Having worked in the wedding industry for many years, both as a performer and blogger, I have seen hundreds of wedding ceremonies unfold, many feel familiar, almost as if they are carbon copies of each other. I am sure you know the ones.
Think of the ceremonies that you have been to that stick with you. What is it about them that moved you?
To me, the wedding ceremonies that remain memorable, the one’s that induce tears, utter joy from the congregation, the one’s that are always just beautiful to witness, are the weddings where couples incorporate personal touches to their ceremony.
From a personal recount of how they met, to the structure, the readings, bespoke vows, to the music shared.
When Mr Nu Bride and I got married we knew we wanted to make the most of our wedding ceremony. That to us was the whole point of the day, sacred. So we spent a lot of time curating it, from thinking about the structure with our registrar, to adding a personal blessing from a friend who happens to be a reverend, to writing our own readings, keeping the tradition we wanted and ditching what we didn’t. Cherry picking music and musicians with a fine tooth comb (instead of picking a regurgitated hymn on the back of a wedding songs guidance book or CD – we saw LOADS of these!), to writing our own wedding vows. Now we’re creatives at heart, so this seemed completely natural to us and was so enjoyable to put together. But every couple can personalise their wedding ceremony in so many different subtle or bold ways.
To get you off to a gorgeous start, I have invited wonderful celebrant and former BBC reporter and news reader, Natasha from Engaged and Ready who has been conducting and writing beautiful personalised weddings for over 8 years, to share some great ideas to personalise your ceremony.
Pssst… I asked Natasha to help me put something together for my brothers wedding earlier this year, so you are in great hands!
Take it away Natasha!
It seems strange to think that weddings today are almost unrecognisable to the weddings that took place just ten or even twenty years ago, but they really are! (Nu Bride: Thank the lord – have you seen the shoulder pads in some of those wedding dresses back then?! LOL) Now more than ever, weddings are not simply an expression of a couple’s commitment to each other but also an expression of their personalities, cultures and passions.
Couples now pour so much of their hearts and souls in to their weddings and design them purposefully to be a reflection of them and everything they stand for. From the choice of venue, to what to wear, to how to celebrate, the couples’ ideals are very much stamped on their day from start to finish.
One element of the day that can sometimes be overlooked or not given as much thought as the rest of the day, can be the wedding ceremony. This can be down to the fact that some couples are simply not aware of how much they can personalise their ceremonies and so tend to leave the personalisation for other elements parts of the day.
As your wedding ceremony is the heart of your whole wedding day, it can be the perfect opportunity to start the day as you mean to go on, by pouring as much of yourselves into the key event of your day.
Here are five fabulous tips to help you personalise your religious or secular wedding ceremony and make it reflect who you are as a couple. What’s even more fabulous is that they are easy to implement, they don’t cost anything (or very little!) and they will make your ceremony more personal to you!
These tips can be integrated into most types of ceremonies, but do check with the person officiating your ceremony to make sure that there won’t be any issues or objections. Hopefully, not!
Making an entrance
It’s nice to know that we are well past the times where brides were only ever accompanied down the aisle by their fathers or another close male relative or friend. If this tradition still resonates for you and you love the idea of your dad carrying out this role for you, then that is of course wonderful, but there are also many brides and couples who like the idea of exploring the alternatives, in case the tradition is not possible or appropriate for them.
I am starting to see more and more couples making an entrance with their parents (to honour both of these important people in their life) or another important family member or friend. I recently had a ceremony where a bride walked in with her gorgeous grandparents, as she wanted their sixty years of marriage to inspire them and to rub off on them, too. And no doubt it was a lovely honour for her grandparents, as well.
As there are no rules as to who accompanies you down the aisle, you really can make this aspect of your ceremony as personal to you as you wish and tailored to suit what is right for you. From including your children, entering solo or walking in together, there really is no nicer way to get your ceremony off to a personal start than to make an entrance that reflects how you feel.
Have a group sing-along (marry-oke!)
There are few better or more uplifting ways to personalise your ceremony by including a joyful group song or hymn. Choosing a song to sing that means something to you as a couple and having all of your friends and family sing a long to it, will be something you won’t forget in a hurry. It’s no secret that singing is a very powerful tool for cohesion and a wonderful way to bring a feeling of community to everyone involved. It doesn’t matter if it’s a little out of tune and if some people sing like they think they’re on the X Factor, it all adds to the spirit of the occasion!
Do remember though, that including a marry-oke during your ceremony may need a bit more preparation than some of other elements, as for example it’s probably better to have a backing track being played so that everyone can follow along, rather than allowing them to try singing your favourite song without musical accompaniment. You’ll also need to provide the song lyrics too but this can be done easily and inexpensively by printing them out on card for your guests to share between two or three people. I know couples who have included this element in their ceremony found it so uplifting and special and felt that their ceremony set the tone for the rest of the day by spreading so much joy!
Include your love story
More and more couples are really embracing the idea of including their own self-written poetry or even their own love story during their ceremony. For some, although they like the idea of including a traditional reading, they prefer to have something that is really reflective of them or about them as a couple.
It may be surprising to hear but many couples don’t realise that a lot of their ceremony guests don’t know how they actually got together!
Some guests will have a fair idea and others may know some of the details of your courtship, but many won’t have a clue! So what nicer time is there than to include your love story during your ceremony to bring a full circle conclusion to how the story of ‘you’ started and how it led to the special moment in your lives. (Nu Bride: Love this idea, it works so well!)
Including your love story works really well, especially if getting together had some funny or really romantic elements to it. What couples tend to do is to write the story themselves and then allocate a friend or family member to read it during the ceremony on their behalf. This also serves as nice way to have someone special involved in your ceremony too!
I’ll never forget the ceremony I had where the couples’ self-penned reading told the story of their first meeting, which was due to the bride (who was wearing a new pair of work shoes) mis-judging some train station steps and literally falling at her husband-to-be’s feet. She said it was the heels and he maintained of course that it was the sight of him that had caused her to fall! (Nu Bride: LOL!) Nice personal touches like this during your ceremony can really personalise it and give your guests a lovely understanding of how you came together.
Write personal vows
Of all the ways that you can personalise your ceremony, writing your own vows is perhaps the most rewarding but also the one that requires most thought and preparation.
In addition to having to say any legal vows or declarations, you can have a moment afterwards to say some more personal, self-written vows that you pledge to each other.
Some couples write the same vows and promises that they want to say and read them to each other and others write their vows separately and read them as a surprise on the day. The most important thing is to work out from the outset what type of vow is right for you both, to make sure you are on the same page, literally!
Vows needn’t be massively long either, especially for those who are worried about public speaking. Even a few lines to express how you think and feel about your life partner can be better than no personal expression at all.
If you decide that you would like to go down this route, then start your preparations early and give yourself the time and space to put your thoughts to paper.
You will probably have moments when it feels like you are facing an impossible task, but stick with it, because there is no such thing as wrong vows.
If you write from the heart and speak openly and honestly, your vows will be one of the best forms of personal expression you can make during your ceremony. Just warn all of your guests to have their tissues handy, that’s all!
Mix up your seating
You may be pleased to hear that one of the easiest ways to make your ceremony more personal and intimate is to re-think how you and your guests will be positioned and seated for your ceremony. If you are going to have your ceremony in a space where the seats are free standing, i.e not fixed benches for example, then there really is very little effort needed to change the seating to place your guests in a more inclusive arrangement. If your ceremony has the space for boxed rows, then it’s very likely that the same space can accommodate semi circular seating or even a fully circular layout, all of which make the delivery of the ceremony a more personal one. Having your guests forming a space around you means you are quite literally wrapped in their love!
If changing how your guests are seated isn’t possible or not an idea that works for you, then changing how you stand might be the answer.
For some religious ceremonies it might be a requirement that you stand so that your backs are facing your guests, but if you don’t have any restrictions to how you stand, then there is no reason why you and your love cannot face your guests, whether by standing side by side next to each other, with your wedding officiant standing opposite you both or the two of you standing facing each other and side on to your guests. Either way, a ceremony where most of your guests can see your faces during the ceremony and vice versa, is most definitely a much warmer and personal one.
So there you have it. Five simple tips to help you make your ceremony just that little bit more personal to you both and reflective of how you feel about each other and your loved ones around you.
So many great ideas! Thanks so much Natasha!
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Photography: Anna Gazda Photography