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Wedding Ceremony Format

in The Ceremony
Wedding chairs assembled an outdoor harbor ceremony.

Preludes, interludes and readings…oh my!

So just how do these various pieces fit together to form a flowing and meaningful wedding ceremony? While there are many ways in which you can personalize the structure of your wedding ceremony, the basic format of most ceremonies can be broken down into the following segments:

Prelude

Typically lasting anywhere from 15 – 45 minutes in length, the prelude is usually accompanied by some light, festive music performed by your ceremony musician(s) as guests arrive and are shown to their seats. The final guests to be seated are typically the grandparents, mothers and other special family members; a specific musical selection or two can be chosen to accompany their entrance as well.

Processional

You bridal party now begins to enter the ceremony hall and proceed down the aisle. Depending on the size of your bridal party, you should plan on choosing 2-3 musical selections: one for the bride (or brides/grooms in the case of a same-sex wedding), plus one or two for the rest of the bridal party.

Welcome/Opening Remarks

Your officiant will often greet your guests and remind them of why they are gathered there today, and might also offer a short sermon or prayer about the meaning of marriage, love, etc.

Readings

It is very common to invite loved ones or close friends to read one or more selections that either you or they have selected to add meaning and perspective to your marriage ceremony.

TIP: Many couples wonder how to transition from one reading to the next, if you are having multiple readings and/or readers. One idea is to simply have your wedding officiant introduce the next reader (“We’ll now have a reading by ___________.”) Another option is to have your ceremony musician(s) insert a brief musical interlude (no more than 30 sec. – 1 min.) while a second reader approaches the altar.

Question of Intent

In this segment of the ceremony, you will be questioned by your officiant about your willing consent and commitment to enter into the union of marriage.

Vows

You and your fiancé will now be able to share your own promises and hopes for the future, and your commitment to one another. This is a wonderful opportunity to customize your ceremony by writing your own wedding vows.

Exchange of Rings

Unity Candle Lighting (Optional)

In this ceremony, two individual candles are lit earlier in the ceremony (often by the mothers or parents before they take their seats) and then passed to the couple to light a third pillar together, symbolizing the joining of their lives. Some couples wish to extinguish the individual candles at this point, while others will elect to keep all three burning – signifying that their individuality will carry over into marriage.

Final Blessing

Recessional

The newly-married couple takes their first walk down the aisle, followed by the wedding party, family and guests; a musical selection chosen in advance will begin following the couple’s kiss or any final announcements.

Postlude

Other upbeat and festive musical selections should continue until the final guests exit the ceremony area.

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