Amidst the flurry of sparkling diamonds and champagne that ultimately follows the engagement, it’s easy to lose sight of what the wedding day is really all about – the wedding ceremony. Whether you decide to have a traditional ceremony or to throw the rule book out the window altogether, the following elements are essential to achieving the one-of-a-kind wedding ceremony that you will remember forever, and your guests will as well.

wedding photo by Daniele Del Castillo, Austria and Italy wedding and fashion photographer | via

Photo by Daniele Del Castillo

“The Talk”
Give yourself a break from the cake tastings and tux fittings long enough to sit down with your fiancé and have an honest discussion about what marriage means to you, and how you want to express that through your ceremony. Talking about the marriage, not the wedding, is a wonderful way to deepen the connection between you and your partner as you navigate the demands of planning a wedding.

photo of couple holding hands by Richard Israel, North Carolina wedding photographer | via

Photo by Richard Israel

Setting the Mood
Set the tone for the rest of your wedding day by choosing the perfect backdrop for your ceremony. What kind of mood do you wish to evoke during your vows, an atmosphere that’s grand and opulent, or romantic and intimate? How about a place with sentimental value, like the church your parents were married in or the beach where you went for a walk on your first date?

Once you’ve settled on the perfect location, consider the following elements: seating arrangements, lighting and decor. Not many couples consider alternate seating arrangements for their guests, but you can greatly improve sightlines and bring your guests closer by arranging the chairs in a semicircle or even a full circle around you. You can also consider an unconventional ceremony location, like the incredible amphitheater below or a stage. When choosing your ceremony lighting decor, don’t hesitate to keep it simple. Believe it or not, something as simple as adding flickering candlelight can completely change the feeling of the ceremony. Remember, the ceremony is all about you and the commitment you are making to stand by your partner for the decades to come. Save the elaborate decor for your celebration to follow!

tropical Costa Rica destination wedding with photography by A Brit & A Blonde |

Photo by A Brit & A Blonde

Finding Your Voice
Whether you choose to follow a traditional wedding ceremony structure or to make it all your own, one of the easiest ways to distinguish your ceremony from others is by selecting passages and readings that deeply reflect your individual views, either spiritual or secular, on what makes a strong marriage and partnership. These days it is also quite common for couples to exchange personalized vows, but if you have always dreamed of saying the traditional vows, do both! This is a great way to infuse your personalities into the ceremony. Or, if you’re nervous at the thought of speaking in front of so many people, ask your musicians to play a song while you quietly exchange your promises for only you and your spouse to hear. Many couples also ask a friend or close family member to officiate. If this is something that interests you, visit the Universal Life Church Monastery to become legally ordained in the US.

wedding photo by Elaine Palladino Photography | via

Photo by Elaine Palladino

Celebrating and Creating Tradition
Oftentimes in a wedding ceremony, there is a symbolic ritual that represents two lives becoming one, the most common of which is the unity candle. There are alternatives to this traditional concept, such as the “blessing of the hands,” where the couple places their hands in each other’s and the officiant reads a passage reminding the couple that with these hands they will build a life, hold their family together and love and support each other until their hands are wrinkled and aged. There are many different versions of this ritual that can be either spiritual or secular, and all are incredibly moving. We always love a fresh take on a traditional idea, so to put a spin on the unity candle tradition, give each guest a candle to hold during your ceremony. Invite your musicians to play while you have your guests pass the flame from person to person, and then use the same flame to light your unity candle. This is a beautiful way to honor all the people present who have helped you become the people you are today.

modern Persian wedding in San Jose, California, photo by Jinda Photography | via

Photo by Jinda Photography 

There is nothing in the world that speaks to the soul like music does. Our advice here is brief, but just as important: choose songs that have a special place in your heart and in your life. Walk down the aisle to the same song your mother did, ask a close friend or family member to perform during the ceremony, or play your grandfather’s favorite song to honor his memory. All we can say is, be sure to choose music that speaks to you and also reflects the overall tone and mood of your ceremony.

real wedding, trumpet photo by Los Angeles photographer Elizabeth Messina

Photo by Elizabeth Messina

The Written Word
An element that is often overlooked, the ceremony programs present the perfect opportunity to add a little something extra to your day. Your program can include so much more than just the names of your bridal party. If your ceremony has special traditions that your guests may not have seen before, include a little background information for them. Most importantly however, include special dedications and express your appreciation for all those who have supported you throughout the years.

navy and pink garden wedding in Ohio, photo by Ely Brothers | via

Photo by Ely Brothers

The Exit
There’s nothing quite like that moment when you’re presented to your friends and family as an officially married couple, and you get to walk back up the aisle to the cheers of your loved ones. Make it even more fun and add a little flair to your recessional with with these ideas for your wedding grand exit send off!

wedding photo by Pretty Days, Thierry Joubert - France Wedding Photographer | via

Photo by Thierry Joubert of Pretty Days


Looking for more Wedding Planning 101 advice? Here’s all you need to get started!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.