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Jessie Blum, New Jersey Vendor: Officiant Website: Eclectic Unions About Me: I began writing & officiating wedding ceremonies in 2008, and love every single moment of it. It all started when my best friend asked me to officiate her Jewish/Lutheran/Pagan (but completely non-religious!) wedding - since then, I've found a love and passion for creating original wedding ceremonies that truly reflect the couples being married. Wedding ceremonies should be all about the bride & groom's love, relationship, and commitment, and I do my best to make sure everything is just perfect! I live in Northern New Jersey with my fiance and our two kitties, and, when I'm not meeting with my awesome couples or writing wedding ceremonies, I love to knit, obsessively check my email, and plan my own wedding (Oct 2010!).
About Jessie Blum @ Eclectic Unions

By popular demand, here it is – Basic Wedding Ceremony Structure 101.

This is the bare bones outline that I use when I’m working with couples to write their wedding ceremony. In our first meeting, I take it out, talk through it, explain the significance and meaning between the various rituals and traditions, answer lots of questions and ask some of my own. From the basic outline, we dive into the whole world of wedding ceremonies – but having that nice firm diving board in the ceremony structure really helps to prepare and better understand where we’re going. As I like to say – we can add anything in, we can take anything out. But I find that sticking to the basic structure helps your guests “follow along” a little more easily, and not get lost in a more unusual ceremony.

This is what works for me – definitely check with the state you are getting married in to make sure that you include any legal requirements for a wedding (in some states, at one point, the bride and groom need to verbally agree to be married (the I Do’s), and there may be specific wording that your officiant will have to use to declare you married). Take from it what you need, and leave the rest out – when it comes down to it – this is your wedding after all!

I don’t do a lot of weddings that include all of these – three full readings, three plus rituals – it’s much more of a guide than a list of things you need to include.

If anyone has any questions please post them in the comments! I’ll be sure to answer them there, so we can all share from each other’s ideas!

Wedding Ceremony Structure 101

Welcoming of the Guests
I enter, usually as the first person in the processional, or I am already standing at the front. I thank everyone for joining us, and ask them to turn off their cell phones!

Processional
The entrance of the bridal party (that’s a whole other post!).

Introduction:

  • Presentation of the Couple
  • Family Ritual
  • Thanking of Family & Friends
  • Remembrances

In my intro, I welcome the bride and groom to their wedding celebration. I usually say a few words of special thanks to the person who escorted the couple down the aisle (a twist on the “giving away”). Using the bride and groom’s own words and information, I do a special thanks for the guests and family.

Any special rituals or traditions as a special thank you to family members would go here. A popular choice is the flower presentation to the mothers.

If my couple wants to include remembrances, this is where I include them – a brief moment of silence, lighting of a candle, a wine toast, or just me mentioning that they are in our hearts and lives, today and every day. I find at this point it doesn’t bring down the tone of the ceremony too much.

Reading

There are a few places for readings, either by your officiant or a reader, scattered throughout the ceremony. I often incorporate pieces of readings into the ceremony itself (the Love Story, Closing Remarks, and Introduction). Not everyone chooses to include readings in their ceremony. I like to break up the readings, not having guests come up one after the other to read – it provides a bit more interest and also helps to break up the ceremony so your officiant isn’t just gabbing the whole time! I think making ceremonies as “interactive” as possible is really important.

Love Story, or Address
For my couples, I write an original Love Story – the story of them, their relationship (how they met, how they fell in love, all of that fun stuff). I always end it with what they love about each other, and their hopes and dreams for the future. They’re always funny and touching, and incredibly personalized for each wedding I do.

Sometimes, the couple prefers not to have a Love Story, and I will do a reading here, one that has a tone that fits the wedding, and share some personal comments connecting the reading to the bride and groom’s relationship and marriage.

For a more traditional wedding, this is where the sermon or homily would go.

The Asking
This is the “I do!” part of a wedding. I have the couple turn towards one another, take hands, and I ask them some very important questions about marriage. If they agree to them – they say some kind of positive affirmation (Yes! I do! Thumbs Up!). Sometimes, I have couples who will write these themselves, and combine them with the vows.

Wine Ceremony or Other Unity Ritual

This is the place for a unity ritual that symbolizes the life that the bride and groom will share together. Wine ceremonies, presentation of gifts or flowers to each other, tree planting – those are the kind of rituals that go at this point.

Vows
Either read by the bride and the groom to each other, or done “repeat after me” style with the officiant.

Reading

Ring Ceremony
Short ring vows are usually chosen to repeat as the bride and groom place the ring on each other’s fingers.

Unity Ritual
Any unity ritual that symbolizes the bride and groom joining together or the merging and blending of two families would go here. Unity candles, sand ceremonies, hand fasting, garland exchanges, signing of a marriage license.

Reading

Closing Remarks
A final blessing could go here as well. I like to bring back important elements of the Love Story, or include a short poem or advice. In a Jewish-inspired wedding, I would include a version of the seven blessings here.

Declaration of Marriage

The bride and groom are declared husband and wife. And then they kiss!

Breaking of the Glass/Jumping the Broom
There are a few rituals that take place right after the declaration of marriage.

Recessional
I’ll talk about this with my processional post – but basically, the bride and groom exit, go out, and party!!

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13 Responses to “Wedding Ceremony 101”

1.
Guest Icon
Guest
r

Hi… thank you so much for this post! My fiance and I will be creating our (secular) ceremony from scratch and having a family minister perform it, so we have been anxiously awaiting this post :)

I do have one question that I hope you can address at some point… How have you dealt with, or how have other “eclectic” ministers/officiants you know dealt with, an unconventional space (i.e. no aisle, therefore no processional; no seating; no “altar”; etc.)? We are running into this problem as we struggle to imagine the ceremony and were hoping you had some thoughts as to how to “structure” a more un-structured ceremony.

Thanks for posting here, and we look forward to your forthcoming wisdom and advice!!

 
2.
Jessie Blum @ Eclectic Unions
Pro
Jessie Blum @ Eclectic Unions (message)  360 posts, Helper bee

@r: I have done weddings in more.. unusual spaces, usually with a smaller amount of people. I did one literally on the sidewalk over looking the NYC skyline (like, we’re talking the literal sidewalk.. there were joggers and people walking their dogs going by). No one was seated - everyone stood (about 15 people), and that formed the aisle. The bride walked (off of the limo-bus) with her dad, and up to the area where we were having the ceremony. Another ceremony I did in a backyard, they had a small grassy section that we walked up to, and then I just kind of called everyone over and we started the ceremony.

What kind of space are you using? Personally, I like having a bit of an entrance of exit for the bride and groom, if it’s plausible - even if it’s just a few steps. But honestly - just find a place that works for you, designate it as where the ceremony will be, and work from there. If possible, adding a bit of structure - no need for an altar, aisle, seating of guests, etc - but perhaps still having important people stand up there with you, or somewhere that you guys can enter or exit from - will help to set it apart a little bit more.

I hope that helps!!

 
3.
Miss Bear Cub
Bee
Miss Bear Cub (message)  1,561 posts, Bumble bee

thanks jessie - this is so helpful!
Mr. Cubbie and I are gearing up to write our entire ceremony from scratch - thanks for the help!!

 
4.
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Guest
r

Hi Jessie,

Thanks for the quick reply! We are actually having the ceremony at our reception venue, a cozy (read: tiny : ) urban restaurant. We are not opposed to some sort of “entrance,” although it would be together (rather than being walked down the aisle or given away by my dad). We have also thought of the just-calling-everyone-together route. However, the idea of having people sort of form an aisle is a nice one as well!

I look forward to your future posts… Your ideas for a secular wedding have been so helpful so far!

 
5.
doctorgirl
Hostess
doctorgirl (message)  27 posts, Newbee

I need to save this post!

 
6.
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Guest
deux.etoiles

Have you ever taken part in a two-ceremony marriage? My fiance and I are having a Christian ceremony followed immediately by a Hindu ceremony with two different officiants and I’m having a hard time figuring out when our declaration of marriage should be — should we have two of them, one after each ceremony, should we have one right after the Christian ceremony or should we wait until the end? Should our minister, who is the one signing our certificate stick around until the end and declare us married? Very confusing :)

 
7.
Jessie Blum @ Eclectic Unions
Pro
Jessie Blum @ Eclectic Unions (message)  360 posts, Helper bee

@deux.etoiles: The question is - when do you feel like you are going to become husband and wife? That’s really something you’ll have to discuss with your officiants, and see if they have any suggestions or opinions on what works the best. I’ve personally never done a two ceremony wedding. I’d think having them at the end of each would work well, especially because a ceremony can feel very anticlimactic if there’s no declaration at the end…

 
8.
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Guest
tess

I’d love to know more about tree planting ceremony.

 
9.
Jessie Blum @ Eclectic Unions
Pro
Jessie Blum @ Eclectic Unions (message)  360 posts, Helper bee

@tess: Hi Tess! I’m going to be doing a sapling wedding ceremony in July, but have not written the version I plan to do yet. The couple came to me with the idea of planting a seed, and I suggested the sapling, after reading about it on 2000 Dollar Weddings - I’d suggest checking out her ceremony and the wording and meaning that they assigned to it.

http://2000dollarwedding.com/2009/01/how-to-write-meaningful-and-memorable.html

Once I’ve got the ceremony written, and after that July wedding - I’ll have a ton more info on it!

 
10.
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Guest
Follow Along Ceremony: The First Meeting & First Outline » Weddingbee PRO » The Wedding Blog

[...] and people that she and John knew they wanted to include in their ceremony. I melded this with my basic outline for structure, and so, going into our first meeting, I had a very good idea of what their ceremony was going to [...]

 
11.
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thatonegirl… gets married!

[...] the past couple months. Here is a small list of some great ceremony planning resources: The Knot Weddingbee Pro Weddings on About.com Weddings by Lance 2000 Dollar Wedding AKPC_IDS += “1112,”;Popularity: [...]

 
12.
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Guest
Mr&MrsSmith

You mentioned above you did a wedding on a sidewalk, where do I go to get permission to do that? local precinct?

 
13.
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Building a Meaningful Ceremony | Engaged & Inspired

[...] - detailed example of structure, here [...]

 

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Jessie Blum @ Eclectic Unions
Jessie Blum @ Eclectic Unions Jessie Blum, New Jersey Vendor: Officiant Website: Eclectic Unions About Me: I began writing & officiating wedding ceremonies in 2008, and love every single moment of it. It all started when my best friend asked me to officiate her Jewish/Lutheran/Pagan (but completely non-religious!) wedding - since then, I've found a love and passion for creating original wedding ceremonies that truly reflect the couples being married. Wedding ceremonies should be all about the bride & groom's love, relationship, and commitment, and I do my best to make sure everything is just perfect! I live in Northern New Jersey with my fiance and our two kitties, and, when I'm not meeting with my awesome couples or writing wedding ceremonies, I love to knit, obsessively check my email, and plan my own wedding (Oct 2010!).
 
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