candles are a popular choice, but modern alternatives include a sand ceremony (where two flasks of sand are combined into one vessel) and tree planting (where the couple plants a sapling or seed to represent their budding marriage).
  • Additional unity ceremonies may also be borrowed from other cultures. For a boho or natural-themed wedding, crowning with adjoined flower crowns (originally from Greek Orthodox tradition) or draping the bridal couple with a floral lasso (originally from Hispanic tradition) are both meaningful and beautiful choices! Read more about international traditions here.

7/ Pronouncement and kiss

Image by Luna de Mare Photography

The officiant will pronounce you husband and wife, and the moment is sealed with the first married kiss.

Make it your own:

  • Depending on the tone of your ceremony, you might want to plan a more dramatic first kiss, whether by twirling the bride or dipping her backwards old-Hollywood style!

8/ Recessional

Image by Judy Pak Photography

The reverse of the processional, in which the bride and groom make their way back down the aisle followed by the bridal party.

  • Choose some special music. Whether vocal or instrumental, this is a wonderful way to include something with a lot of meaning to your relationship.
  • If you’re outdoors and your venue allows it, you might like to add in a ‘toss’ feature, with petals, confetti or streamers as you make your exit!