Updated: Nov 13, 2018
What is the reason you’re planning a wedding? You’re the couple, spending hours and dollars planning this wedding. What is its purpose? The main event?
Your marriage ceremony.
Photo by Gsquared Weddings
You may or may not be surprised to hear that many peoples get so wrapped up in planning the other details of the day that they leave the ceremony for the last minute. Seriously! So many couples are scrambling in the final weeks to write a script, write their vows, decide who and how they are going to be married.
Listen up, friends. The ceremony is the reason you are having a wedding. Go ahead and dream and pin for a few days until you’ve defined your vision and priorities (those Foundation pieces), but after that? Dream about, draft, and organize the logistics for your ceremony. Here are 10 steps along with tips and templates, to plan your wedding ceremony.
1. Plan it first!
Start thinking about your ceremony from the beginning. Keep it in perspective that your entire wedding is about this short moment. Getting ready, traveling, taking photos will take hours before it. Celebrating, eating, drinking and dancing will take hours after. There is so much going on, and all of it is centered around this one approximately 30 minute chunk of time. Keep it high on the priority list, get it taken care of first, and return to it any time you begin to feel overwhelmed by the details of the day. Your ceremony is the reason for the wedding. Don’t forget about it.
2. Read up on the legal requirements for marriage in your state.
Each state and even county has its own laws and requirements for getting married. Typically, you’re going to need to go into your county registrar's office together to apply for and receive your marriage license. In Washington, you can do this as early as 60 days before your wedding and you must do it no less than three business days before your wedding. You’ll have to go together, or fill out the applications with a notary to mail it in. Get to know the laws so you can be sure you are making it legal. Here is a link to all the county websites and requirements for the State of Washington.
3. Define your ceremony style.
Thankfully in the US and especially in Washington, you are free to have a ceremony that really fits you, your personality, and the story you want to share. You can have a religious ceremony full of formal traditions and lead by a church leader. Or you can have a completely religion and tradition free civil ceremony. Your ceremony can be as relaxed or as formal as you want it to be. Here in Washington, the only part that is already defined for you is the Declaration of Intent (declaring that you are willfully and intentionally entering into a legal partnership). Everything else is up to you. I recommend thinking about some words you would use to describe the type of ceremony you want and then google for some examples. There are loads of sample wedding ceremony scripts and tons of wedding videos around the internet. Get a feel for what sounds right to you, and what you definitely don’t want, and take notes that will help guide you as you draft your ceremony.
4. Who is going to officiate?
There are also a great many options for who will officiate and solemnize your wedding ceremony, which allows you to pick the option that works best for you. This could be a church official, professional celebrant, or friend-ficient. Any adult with $30 can get ordained and marry you. If you’re going with the friend officiant route, be sure to read the laws for your county, as they may need to register and do some paperwork. Here in Washington, as long as they have their ordainment and keep records of it, there isn’t any registering necessary. Meredith wrote a great blog post about the benefits of hiring a professional officiant here. If you’re going through your church, they’ll likely have guidelines for you to follow in preparation for your wedding. Be sure to ask.
5. Write a draft.
Even if you will be hiring a professional officiant or celebrant, I recommend you write a draft of what you would like your ceremony to be like. To help you get started, I have a template of the typical structure of a wedding ceremony available for you. Use your notes and bits from some of your favorite wedding ceremony samples to get started on a draft. Get silly, get creative, and have fun with it. It’s only a draft and it is the necessary first step to having a final draft.
6. Decide on your wedding party.
Wedding parties are a whole nother topic on their own, but it is a good idea to think about who you want standing as witness on the ceremony stage with you. Their roles and responsibilities will vary based on you and your chosen people, but think about it earlier than later. Decide who and why you’d like them to be a part of your important people. Note how big your ceremony space is and how many people will fit standing up there with you, too. Knowing who and how many people will be a part of your wedding ceremony will be very helpful as you organize the logistical details later on.
7. Do a venue visit to measure and walk through.
Chances are, you’re only going to see your venue two or three times prior to your wedding day. That means on your site visit it is vital to be getting as much information and details worked out as you can. I share everything I do at a site visit to plan and prepare for the wedding ceremony inside the free Ceremony Logistics Guide you can get your hands on below. Your site visit is an important time to gather the details that will make it easy to organize and communicate the logistics of the ceremony.
8. Organize your logistics for the ceremony.
This is the part that a lot of couples not only procrastinate on, but completely forget altogether. Logistics are vital to a smooth, stress-free wedding. Logistics are kind of my thing, and I don’t want to keep what I know a secret from you. Instead, I want to give it to you so that you can tackle organizing your ceremony like a professional.
I’ll send you my ceremony logistics templates - the same ones I use for my clients and share about in further detail inside the Planning Gathering - for free. These logistics templates will help you organize:
Ceremony seating assignments,
How you and your wedding party will stand at the ceremony stage,
How everyone will enter (processional),
How everyone will exit (recessional),
When and how music will play,
And who is in charge of leading the ceremony cues.
9. Practice your ceremony.
That means have a rehearsal, and really use it! Use your clear and well defined logistics plans to walk through the wedding ceremony with your whole wedding party and your family and friends who will be involved with the processional. Practice it at your venue if you can, but anywhere will do. Have the person who will be leading the ceremony cues present and allow them to take the lead so you can also practice your incredibly important roles in the wedding day. I walk you through exactly how I lead ceremony rehearsals in the free guide and templates you can get above.
10. Have fun with it!
Don’t forget that this experience should be fun. Your ceremony should be about you, sharing your love, and declaring that you intend to be partners for life. Plan it early, make it your own, and look forward to sharing this moment with the people you love. It’ll be awesome.
Ceremonies are so cool. There are a lot of opportunities to make it your own. With a little bit of planning, and remembering to keep the ceremony a priority, you’ll be set. I hope these steps and the templates make all the difference for you.
If you want more guidance like this, be sure to check out the Planning Gathering. Right now, you’ll find the Foundations course for free to help you get started planning well. In November, you’ll be able to register for the full course that will walk you through step-by-step planning your wedding, including even more details on how to plan your wedding ceremony. I’d love to share this with you so that wedding planning isn’t complicated and you can create a wedding that is just right for you. Head to the Planning Gathering now to get started.