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The Elements of a Wedding Ceremony


Here, we present most of the major Elements of a Wedding Ceremony and tell you whether they are required, usually included, or optional. The Ceremony is divided into four separate parts, each with it's own Elements. We also have provided a general order in which the Elements may occur, but the order is flexible.

Part 1 - The Opening

Setting of the Altar/Tables (optional)

If you are going to have any kind of ritual (e.g. Unity Candle, Wine Ceremony, Crystals Ceremony, a Cultural Ritual, etc.) an altar or table may have to be prepared to hold the props you'll need for the Ritual. The Altar or Table is usually set before the Marriage Ceremony begins.

Escorting and Seating of VIPs (optional)

Usually, the Parents of the Groom and Mother of the Bride (in that order) are escorted up the aisle and seated in their special places. The persons who will be seated may also include Grandparents or any others deemed VIPs by the Bride and Groom.

Entrance of the Groom and Celebrant (usually included)

This entrance may include the Best Man, unless the Best Man is accompanying the Maid/Matron of Honor up the Aisle.

Processional (usually included)

The Processional is usually in this order: First, Junior Bridesmaids (sometimes escorted by Junior Groomsmen); Second, Bridesmaids (sometimes escorted by Groomsmen); Third, Maid/Matron of Honor (sometimes escorted by the Best Man); Fourth, Ring Bearer followed by Flower Girl; Last, Bride and her Escort.

Opening Words (usually included)

Whenever people come together for a formal occasion, some words are needed to "call the meeting to order." The Opening Words of the Ceremony do this while also stating the purpose of the gathering.

Opening Prayer (optional)

The Opening Prayer is a reminder to all wedding participants and guests that this Ceremony assumes the presence of God or some other spiritual entity. The few moments spent in prayer will set a mood for the remainder of your Ceremony.

Presentation of the Bride (optional)

The Presentation of the Bride represents a tradition that called for the families to "release" their children for Marriage. Although this tradition is now quite outdated, this activity still provides a figurative opportunity for the family to provide support to the couple and acceptance of the Marriage.

Part 2 - Setting The Stage

Celebrant's Address (optional)

Here, the Celebrant may say a few words about Marriage, the meaning of Marriage, and/or the role it plays in society, and in the life of the Bridal Couple.

Charge to the Couple (optional)

The Charge to the Couple is a reminder to the Bride and Groom that they are declaring before God (in religious ceremonies), one another, and those assembled, that they recognize the importance of their pledge, and are committed to honor it for the rest of their lives.

Affirmation of the Community (optional)

The Affirmation of the Community is the parents, families, and/or guests chance to say "yes" to all they are witnessing. It is their opportunity to offer their blessings and support to the Marriage.

Statement of Appreciation (optional)

The Statements of Appreciation give the Bride and Groom a chance to express what they love about one another. In essence, it proclaims what each partner sees in the other, and why they are choosing this person to wed.

Expression of Intent (usually included, but required if Vows are not used)

Having heard about the challenges and joys of Marriage in the previous parts of the Ceremony, the Bride and Groom are invited here to make public their intention to marry.

Part 3 - Consummating the Marriage

Vows (usually included, but required if Expression of Intent is not used)

The Vows are one of the most (if not the most) memorable parts of the Ceremony. Here, the Bridal Couple are making their solemn promises of what they are willing to do for one another.

Blessing of the Rings (optional)

Although the Celebrant's Blessing of the Rings implies a religious or spiritual presence, secular words can also be used expressing the importance and symbolism of the rings.

Exchange of the Rings (usually included)

The words The Bridal Couple choose to speak to each other when exchanging rings are among the most important of the Ceremony. If they are not using a separate Statements of Appreciation activity, the Bride and Groom may want to combine the Exchange of Rings with the Statements. Or, they can make it very simple (e.g. "With this ring, I thee wed").

Unity Candle Ceremony or Crystals/Sand Ritual (optional)

In the Unity Candle Ceremony, couples use two lit taper candles (symbolizing their individuality) to light one big candle as a symbol of their two lives becoming one in commitment. Extinguishing the two tapers after lighting the Unity Candle can demonstrate the devotion to the commitment just made. Leaving the two tapers lit demonstrates that although a new relationship has been formed, neither partner loses their individuality.

The Crystals Ritual is sometimes substituted for the Unity Candle Ceremony - especially if the Wedding is taking place outdoors, where candles can be easily blown out. The Crystals can be sand, colored sand, salt, or another type of crystalline material. The Bride and Groom each have a vessel of crystals which they pour into another larger vessel thus symbolizing, as in the Unity Candle Ceremony, their two lives becoming one. This can also be made into a family ritual if children are involved.

Wine Rituals (optional)

The Wine Rituals are sometimes substituted for the Unity Candle Ritual, but it can be an event chosen in addition to the Unity Candle. If that is the case, it will usually, though not necessarily, take place after the Unity Candle Ceremony.

Giving Roses to VIPs (optional)(May also be done as part of the Processional or Recessional)

Here, the Bridal Couple presents roses to their parents, grandparents, or other family members as a sign of their love for them.

Pronouncement of Marriage (required)

The Pronouncement of Marriage is the Celebrant's public and legal proclamation that the Bridal Couple are married. It is the exact moment of Marriage.

Permission to Kiss (optional)

The kiss is usually the crowning point of the ceremony. The guests often enjoy it, and it represents the sealing of the promise the Bridal Couple have made to each other.

Rose Ceremony (optional)

Like the Wine Rituals, the Rose Ceremony can be an event chosen in addition to the Unity Candle. The Rose Ceremony always takes place after the Pronouncement of Marriage.

Part 4 - The Closing

Benediction and/or Good Wishes (optional)

These words offer good wishes to the Bridal Couple as they are sent back into the world as husband & wife.

Presentation of the New Couple (usually included)

Except in the case of an outdoor wedding with a Dove or Butterfly Release, these are usually the final words of the Marriage Ceremony. There are two sections that make up the Presentation: the formal name by which the new couple would like to be addressed, and the words immediately preceding their formal name (e.g. It is my pleasure to present to you, for the first time as husband and wife... Mr. & Mrs. John & Mary Smith).

Dove or Butterfly Release (optional - for outdoor weddings only)

A Dove or Butterfly Release accompanied by the perfect words from the Celebrant can be a wonderful way to end a wedding ceremony.

Recessional (usually included)

The Ceremony is over, and it is time to march back down the aisle. The Recessional usually occurs in the reverse order of the Processional, but with the Groomsmen and Junior Groomsmen usually accompanying the Bridesmaids and Junior Bridesmaids.

Religious, Cultural, or Family Rituals, as well as Readings, Poetry, and Music can be used at many different points during the Ceremony.

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