Planning a wedding is not for the faint of heart. From the moment an engagement begins, the sheer volume of creative possibilities bubbles and grows in our minds. Depending on the couple, this can mean anything from choosing a linen color to deciding which drag performers would be most entertaining for the guests. Most couples excitedly decide what kind of celebration will best suit them, please their people, and give them the best memories.
But the one thing that shuffles into the mental backseat in those giddy early days of planning? The ceremony. Maybe it’s because the reception tends to last longer, or seems to offer more creative choices. But for whatever reason, couples often come to us in a mild panic, having just remembered that they should probably plan a ceremony to precede their epic par-tay.
The problem might come from an extra sense of bewilderment around wedding ceremonies. What if the officiant has tons of rules? What if we can’t figure out how to make the ceremony match the reception? What about seating? Should we have flowers? OMG, vows?! I cannot even.
BREATHE. We’re here with some ideas that are super-unique, and some of them simplify your ceremony planning. You can create a ceremony that leads your guests into the total experience of your wedding – without leading your bank account (or your brain) into a crisis!
Ditch the Flip
If your wedding venue is limited in size, you might envision flipping the space from ceremony rows to reception tables during a cocktail hour. That can work well, but if it feels overwhelming or you don’t have the budget to pay someone to handle that, there is another option – the cabaret layout! Instead of moving everything, have guests find their seats at the reception tables right when they arrive, and have your ceremony in the middle of the room! If your venue has a stage, the cabaret feeling is enhanced even further.
Bonus: Have your caterer serve champagne to your guests moments before the ceremony starts, and ask your officiant to end the ceremony with a toast. The drama of it all! *fans self*
Upstage a Traditional Processional
Thinking about doing a slideshow? Select a venue with a drop-down screen, and have the show running from the time your guests arrive. It will give them something to do while they wait for the ceremony, and guarantees that they will pay attention to all the images of you and your beloved.
But wait, there’s more! While guests are watching, secretly hide behind the screen with your beloved, officiant, and any bridal party members. When it’s time for the ceremony to begin, have the screen slowly raised while an epic song plays. Your guests won’t miss the processional at all, with a surprise entrance for the ages!
Bonus: For Hollywood realness, have your slideshow professionally produced.
Surround Yourselves with Love (Not Chairs)
In some traditions, it’s common practice to arrange guests in a circle instead of the rows that are so familiar to many of us. For an intimate feel that also removes the need for chairs, place a sign by the entrance asking guests to stand in a circle (perhaps using flower petals or a small chuppah to block off the spot where you will stand) to create a community sanctuary to surround you with love as you marry.
Bonus: Have a basket of something symbolic for guests to take and hold during your ceremony to enhance the community feel. A single, inexpensive flower works well.
Party Your Way to the Altar
If you like the idea of acoustic music during your ceremony, consider changing up how it is presented. Instead of having your guitarist sit off to the side, ask him or her to lead you down the aisle, strumming and singing their heart out with your song. This can be *incredibly* romantic, and is sure to put a smile on your face when the pictures come back a few weeks later.
Bonus: Have the musician play a well-known song, and ask your officiant to encourage guests to stand up and sing along as you walk down the aisle. Ice: BROKEN.
Use What’s There
Many cities have outdoor amphitheaters in parks, zoos, and other outdoor locations. If one of those venues will work for the feel you have planned for your big day, go for it! Not only can those spaces be pretty darn affordable, they also come with enough seating for all your guests and a perfect spot for your ceremony, all wrapped up in a pretty, outdoor package.
Bonus: If your city doesn’t have an amphitheater, you can also use quilts on a natural hill. It looks beautiful and is totally unique!
Keep It To Yourselves
The idea of standing in front of everyone and saying a bunch of really private stuff freaks some people out. And understandably so! If this is you (or your beloved…or both of you), remember that there’s no law requiring you to be married publicly. In some states, like Virginia, you don’t need any witnesses at all. Consider having your ceremony privately, either on the same day as your reception, or sometime before it. Depending on who you are, this can be done just about anywhere! Perhaps you’re a religious person and want to ask your house of worship to perform a private ceremony, or maybe you’d rather ask an officiant to meet you and your beloved where you had your first date. The sky is really the limit for a private ceremony, since you have no one to please but yourselves!
Bonus: Leave time right after your private ceremony to celebrate alone with your new spouse. A romantic meal, bottle of champagne, or weekend in the woods can enhance the sense that the two of you are sharing a magical secret, even though it’s a temporary one.
Pick Something Besides Flowers
Flowers sure are beautiful! And expensive. And expected. If you’re looking for new places to express who you are, replacing flowers with something else is a great option. Maybe each attendant should carry a book that has shaped your life, or your beloved’s life. If you’re getting married during the winter or at night, candles would look really amazing and dramatic. If you’re an arachnophile, perhaps you should carry your sweet pet tarantula (in a secure enclosure, plz thx) instead of roses.
Bonus: Explain why everyone’s carrying what they’re carrying in a program or note to guests. It adds interest and gives guests something to read and talk about before the ceremony.
Gimme the Good Stuff
Instead of the traditional recessional, head for the wedding cake and slice it right then and there. You’ll be on cloud nine, so the pictures of that moment will be full of laughter and joy. Plus, you’ll still look fresh since it’s the beginning of the event. Have your caterer slice and serve cake and coffee in place of a traditional cocktail hour, and maybe offer another kind of dessert after the meal if you feel like it.
Bonus: Get each layer in a different seasonal flavor to help guests feel that there are choices, even for a cake-and-coffee hour. Serving it now means you won’t have to figure out how to keep it cool and protected until after the meal.
Share the Love
If figuring out who to ask to join your bridal party sounds like a social nightmare, skip it. You can simplify your processional (and your life) greatly by keeping it to just the two of you. This also reduces costs, since you won’t need any extra flowers, attendant gifts, and the like.
Bonus: Tell your guests that they’re all members of your bridal party, because they all have a hand in supporting and loving you as you enter your married life. Adding this into the a program or on a website is a nice way to make guests feel appreciated, and also adds a positive sense as to why you chose not to have a formal bridal party.
Remember Whose Wedding This Is
Oh yeah, it’s YOURS. If you and your beloved have a non-traditional idea, go for it! There are very few legal requirements during wedding ceremonies, and there’s no reason you have to do it by anyone else’s rule book. If traditional is your thing, that’s a million percent cool. But if you’re thinking of changing it up, adding in your own ideas, or would like to talk about a variety of creative options, listen to your heart. This is your wedding and your memories we’re talking about, so it should be what you want as a couple!
Bonus: Find an officiant who is completely flexible and celebrates your creative ideas! Many officiants have a lot of rules or requirements, but some are totally open and write everything from scratch. We happen to have a great suggestion right here! 😉