You should begin planning your ceremony out early on in the planning process. This takes time and patience, so the more time you give yourself the less stressed you’ll become.
Once you have chosen your date, start looking into venues (otherwise known as locations to non-bridebrained people). Do you want a traditional wedding in a church or are you thinking of an outdoor scene? Maybe a large convention center suites the two of you. It’s entirely up to you. However, I would advise asking both families what their preference would be. Some families will really want you to be married in a church (but if that isn’t your thing, be sure to nicely remind them that although their opinion is valuable to you, it is your wedding and you’d rather hold it elsewhere). Check prices and available dates before you set your heart on anything.
You should also decide if you are going to have your ceremony and reception in the same place or opt for separate venues. We were married in our home church and had our reception in another church’s banquet room. I kinda figured having both in the same place could turn into a logistical nightmare – setting up for the ceremony, then having to break it all down and set up for the reception in a matter of hours would have been hard. But I have seen this done twice for smaller weddings and it actually worked out quite nicely. (For those of you that are going to have separate venues, I have reception planning tips in the The Reception category.)
When you figure out your ceremony venue, determine how long you need it for and when you’ll be able to decorate. We decorated the church the day before the ceremony, when we did our rehearsal. On the day of, the wedding party arrived two hours early so we could get ready there (if you can do this at your venue, I highly recommend it. You’ll be nervous as it is, and being able to just go and get everything done in one place will be nice). The ceremony was about an hour long, so I reserved the church for a 4 hour block just in case.
The officiate, the person who actually marries the two of you, is typically any priest, pastor, or judge. If you live in the state of Alaska, anyone can marry you as long as they go to any courthouse and get the appropriate documents. We were married by a former pastor, now missionary, and very dear friend of our families. You will want to meet with your officiate ahead of time at least twice to go over your ceremony details (such as time, place, ceremony timeline, etc). They also need to be at your rehearsal. Chances are, you’ll be getting married by someone who has done it before, and they will know how everything works and will be able to offer advice. You should ask them when you meet with them if they have any guidelines or conditions. They should also know how the rehearsal works. You might want to appoint or find someone that can help “direct traffic” both during the rehearsal and the actual ceremony. Most churches have a wedding coordinator who knows how to do this. This person will tell the wedding party when to walk and where to stand.
Two important things that take place during the ceremony are exchanging your vows and the unity candle or unity sand ceremony. Decide if you are going to use traditional vows or write your own. If you choose to write your own, check with your officiate to get the okay and give them a copy to approve once you write them. You should write them within 3 months of the wedding, to make sure they’re as perfect as you want them and they’re nicely polished. Also decide if you want to do a traditional unity candle lighting or want to give it a modern twist and go with the unity sand ceremony (or neither, if you’d prefer…). We did the unity sand ceremony. It symbolizes the same “two become one” message as the candle and also symbolizes that you can never be separated. Afterward you’re left with something beautiful and decorative for your home that serves as a constant reminder of your unity (instead of a candle you’ll never light again). Visit here for more information on a unity sand ceremony and how it works.
The ceremony timeline (order of events) is not something every couple will have to do themselves. Our officiate told us it was entirely up to us, and I ended up arranging the whole thing from scratch. Your officiate may have one predetermined for you. I have posted our timeline here. You can use ours if you’d like or edit it to fit your ceremony style.
We had two “In Memory” candles at our ceremony, so there is a place on the timeline where those were lit by my mother (they were for her brother and my fraternal grandmother). In Memory candles are a very nice way to remember loved ones who are no longer with us who you know would have been there if they could. My grandma was a very wonderful woman who I was close to when I was young. I missed her more than ever in that moment. My uncle was a great, gentle, and caring man who loved my sister and I very much. I would have given anything for them both to be there. If you want to do this, ask both families if there are people who they want candles for. Andy’s family didn’t have anyone. (I made our candles myself. You can see the project in my DIY & Crafts section.)
Decorations and music are the last details you should think about. I have an entire separate post for decorations here as well as where to order everything you could possibly need for cheap. I also have pictures of our decorations and some of the crafty things I did. You can find hundreds of wedding ceremony songs on the internet, and order CD’s if you aren’t going to have a pianist or violinist. Our wedding party walked to ‘Jesus, Joy of Man’s Desire’, my dad and I walked to ‘Pachelbel’s Cannon in D’, and at the end we all walked out to the Peanuts theme song! I had one pianist and one violinist.
*Don’t forget to get your marriage license within the allotted time frame and pick your witnesses. It may seem obvious, but the legal portion of weddings sometimes gets forgotten!
“Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman’ for she was taken out of man’. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:22-25)