The wedding ceremony is the part of your wedding where you and your fiance go from being engaged to being married. As the crucial element that makes it official, the wedding ceremony is the part of the wedding that people find most nerve-wracking and also the most meaningful. The wedding ceremony is the most important part of your wedding and it’s also the reason for celebrating at your wedding reception and other post-wedding parties. So what does the wedding ceremony entail exactly?
Wedding ceremonies differ based on whether the ceremony is religious or civil. If the wedding ceremony is religious, the ceremony elements can change from religion to religion. But, most modern wedding ceremonies are made up of the same critical parts. Each piece of the wedding ceremony has its purpose and meaning. Now that you want to become “husband and wife”, you’ll need a basic understanding of the common parts of the wedding ceremony.
Here are the fundamental elements of the wedding ceremony:
The processional is the very beginning of the wedding ceremony and it involves the presentation of the bridal party and eventually the bride. During the processional, usually set to music, the bridal party walks down the aisle and is followed by the bride. The general protocol for the processional allows first for the seating of parents, then bridesmaids walk down the aisle accompanied by groomsmen, after which the maid of honor follows, then the flower girl and ring bearer (if used) and then the bride enters and makes her way down the aisle.
Once all of the critical people are in position, the minister or officiant welcomes the wedding guests to the ceremony. The greeting can be as simple as a short thank you to the guests for coming or as complex as a reading or a brief history of how you and your fiancé met and became a couple.
Statement of Intention
As the name implies, the statement of intention essentially tells all who attend the wedding that the bride and groom desire to be married out of their own free will. The minister or officiant also may take this time to speak about the commitment and responsibility that is assumed upon entering into the bond of marriage.
Exchange of Wedding Vows
The wedding vows are the emotionally binding part of the wedding ceremony. This is where you will make promises to your fiancé about the life you’ll have together. You can elect either to use common wedding vows that you can find online or receive from your officiant or you can create personal wedding vows using a wedding vow book or just working from scratch.
Exchange of Wedding Rings
Directly following the wedding vows is the exchanging of wedding rings. One at a time, the bride and groom each takes a ring and places it on the other’s finger. As the wedding ring is slipped onto the ring finger, words are said to cement the union. Typically the phrase “With this ring, I thee wed” is repeated by both the bride and groom.
Pronouncement of Marriage
After the rings, the minister or officiant formally pronounces you husband and wife. Usually a few words are added about sanctity of marriage and to review again that you have consented to be married and have sealed your commitment with wedding vows and the exchanging of wedding rings. This is also where the minister or officiant typically says “You may now kiss the bride.”
Presentation of the Couple
Now that you’re officially married, the minister or officiant will present you to the wedding guests for the first time as a married couple.
The recessional is the exact opposite of the processional. The bride and groom make their way down the aisle together and they are followed by the wedding party and their parents. The recessional marks the conclusion of the wedding ceremony. Congratulations! Now you’re officially married.
Now that you know the basic parts of the wedding ceremony, it will be easy for you to arrange your ceremony to your liking. In addition to the elements listed, you can add prayers, readings, special ceremonies or even songs to your wedding ceremony if you choose to do so. Of course if you’d rather keep your wedding ceremony short and sweet, just use the essential pieces and then make your way to your wedding reception and enjoy the party.