Anyone who’s ever been to a wedding knows that the ceremony consists of a number of elements that traditionally occur in a certain order, but when you’re planning your own wedding, it really helps to know what those elements are, where they belong in the ceremony, and what they’re there for. This can help you clarify which components you want to use in your own wedding, and where they will best fit to give your wedding the “flow” you would like it to have.
Listed below are the most popular ceremony components in the order they usually occur. However, there is no reason you can’t move some (or all) elements around in your own ceremony…or even leave some of them out entirely! Remember, it’s your wedding and it should be about you. Do whatever feels best and whatever makes you happy, in the order that makes the most sense to you!
The Processional (aka, the Walk In or Wedding March)
This is the walk down the aisle of the wedding party to the altar, and symbolically represents two things: the couple’s transition from individual lives to the union of marriage, and the support of the wedding attendants by taking part in the same walk.
The Officiant and the Groom traditionally wait at the altar for the wedding party to walk down the aisle. First, the Groomsmen paired with the Bridesmaids, then by the Maid/Matron of Honor, the Ring Bearer, and the Flower Girl. Lastly come the Bride and her escort (traditionally, her father).
Facing the altar, the women are on the left and the men on the right. Music played for the Processional can be a single selection or, more often, multiple selections (e.g., one for the wedding party and a different one for the Bride)
The Welcome (aka, the Convocation)
The Welcome calls together all in attendance to begin the ceremony. The words spoken at this time welcome and thank the guests as well as introduce the purpose of this gathering. This is also the traditional time to remember and honor friends and relatives who have passed away, along with anyone else who cannot, physically, attend the wedding.
Declaration of Intent (one of two legally required elements)
This element is the “I Do” section of the ceremony. The couple declares their intention to marry, with each answering “I do” or “I will” when asked by the Officiant if it is their desire to make this commitment.
Consent (aka, the “Give Away”)
Here, the Officiant asks others to give their approval or blessing on the ceremony that is about to take place. Traditionally, the father or the parents of the Bride answer “I do,” “We do,” or “Her family,” when asked by the Officiant who is presenting the Bride to be married.
Readings consist of one or more selections (poems, lyrics, stories, etc.), either religious or non-religious, read aloud during carefully selected moments throughout the ceremony. They are meant to convey a message that resonates with the couple and guides them into marriage. Additional readings may be read by friends and family members to add variety to the ceremony.
This element often shares with the guests, thoughts on the meaning of marriage, and is designed to encourage reflection upon the significance of the commitment. They may also include a historical reflection on the couple’s relationship or the story of how they met and fell in love.
The Wedding Vows
This is the exchange between the couple that expresses the sincere promises they are making to each other regarding their intentions for the marriage. The words spoken at this time should normally not be memorized (the couple will already have more than enough on their mind to remember), but rather, should be read from a card or piece of paper, or repeated after the Officiant.
The Explanation of the Rings
The words spoken at this time describe the history and purpose of exchanging rings and the sentiment the couple wishes to be reminded of as they wear them.
The Ring Exchange
This is the physical exchange of rings, along with a verbal exchange between the couple expressing the significance of this offering. The Ring Vows are normally repeated after the Officiant, but can also be read from a card.
Pronouncement (the second legally required element of the ceremony)
This is the pronouncement that the couple is officially married.
The Kiss symbolically represents the sealing of the promises made during the ceremony.
Closing Blessing (aka, the Benediction)
This optional prayer, or non-religious blessing, is meant to send the couple off into their new future together, and to communicate the hopes and wishes that go with them to that future.
This is the first official introduction of the newly married couple as husband and wife.
The Recessional (aka, the Walk Out)
This is the choreographed walk down the aisle by the wedding party away from the altar after the couple has been presented. It signifies the completion of the ceremony and the beginning of the celebration. Traditionally, the wedding party leaves in reverse order in which they entered, with the Bride and Groom exiting first.
Additional Elements – Wedding Traditions
Additional wedding elements will make your wedding more interesting, more inclusive and (usually) a lot more fun. They can include popular and time-tested traditions such as the Blending of the Sands (Unity Sand Ceremony) and the Unity Candle, along with cultural traditions that incorporate the Bride or Groom’s heritage, such as the Handfasting (Celtic), a Tea Ceremony (Chinese), Jumping the Broom (African), the Coins, Cord and Veil (Hispanic) and the Breaking of the Glass (Jewish).
As Seattle Wedding Officiants, Forever, Together – Where Weddings are a Celebration! is pleased to offer all of these elegant wedding elements, along with many others, at no additional cost to our couples.