The Ultimate Guide to Wedding Ceremonies
The pinnacle of any wedding day is the ceremony. In these short moments, between the first strum of the string quartet and the couple’s exit down the aisle lies much of the emotion and meaning of the day. Every detail of the reception, afterward, and the morning before is icing on the beautiful cake. So, how do you plan a ceremony that will encapsulate all this emotion, showcase your love story, and be enjoyable for your guests? We have put together the ultimate guide on how to plan a wedding ceremony from start to finish. With it, your ceremony will be picture-perfect and memorable for all the right reasons.
When planning a wedding ceremony that will go off without a hitch, there are a few things to consider. First of all, it is important to envision the ceremony; where will it be, how will it look, what will it feel like, will there be traditional elements or not? Here are a few important details to discuss with your significant other before you begin planning the ceremony.
Before the Ceremony
Whether or Not to Have A First Look
Of all the wedding ceremony traditions, there are a few you don’t need to feel pressure to keep. One of the most contested traditions is whether or not you should see your partner before the ceremony. While this decision is totally up to the two of you, it may be in your best interest to consider a first look.
A first look allows you to take photos before your wedding ceremony, which, in most cases, means your photographer has more time, space, and light to work with so you will get more, and better, photos. Plus, by taking most of the photos before the ceremony, you and your wedding party can enjoy the cocktail hour and begin celebrating earlier on.
Secondly, a first look affords you the opportunity to get pre-wedding jitters and tears out of the way. Will the emotion of seeing your future spouse be all too much? If you anticipate an overwhelming rush of emotion that will inhibit your ability to be in the moment during the actual ceremony, or if you would rather experience seeing your partner for the first time on the wedding day in private, a first look could be right for you.
Or A First Touch
If you’re set on locking eyes for the first time when you walk down the aisle, you may find a “first touch” the perfect alternative to get out those pre-ceremony jitters and capture cute photos. Some of our favorite options for a first touch include holding hands on either side of a door or wall, and reading love notes or private vows to one another. You can also use this time to sing a song, say a prayer, or read a poem that is meaningful to you. Ask your venue liaison to help you pick out the perfect spot on the property for a first look or first touch.
Where To Seat Your Guests
Another tradition you can choose to kiss goodbye is designating a side for friends and family of each couple. Let your guests mix and mingle at the ceremony! This not only allows them to get to know one another but also removes the pressure of needing to find the “right” side and seat. One of the beautiful things about marriage is the joining of your lives, and the family and friends in it.
However, there are a couple of seats that you should arrange in advance. Figuring out how to plan a wedding ceremony can be complicated when there are a lot of family members and their feelings involved. Reserve seats in the first two rows on each side of the aisle for immediate family members, grandparents, and stepfamily members. These individuals sit down last, right before the ceremony begins, and, if you choose, will be a part of the processional, so it is important that their seats are reserved.
If there are special extended family members such as aunts and uncles or cousins who you would like to be upfront during the ceremony, you can also reserve seats for them behind the immediate family members in the third and fourth rows.
How to Reserve Seats
You can show your guests where they will be seated during the ceremony rehearsal to avoid confusion and awkwardness. If some guests in the reserved sections do not attend the rehearsal, make sure to let them know where they are able to sit before the ceremony. The venue or wedding planner can handle marking off these rows with rope or ribbon so that guests will leave them open.
Personal place cards or signs are another way to designate seats in a clear and formal manner and also make your VIP guests feel extra special. If you choose to designate sides as well, placing a sign at the head of the aisle will help direct your guests to the correct seat.
Who Should Walk Down The Aisle?
The processional is an important part of the wedding ceremony to consider, but there are no real rules to abide by. How and when members of the family and wedding party enter the wedding venue is totally up to you and can be influenced by religious tradition and the layout of the venue. Here are a couple of options to consider listed in order of who begins the processional and who follows him or her:
If everyone is part of the processional:
- The Officiant
- Wedding Party:
- Persons of Honor
- Ring Bearer
- Flower Girl/Bearer
- The Couple
Within this order, there are many options. For example, members of the wedding party can walk down the aisle in pairs, trios, or individually. In another case, each partner can have their moment walking down the aisle alone, then meet halfway down the aisle, and take their final steps to the altar together. Or maybe, your partner and their wedding party will enter the venue from the front and stand with the officiant instead of walking down the aisle. You may also decide that the grandparents should be seated before the processional begins, especially if they are elderly. Or, you may not have a ring bearer or flower girl/bearer at all and therefore can remove them from the lineup.
You can tailor the processional according to your wedding party, your family, and your traditions. The processional is at the top of the wedding ceremony order and signals the start of the ceremony, so while there’s no right or wrong way to go about it, it’s still important to plan.
Once everyone has made it to the top of the aisle, the officiant signals the start of the ceremony with a question. Traditionally, he or she asks “Who gives this person away to be married?”. This question isn’t limited to one person or partner, but can be directed at the entire family, and to both partners’ families as well.
If the term “giving away” feels unfitting for you and your fiancé, there are other ceremonial phrases you can consider as well such as “supports” or “blesses”. These more modern words acknowledge the choice you, the couple, have made to enter into the marriage. This is also a great time to include children in the ceremony and allow them to give their blessing. In this case, the officiant would ask the children if they support or bless their parents’ marriage.
You can also choose to forgo the question altogether, and simply hug your family members while the wedding ceremony songs play on. This can be a seamless transition from your walk down the aisle to taking your place in front of the officiant.
Many families don’t have a “traditional” makeup. So, when considering who should walk you down the aisle, focus less on tradition and more on the person you want by your side. This walk can be exhilarating, nerve-wracking, meaningful, and emotional all in one, so you will want someone by your side to both support you and enjoy the moment with you.
Will There Be A Unity Ceremony?
During your ceremony, there are a variety of ways, both traditional or not, to symbolize the new unity you have as a married couple. Here are a few ideas that you can choose or not choose to include in your wedding ceremony:
- Lighting a Unity Candle
- Mixing Two Jars of Sand
- Tying a Knot
- Mixing of Beer or Wine
- Planting a Plant or Tree
How to plan a wedding ceremony ritual that is meaningful for you:
When deciding among these options, consider any symbols, words, or actions that are important to you as a couple and your future family. You should also consider your religion, your heritage, and your personalities.
For example, if you choose to plant a tree, perhaps you will plant it with soil gathered from both of your hometowns. Or if you choose to blend wine, you select wines from two different places that have significance for your relationship, or two of your favorite wines that are complementary to one another.
A ritual is also a great opportunity to include your family in the wedding ceremony. For instance, if you choose to perform a unity candle ceremony, a person of meaning to you can light a candle on each side of the altar respectively that you later use to light the unity candle. There are plenty of creative ways to showcase your unity during your wedding ceremony in your very own style. Whichever option you choose, be sure to run it by your venue to make sure they allow it and can provide any additional rentals or equipment you may need.
Once you have sealed your marriage with a kiss, it’s time to get the party started! Exit your wedding ceremony in style with an upbeat recessional. You and your brand new spouse can set the tone of the rest of the wedding day by the way you walk out so be sure to add a lively anthem to your wedding ceremony songs playlist. Be sure to pause at the end of the aisle so your photographer can capture all the fun. Then, your wedding party can caravan out behind you, followed by your parents, and then the rest of your guests.
In order to achieve a seamless recessional, you need to have somewhere for everyone to go. The wedding venue is key in helping guests transition from the ceremony to the cocktail hour to the reception. Make sure your wedding venue has designated spaces for people to go and that guests are guided to those spaces by either the wedding party or the wedding planner post-ceremony.
Picking the right wedding venue will make planning your wedding ceremony all the easier. Our San Diego Wedding venue provides just the right space for an intimate, personalized, and perfect wedding ceremony, as well as the support you need to make your vision come to life. If you’re ready to say “I Do” in Downtown San Diego, contact us to make your dream wedding happen.
By Haley Rose @byhaleyrose
Alyssa Ricole Photography @alyssaricolephoto
Pretty Branch Photo & Video @prettybranchphoto
Ariel Min Photography @arielminphoto
Lindsey Marie Photography @lindsmariephoto