Planning the Ceremony
Once you have determined where you will be marrying, who will be marrying you, and the type of service, it is time to plan the ceremony itself. Incorporating traditions and adding a touch of personalization are important aspects to planning an unforgettable ceremony.
Deciphering the Ceremony
What does a Roman Catholic ceremony generally entail? The Roman Catholic wedding ceremony consists of Introductory Rites, including opening music selections, a greeting by the priest, and an opening prayer; Liturgy of the Word, including readings by your friends and family members and a homily that focuses on some aspect of marriage; and the Rite of Marriage, including the declaration of consent and the exchange of vows and rings. Having a complete Mass is optional; with it, the ceremony will typically last 45 minutes.
What does a Jewish ceremony generally entail? Judaism has different branches that adhere to different rules, but certain elements of the wedding ceremony are basically the same. In the Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform traditions, both sets of parents are part of the ceremony and escort their children down the aisle, wine is shared from a kiddush cup, a ketubah is signed, the couple is married under a chuppah, and a rabbi presides over the ceremony. There are additional portions of the ceremony that vary based upon the type of Judaism the couple observes.
What is generally included in a Protestant ceremony? The Protestant wedding ceremony varies somewhat among the denominations, but the basic elements are the same. The offici-ant welcomes the guests, and a Prayer of Blessing is said. Scripture passages are read, there is a Giving in Marriage (affirmation by parents), and the congregation gives its response. After vows and rings are exchanged, there is a celebration of the Lord's Supper, and the unity candle is lit, followed by the Benediction and recessional.
What is a reading? Readings are poems, passages, or scriptures that focus on some aspect of togetherness and marriage. They are read during the ceremony by a special friend, relative, or even a member of the bridal party. If you select your own readings, be sure to get approval from your officiant.
What symbolic ceremonies can I include? Symbolic ceremonies emphasize togetherness and the joining of families. One of the most popular ceremonies is the lighting of the unity candle. The sand ceremony, wine ceremony, and rose ceremony are other options. In a sand ceremony, the bride and groom simultaneously fill one vessel from two others filled with sand. In a wine ceremony, the bride and groom each sip from a single glass of wine. In a rose ceremony, the bride and groom present the other's mother with a rose. Of course, be sure to consult with your officiant regarding specific details and possible restrictions.
The unity candle represents the joining of two families. During the ceremony, the mothers come forth and light two candles representing each family. Later in the ceremony, the bride and groom will be asked to use these candles and, together, light one candle representing the two becoming one.
Should we write our own vows? Writing your own vows is a personal choice, and you must be comfortable expressing yourself and sharing your feelings before a roomful of people. If you don't feel quite comfortable with that but would still like to personalize your vows, include a poem or passage that complements the vows. Be sure to discuss this with your officiant, as some religions have strict rules about what vows must be said.
Sample Ceremony Outline
Is there a typical format for a ceremony? Most wedding ceremonies follow a similar outline. They will all differ slightly depending on your officiant and religious affiliation. There are many ways to customize a ceremony by including readings, musical selections, and symbolic ceremonies. The following are the basic components of a wedding ceremony:
Prelude: The thirty minutes prior to the ceremony when guests arrive and are seated.
Processional: Signals the beginning of the ceremony. This is when the parents are seated and the groom, best man, and officiant take their places, followed by the entrance of the wedding party and bride.
Welcome: The officiant welcomes the guests.
Giving Away or Recognition of the Parents: The officiant asks some version of “who gives this woman to marry this man?”
Charge to the Couple: The officiant confirms each party has come to marry of their own free will.
Exchange of Vows: The couple recites their vows to one another.
Ring Ceremony: The bride and groom will each give and receive a wedding ring.
Pronouncement: The officiant proclaims you are officially and legally married.
Recessional: The official exit from the church as a married couple. You and your husband will lead the recessional, followed by pairs of the bridal party.
To emphasize the role of both parents leading their children through life, and to demonstrate the uniting of the families, both parents escort their children down the aisle in a Jewish processional. Even if you are not Jewish, you may take a cue from this ritual and invite both of your parents to walk you down the aisle, too.