We are gathered here today… to talk about planning an unforgettable wedding ceremony
Whether you’re envisioning a ceremony in a traditional space (think: large vaulted cathedral with stained glass windows), an incredibly lush outdoor garden ceremony, or a romantic candle-lit evening ceremony with patio string lights galore, there’s only one rule to remember; The perfect wedding ceremony should reflect who you are as a couple.
But, admittedly, it can sometimes be tricky to strike a perfect balance between unique and personal while still retaining a sense of timelessness and reverence. We’re here to help! The following steps will guide you through planning a ceremony that’s personal and memorable for both you and your beloved guests.
1. Choose the perfect ceremony location.
Where do you imagine your wedding ceremony taking place? If you and your future spouse are going with a traditional Catholic ceremony, of course, that decision has probably already been made. More often than not, however, couples are choosing to host their ceremony and their reception in the same location.
This offers several benefits for you and your guests:
- Folks won’t have to travel from the ceremony location to the reception location, meaning that the celebration can start almost immediately
- A larger array of reception venues to choose from, since you won’t be limited to stay within a certain driving distance from a separate ceremony location
Is there a dedicated ceremony space?
As you’re researching locations that can host both the ceremony and the reception, be sure to ask the venue representative if there’s a dedicated ceremony space. Hosting the ceremony and the reception in the same exact room isn’t ideal, as the staff will have to “flip the space” after the ceremony—meaning your guests will likely be herded into a cramped holding area. The bright side is that most venues will have a bar in this makeshift waiting room! But, a signature drink in hand or not, no one wants to be treated like livestock at your wedding, especially when they’re wearing 4” heels.
What happens if it rains?
If there is a dedicated ceremony space—and if said ceremony space is outdoors—be sure to ask the representative about the venue’s rain plan. Many venues will utilize what’s known as “California-style” seating, which simply means the majority of your guests will be seated at their dinner tables during the ceremony. Although not a perfect plan, it does work well in the event of inclement weather. And, more importantly, it prevents the need to “flip the space,” making your guests feel more comfortable. Additionally, most venues will be happy to set up a few rows of chairs near the ceremony itself, so that immediate family members can be closer to the “I do.”
La Navona has a beautiful outdoor ceremony space (and a comprehensive rain plan).
2. Pick the best officiant for your personality.
Anyone can be ordained online. Literally, anyone. Although the rules vary from state to state, anyone can perform your marriage ceremony as long as the paperwork is completed correctly, on time, and meets all of the state’s requirements.
Pick the best officiant for you and your spouse
That said, officiating a wedding is such an incredibly important and awesome responsibility—and most couples tend to choose a trusted clergyman, for example, a local judge, or other public official who’s officially licensed to solemnize a marriage. Options range from completely religious to completely secular, and everything in between. Most officiants can help you customize a ceremony that reflects you and your future spouse and the love that you share for each other. (You can read more about customizing your ceremony in Step 3.)
Meet with the officiant first
It’s important to meet with your officiant prior to making a decision about whether to use his or her services. You’ll want connect with the person, and you’ll want to make sure that he or she sincerely respects what an honor it is to officiate your ceremony. Because it is an amazing honor. He or she should be personable and preferably a good public speaker. This person will be addressing not only the two of you, but all of your guests witnessing the ceremony as well. (And, don’t forget, your officiant will be prominent in most of your wedding ceremony photographs.)
3. To write, or not to write your own vows.
Should I write my own vows?
Writing your own vows can be an incredibly romantic gesture, but keep in mind that it can also an incredibly daunting task. Let’s be honest, not everyone can do it well. If you struggle with words, seek help from your friends and family if need be, but please make sure the words come from your own heart. No one wants to get caught plagiarizing their original vows.
We saw a ceremony a few months ago in which, after the bride recited her hand-written vows, her soon-to-be spouse stood in utter awe of the inspiring and beautiful words that brought a tear to the eye of every last person in the venue and, knowing those vows couldn’t be topped, simply replied, “Ditto.” It was actually very sweet and very romantic, and that one-word vow flawlessly summarized the whimsy and carefree nature of their beautiful fifteen-year relationship. For the two of them, it worked. It worked perfectly. But, come on, pulling a stunt like that won’t work for everyone!
So if you and your fiancé discuss it, and you both decide that writing your own vows isn’t the best way to go, that’s OK! You can still incorporate your personalities into the ceremony. Are your golden retrievers, Itchy and Scratchy going to be your ring bearers? Do you and your betrothed share a favorite poem or Bible passage? Did you meet in your college English class and fall in love while studying a classic Shakespearian drama? And there are some pretty amazing Game of Thrones quotes. No, really!
Whatever makes you smile—whatever makes you remember exactly what it was that initially sparked a till-death-do-you-part kind of love—incorporate at least some mention of that into the ceremony. This can be in the form of an introduction by the officiant, a statement from the couple to their guests before the vows, a short saying spoken during the exchanging of the rings, or something printed on a ceremony program.
What makes you, you? Think about it. The best ceremonies are unique, heartfelt, honest and, OK, might make a few of your guests just a teeny bit jealous that they haven’t yet found the love of their life.
4. Keep some things traditional.
Traditional Wedding Vows
We’re firm believers in the fact that you can’t go wrong with traditional wedding vows. It’s a way to honor the centuries-old tradition of the institution you are about to join. For hundreds of years before you, and for hundreds of years after you, couples around the world have uttered those same words (or some variation thereof). Sickness or health, richer or poorer… sound familiar? Your parents and grandparents uttered those words. Your children and grandchildren will utter those words. (Cue The Lion King’s “It’s the circle of life….”)
Something Old, New, Borrowed, and Blue
Did your mother or grandmother carry a handkerchief at her wedding? Why not carry it too! Did she wear a brooch or a sentimental piece of jewelry? Why not incorporate it into your bouquet! The notion of something old, new, borrowed and blue? We love that! And there are, oh, about a million ways to incorporate those touches into your ceremony. It’s such a great way to keep traditions alive.
5. Remember the little moments.
Trust us: Your ceremony will go by way too quickly. You’ll likely be feeling all the feels: nervous, excited, nervous, sublimely happy, maybe a little nervous… and when the first person you see after the wedding asks you, “So how does it feel to be married?” you’ll probably have a hard time remembering exactly who said what to whom and when. Wait, what? We’re already married? Yes! Yes, you are. Congratulations! It went by so quickly, didn’t it?
Get a professional wedding photographer
The incredible feelings you felt that day will always remain, of course, but the details themselves might become a blur, even within just a few minutes after the ceremony. This is why it’s crucial to have a talented wedding photographer (and possibly a “second shooter” too) to capture all of those special little moments and loving glances in between “We are gathered here today,” and “I now pronounce you….”
Videographers help too
You might also think about hiring a videographer, if only for the ceremony. Or, if a videographer simply isn’t in the budget (and not all of your wedding dreams will be… see our previous entry for more details), that’s OK too. Consider asking a trusted guest to record the ceremony for you. But you might also want to politely ask them not to share it on their YouTube channel—unless you’re into that sort of thing, of course. You will want to watch your ceremony at some point, and a shaky iPhone video of your vows is better than nothing.
Take a breath, and enjoy the moment
Remember to pause at some point, to take a private moment just to soak it all in. You’ll be pulled in every which direction after the ceremony, as friends and relatives want to say hello and wish you well and tell you how amazing you look. (You do look amazing, btw.) But be sure to cherish the day. You’ve planned and planned for months, so don’t forget to actually enjoy all of your hard work!
Add a personal touch
And if you do decide to incorporate a personal touch into the ceremony, (you totally should… see Step 3) be it a poem, a Bible verse, a story, a ceremony reading, or even your vows, find a way to preserve that special moment. You can order an artfully designed custom print of those words and have it framed with your favorite wedding photo. (Etsy—or a super talented friend—can be an amazing resource for these kinds of keepsakes.) You can print those words on the front of your thank-you cards to send to guests. You can have those words engraved on the inside of your wedding bands. Use your imagination. And the internet. Don’t forget the internet.
Just find a way to remember the little moments—and celebrate them together, every day.
For more ideas on how to create an unforgettable wedding ceremony and reception, contact La Navona today and speak to our professional wedding coordinators. We’re happy to help!