Planning Your Perfect Ceremony
You know what’s super exciting? Planning all the fun details of a wedding reception!
From planning the menu (hellooooo gourmet food tastings) to deciding on the color of the bridesmaids’ dresses, there are so many fun + creative decisions to make during the planning process.
But you know what part of the wedding day many couples overlook?
Which is a bit ironic because the ceremony is when you actually get married. It’s the reason the entire day is taking place to begin with! Therefore, we always strive to get our couples to really, truly think about the ceremony and to make it as meaningful + personal as possible.
To make your life easier (and hopefully inspire you), we’ve outlined it all below.
The prelude is the part of the ceremony in which your guests are arriving + taking their seats. It’s one of the first opportunities you have to impress your guests with a stamp of ‘you’ and set the tone for the rest of the event.
While playing music during the prelude isn’t a new or original idea, there’s certainly plenty of opportunities to personalize here. You could incorporate live music or themed music or totally non-traditional music!
Another thing that’s typically a staple for the prelude is to have programs waiting at the entrance. However much we love a well designed program, we realize they aren’t always necessary. Something we love to do here in Hawaii is having someone waiting to welcome your guests with leis. Not feeling the lei greeting? We also love a good ol’ signature cocktail welcome. Nothing says “Come celebrate with us” like a fun, personalized drink!
BRIDAL PARTY PROCESSIONAL
The wedding party processional typically follows right behind the prelude, and this processional can look different depending on the couples preference.
Although there are many ways to do it, there are two formats that most couples choose between:
1. Groom + groomsmen are in place by officiant while bride + bridesmaids walk down the aisle
In this instance, the ushers typically walk down the parents + grandparents of the bride + groom
2. Everyone walks down the aisle in pairs (LLW preferred!)
It’s always a beautiful moment when the groom walks his mother or maybe even both of his parents down the aisle, which is why we love suggesting to this our couples.
The order we suggest is:
- Groom + mother (or parents)
- Bride’s mother + bride’s brother or groomsman
- Bridesmaid + Groomsman pairs
- Maid of Honor + Best Man
- Flower Girls + Ring Bearers
- The Bride
Although typically walked down the aisle by their father, we absolutely melt when the bride is escorted by both of her parents! Small tweaks like this really make a personalized impact on the ceremony.
And on another note, we suggest picking out one song for the wedding party to walk to and another song for the bride to walk to. Each bride deserves to have that moment just for her!
Now that everyone is down the aisle, the ceremony begins!
While this part is typically carried out by the officiant, you can definitely chat with him or her beforehand to provide some guidance or things you’d like mentioned. Our suggestions? Have the officiant welcome all your guests and thank them for coming, especially if you are having a destination wedding and your guests have travelled to participate in your special day!
Something else we love to incorporate in our weddings is a lei exchange at the beginning of the ceremony. The lei exchange is a Hawaiian tradition in which the bride + groom give their family members a lei as a sign of love + gratitude, so it fits perfectly into this section of the ceremony.
This is one aspect of the ceremony that you can hugely + easily personalize!
While many couples read spiritual passages, that is certainly not the only route you could choose. Consider:
- poems about love and marriage
- song lyrics
- passages from favorite books
- having someone sing a song
- incorporating a cultural element
One of the most memorable moments we’ve experienced was when the bride’s mother stood in front of the guests and recited a poem that she had written especially for the bride + groom. You guys, it was so, SO sweet + meaningful and we still think about it to this day!
So get creative!
Vows. The part that typically induces a few tears for the guests in attendance and more than a few nervous sweats for the couple reciting them!
But we’re sure you’re already aware of the possibilities for personalization here! While the whole “Repeat after me” vows will always be beautiful and touching, we have a total soft spot for self-written vows.
Not only is this a great way to personalize your ceremony, it can also become such a fun keepsake! You can easily find His Vows/Her Vows books in which you can handwrite your sentiments to read over and over in the future.
However, one thing we always recommend if you decide to write your own vows is to select someone to read over both and make sure they are similar enough. This way, you can avoid one set of vows being a short + sweet paragraph while the other set of vows takes 8 minutes to recite. Or what if the bride took the humorous route but the groom went sentimental + meaningful? If you have someone read over both, they’ll be able to make sure that there won’t be any uncomfortable or embarrassing differences.
Does the thought of saying your vows give you the nervous sweats? Another great alternative is to write letters to each other and have the officiant read them in lue of personalized vows. You get the same sweet touch that personalized vows give but you avoid the added pressure of having to read them in front of all your guests.
Ahh, the “I Do’s”. While this is such a sweet moment for couples, it is also one of only two aspects of the wedding ceremony that are legally required. Make sure this part of the ceremony absolutely takes place!
The ring exchange is fairly straightforward. It’s typically a “repeat after me” situation, so there’s not a lot of room for error in terms of what you are saying.
However, something that surprises people is how difficult the physical act of exchanging rings can be! This is why we recommend that our couples practice. It sounds silly, but it can eliminate a potentially awkward moment in front of all your friends + family.
What’s the first thing you think of when you think of a unity ceremony?
We bet that 90% of you immediately think of candles. And a majority of the 10% of you who didn’t think of candles probably thought of sand.
Don’t get us wrong, candles + sand are totally fine and can make for another fun little keepsake! However, these are certainly not the only way a bride + groom can participate in a unity ceremony.
One of our favorite + most memorable unity ceremonies actually involved a cocktail! The bride and groom each united a few key ingredients in a cute, decorative cocktail shaker and then took a drink of the little concoction they created together. How fun is that?!
Another unity ceremony we totally fell in love with? The bride and groom each purchased a different type of Hawaiian salt and mixed their salts, with intentions of using it to cook their future anniversary dinners. While salt unity ceremonies have been done before, we loved the couple’s use of Hawaiian sea salt to incorporate a Hawaiian touch into their destination wedding.
Near the end of the ceremony, the officiant will quote:
“Now by the power vested in me by the State of Hawaii, I now pronounce you husband and wife.”
This is the only other part of the ceremony that is legally required, and it’s also the part when you are officially united as a married couple!
We imagine you’ll get goosebumps… no, we expect you to get goosebumps. We know we still do, even after so many weddings!
KISS, KISS, KISS!
We all know what follows the pronouncement of marriage- the first kiss as newlyweds! We don’t think we need to tell you how this can be personalized. Just remember that everyone, and we mean everyone, is watching.
So as silly as it sounds, maybe practice this part during the wedding rehearsal as well! We’ve seen couples bonk noses or get tangled, and while it’s kind of cute + innocent, it’s also kind of hard to watch.
Another addition we love? Dips, fist pumps + tears of joy are adorable ways to spice up the moment, and they all make for the cutest photo op!
Following the kiss, the officiant will announce you as Mr. + Mrs. for the first time, and you’ll probably have the world’s largest smile on your face. This is our favorite photo moment of each and every wedding album!
Trust us, this is a moment you’ll remember forever.
Sidenote: If the bride isn’t taking the groom’s last name, it is totally ok for the officiant to introduce the couple as "the newlyweds" instead.
And just that like, the ceremony is over! So it’s time to get everyone back down that aisle and carry on with the wedding day.
Again, personalize that music! We love when couples get the party started right away with a fun jam as they walk back down the aisle as a newly married couple.
Another tradition we love, love, love to incorporate into the recessional is a confetti toss! Not only is it fun for your guests and creates some magical photos, it also allows for even more personalization. Your confetti can be anything from flower petals to rice to glitter… get creative!
After the ceremony is over and you’ve made it back down the aisle, it’s time to officially sign that marriage license and make it absolutely, positively official with the state!
And that’s it! Those are the elements that are most often included in wedding ceremonies.
Switch up the order in which the above items take place. While this is the ceremony flow that we typically recommend to our clients, you have the flexibility and freedom to rearrange, eliminate, or add as you please.
If you want to shorten the ceremony or omit a few of the above traditions, you are absolutely more than welcome to do so. Or if you want to add anything to really make the ceremony your own, you are more than welcome to do that as well! Another viable option? Switch up the order!
No matter what, just make sure you keep the “I Do’s”, the pronouncement, and the signing of the marriage license- as mentioned, these are the only parts that are legally required for a marriage to be official.
Regardless of how long or short you make your ceremony, make it special and make it your own. It is a sure fire way to make it memorable for the years to come.