By Dayna Mason
December is the most popular month for popping the question, “Will you marry me?” An answer of “yes” sets off a series of activities such as selecting a meaningful date for the wedding, choosing the perfect location for the ceremony, writing vows to each other, etc. There are options for customizing many aspects of your special day, but did you know you have the same opportunity to personalize not only the vows, but all the words spoken during your wedding ceremony?
Whether you have your wedding officiated by the clergy at your church, an officiant you’ve hired, or a friend of the family, you can take part in choosing the words spoken during your ceremony. These will be some of the most important words spoken during your life, because they express in front of closest friends and family what you believe about marriage and the promises you want to make to each other for a lifetime.
There are several elements to choose from when creating your ceremony, but there are only two elements that are legally required: the Declaration of Intent and the Pronouncement of Marriage. In other words, you could literally have a ceremony that read: “Chris, do you agree to marry Taylor? And Taylor, do you agree to marry Chris? I now pronounce you married.” All other elements are optional, which gives you tremendous flexibility in designing a ceremony that is the most meaningful to the couple.
Basic elements of a traditional wedding ceremony and their purposes
(Excerpt from, “Do It Yourself Wedding Ceremony: Choosing the Perfect Words and Officiating Your Unforgettable Day” by Dayna Reid)
Procession (also known as the Wedding March)
This is the choreographed walk down the aisle of the wedding party to the altar. This symbolically represents two things: the couple’s transition from their individual lives to the union of marriage and the wedding attendants’ support of the union by taking part in the same walk.
Approval Blessing/Wishes (also known as the Give Away)
This element gives others the opportunity to convey their approval or blessing on the ceremony that is about to take place. Traditionally the father or the parents of the Bride answer “I do” or “We do” to a question asked by the Officiant.
Welcome/Introduction (also known as the Convocation)
This element calls together all in attendance to begin the ceremony. The words spoken at this time welcome and thank the guests as well as introduce the purpose of this gathering.
Opening Blessing/Wishes (a prayer also known as the Invocation)
The words spoken at this time are intended to invoke a higher source (God, Goddess, Great Spirit, the Universe, etc.) to elevate the intent of the ceremony.
The Address (also known as the Sermon)
This element shares the couple’s beliefs on the meaning of marriage and is designed to encourage reflection on the significance of this commitment. This may also include a historical reflection on the couple’s relationship up until this point, as well as the story of how the couple met.
Dedication Blessing/Wishes (a prayer also known as the Consecration)
The words spoken at this time are meant to elevate the intent of the message communicated in the Address and remind everyone that the commitment about to be made is sacred. This element also provides a transition from the message about marriage just spoken to the actual promises that the couple is about to make to seal their commitment.
Declaration of Intent (a legally required element of the ceremony)
This element is the “I Do” section of the ceremony. The words spoken at this time declare the couple’s intention to marry. The declaration is customarily made by the Bride and Groom, each answering “I do” or “I will” in response to a question presented by the Officiant.
This element is the verbal exchange between the couple that expresses the sincere promises they are making to each other regarding their intention for the marriage.
The words spoken at this time describe the purpose of exchanging the rings and the sentiment that the couple wishes to be reminded of as they wear them.
Exchanging of the Rings
This element is the physical exchange of wedding rings and the verbal exchange between the couple that expresses the significance of this offering.
Pronouncement of Marriage
This element is the pronouncement that the couple is officially wed.
This element is a kiss shared between the couple and symbolically represents the sealing of the promises made. The words spoken at this time instruct the couple to kiss.
Closing Blessing/Wishes (a prayer also known as the Benediction)
The words spoken at this time are meant to send the couple off into their new future together, and to communicate the hopes and wishes for that future.
This element is the official introduction of the newly married couple.
This element is the choreographed walk down the aisle of the wedding party away from the altar and to the festivities. This walk signifies the completion of the ceremony and the beginning of the celebration.
Readings and Additional Ceremony Elements
Readings consist of one or more selections (poems, lyrics, stories, etc.) to be read aloud during carefully selected moments throughout the ceremony. The selections are meant to convey a feeling or message that provides a window into the couple’s unique world and may be read by a friend, family member or the Officiant. Readings may also be incorporated into the ceremony as the wording for one of the traditional ceremony elements.
In addition to the basic elements of a traditional ceremony, there are many other special touches that can be added to your ceremony to make it unique, such as including children, honoring parents or grandparents, remembering loved ones who are unable to attend or have passed on, etc. or special purpose mini-ceremonies that can be performed to further symbolically demonstrate any commitments you wish to communicate. For example, a Candle Lighting ceremony (the lighting of a single unity candle by the couple with individual taper candles) may be included to symbolize the joining together of two lives into one.
This engagement season, as you plan for your future with the love of your life, remember that you can participate in choosing words spoken during your ceremony that inform your witnesses about the commitment you wish to make. Then, going forward, they can remind you of your promises when challenges arise.
A wedding ceremony is a reminder to everyone in attendance about the importance of making and keeping a lifetime commitment to one person for the rest of your life. The commitment of marriage is a beautiful tradition, which when upheld by two individuals with great love for each other, can provide a safe space for both people to grow into the best version of themselves.
Book – “Do It Yourself Wedding Ceremony: Choosing the Perfect Words and Officiating Your Unforgettable Day” by Dayna Reid
Bestselling Step-by-Step Guide on How to Officiate a Wedding Ceremony – Third Edition. Everything you need to know to easily compose and conduct a wedding ceremony and make it legal.
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