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Planning the ceremony wows, exchanges, and rituals – Success

If your clients are religious and are to be married in their place of worship, there will likely be customs, traditions and rituals that need to be included with their ceremony.

Each denomination will have its own rules, requirements and procedures relating to wedding ceremonies. Some allow for variances and personal touches, while others may be quite restrictive. It’s important to keep in mind that the ceremony and vows be reflective of your client’s feelings and beliefs.

Most wedding ceremonies contain the following elements (though this may vary depending on the religion, officiant or the bride and groom’s desires:

  • A greeting
  • Statement of intentions and wedding vows
  • Exchange of rings
  • Readings and blessings
  • Pronouncement of husband and wife

Sometimes couples from mixed faiths will decide to get married, and have a wedding that includes components of both faiths (this is called an interfaith marriage).

Obviously different religions will have different requirements and guidelines for a wedding ceremony. If you are planning an interfaith marriage, it will be necessary to discuss the different requirements with an officiant from each religion and determine if the two officiants will work together and how that will work.

Carley Roney’s book, referred to previously, is a great resource for information on ceremonies from different faiths and cultures: The Knot Guide to Wedding Vows and Traditions: Readings, Rituals, Music, Dances, and Toasts.

Personalising the ceremony and vows

Prior to arranging a meeting with the officiant, bride and groom, it would be helpful to request a copy of the officiant’s traditional ceremony script, and ask them how much leeway there is to personalise the ceremony and/or vows (if this is important to your couple). If changes can be made, have the bride and groom read the script and note any desired changes on a copy of the script and bring it along to your meeting with the officiant.

If your clients want a civil or non-denominational wedding, officiated by a civil marriage celebrant or registrar, there is likely to be more flexibility with personalising the ceremony and vows.

Writing your own wedding vows

Here are some tips and resources for your bride and groom if they choose to write their own vows:

  • Consult your officiate… it’s better to know in advance if you can use personalised heartfelt vows, rather than to be told later that you can’t use any of them
  • Get started early and take your time… don’t wait until the last minute to start writing your vows. Sometimes inspiration comes slowly
  • Keep it brief… 1-3 minutes is ideal
  • Research… read your favourite poetry passages, old love letters and notes to each other, inspirational quotes, bible passages and love stories
  • Talk to your partner… decide whether you are going to write your wedding vows together or independently
  • Use strong words… they will make your vows come alive
  • Practice… read your vows aloud to yourself and your partner to make sure they work effectively
  • Memorise your vows… you want to look your partner in the eye when you are saying them… but take a copy with you (just in case)
  • Speak from the heart
  • Don’t forget to say ‘I LOVE YOU’.

The following book, available at Amazon, is a great resource to assist your clients with writing their own vows:

The Everything Wedding Vows Book: Anything and Everything You Could Possibly Say at the Altar – And Then Some by Janet Anastasio

Exchanges and rituals

Besides personalising their vows, many couples also like to include special exchanges, blessings and symbolic rituals within their ceremony.

One of the most popular exchanges is the lighting of the unity candle. This is symbolic of the joining together of the bride and groom. It often involves three candles: one is lit by the bride (or her parents) and another is lit by the groom (or his parents); together they then bring the two candles together to light a centre candle.

If your clients decide to perform this exchange, they will need to ensure this is acceptable to the officiant and, if so, you will need to arrange to have candles and candle holders available at the ceremony and have it included within the officiant’s ceremony script.

Another popular exchange is a sand ceremony, where two vessels of sand are blended together into a third. This also works particularly well when there are children involved. Each child can have a role within the ceremony, and be represented as different coloured sand. When the sands are poured together into a jar, they are joined together and cannot be separated. They represent a family being moulded together.

Any special exchanges, blessings and symbolic rituals will need to be discussed and cleared with the officiant prior to the wedding.

Readings and prayers

Readings and prayers are often included in many wedding ceremonies. If your couple is having a religious ceremony in a place of worship, there are likely to be traditional prayers and readings included in the ceremony. However, there is often leeway to choose your own instead of or in addition to the traditional ones.

If your clients want to choose their own readings for the wedding, you will need to clear this with the officiant first. Your clients will then need to decide on the readings and who will perform them (sometimes the bride and groom will do a reading, but often they choose to select friends or family members to read instead).

Your officiant is likely to be able to direct you to popular readings in the Bible, if you are having a Christian wedding. There are also many resources available on the Internet – just type ‘wedding readings’, ‘wedding poems’ or ‘wedding prayers’ into a search engine and you will be spoilt for choice. Some good resources include:

http://www.i-do.com.au/wedding-tips/wedding-vows-wedding-readings-poems/well-known-readings-for-weddings/1703/

http://www.buzzfeed.com/jennaguillaume/beautiful-and-unique-wedding-readings-from-books#.bbGdG05ZyA

The following book, available at Amazon, is a resource you can use to assist your clients with selecting the right readings and words:

A Wedding Ceremony to Remember: Perfect Words for the Perfect Wedding by Marty Younkin

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