While couples have long expressed their unique sense of celebration and tradition in planning and staging the wedding reception, more and more couples are bringing the same sense of individuality and creativity to the wedding ceremony itself. Whether in a church or in a castle, traditional or non-traditional, the ceremony of marriage has enjoyed a renaissance in recent times.
Choosing a Setting and Style
In a formal wedding, you will conform to strict, traditional marriage rites and rituals. A formal wedding is generally held in a place of worship and is larger in the number of attendants and the number of guests. It is also more elaborate in attire, invitations, reception arrangements, flowers, decorations, and special touches than a semi-formal or informal wedding.
A semi-formal wedding generally follows the traditions. Arrangements, however, are less elaborate and allow for more flexibility than a formal wedding. Semi-formal wedding ceremonies may take place in a church, hotel, or private club.
An informal wedding can be as simple or as elaborate as you wish. Only your imagination and budget limit you. Informal weddings are usually smaller in both wedding party size and number of guests invited. An informal wedding may be held in a church, club, hotel, park, public garden, private residence, or anywhere you choose. Be sure to check on permits if you are considering a public park, garden, or historical site for your ceremony.
If you plan on marrying at your place of worship, you should consult with the clergy as soon as possible. Your clergy may assist you in selecting a date, advise you on required premarital counseling, and provide information on the ceremony itself. Ask about:
Fees and donations expected for the use of facilities and services provided.
Services and equipment available: music, decorations, parking, clean up, etc.
The standard church service and amount of freedom allowed for personalization.
Ceremony music, readings, and help with writing special vows, if permitted.
Church capacity and local fire laws.
Restrictions around music, photography, flowers, throwing of rice or birdseed.
Use of the church facilities for the bridal party to dress.
If you are not currently a member of a church but wish to be married in one, you have several options. If you have the time and desire, you may join a church. If your family belongs to a church, ask their clergy if they would be willing to perform the ceremony. Ask friends and relatives if they know of clergy who will perform ceremonies for non-members. You may also call churches directly. Some will offer to marry you, others will not. Premarital counseling is almost always a condition of acceptance on the part of the clergy. Unitarian and other congregations may offer more flexibility.
Interfaith couples may wish to consider an ecumenical ceremony in which a clergy from each faith is present.
You may also have your clergy perform the ceremony at the site of the reception or at an outdoor location. Be sure to discuss this early because some religions restrict or prohibit this type of ceremony. You should contact the reception site to see what equipment (portable altar, kneelers, and chuppah) they have available. There may be additional charges for the use of these items, or they may have to be rented from a rental service. Should you plan an outdoor ceremony, be certain to have an alternate site readily available in case of bad weather. Rental agencies can provide tents.
If you prefer a civil ceremony, you should contact local judges and/or district magistrates. Some perform wedding ceremonies only at their offices. Be sure to inquire about requirements and fees. Check listings in the Blue Pages of your loca
l phone book under Government Offices.
In Pennsylvania, a couple may request a Quaker marriage license, which allows two adults to marry themselves in the company of at least two witnesses.
Personalizing Your Ceremony
If you have chosen to personalize your ceremony, ask friends, clergy, relatives, musicians, and others for ideas on the right mix of readings, poetry, and songs. Several very good books of wedding readings can be found in bookstores and libraries.
The incorporation of religious or ethnic rites and rituals can enhance and individualize your ceremony. For example, the lighting of the Unity Candle from two separate candles symbolizes the unity of marriage and the fire of passion. African American weddings often incorporate the ritual of jumping the broom, symbolic of jumping into marriage and freedom together.
You can include those who are not members of the wedding party by having them greet your guests, hand out programs, light candles, give a reading, present gifts at a Catholic ceremony, or hold the chuppah at a Jewish ceremony.
Special floral tributes or the selection of favorite readings or musical pieces may honor deceased and/or ill relatives and friends. This information may be printed in the wedding program or the officiant may make a brief announcement.
If your religion permits, you may personalize your ceremony by writing your own vows. This may be as simple as updating the language of standard vows by substituting words or phrases that better suit you, or as elaborate as composing and reciting all the promises your hearts make. Your officiant may be able to guide you through this process.
Second marriages require the same level of planning as any wedding. Whether you choose to be elaborate or simple, you must consider all of the elements of wedding planning. Additionally, you need to recognize and consider religious restrictions and requirements when planning. Meeting with your clergy early in
the planning process is vital to ensure that all religious requirements are met.
Taboos around the degree of pomp and formality of second marriages have largely disappeared. Couples feel free today to plan as elaborate a wedding as they want and can afford.
Often brides previously married in large, elaborate ceremonies wish to avoid that level of pomp. Brides previously married in small, quiet, or civil ceremonies often choose to stage the wedding of a lifetime. Your personal preferences and religious choices are what count. The only thing still frowned upon is the wearing of a veil and train.
Invitations may be issued by the brides parents but are usually issued by the couple themselves. The bride may choose to walk down the aisle alone or with the groom. If she chooses to have her father accompany her, he may leave her at his pew, allowing her to walk the few steps to her groom alone.
Children of previous marriages should be asked to participate to the extent of their comfort. Consider implementing a family ceremony after the exchange of rings during the wedding ceremony. This can include a special reading on the nature of family, an exchange of tokens of commitment, and a special blessing on the new family unit.
Give every child an important role in the wedding, such as ring bearer, flower girl, junior bridesmaid, usher, or reader. If several children are involved, try to avoid giving the role of honor attendant to one child. If only two children are involved, and they are old enough to fulfill the responsibilities of honor attendant, disregard gender, if necessary, when assigning roles. The brides son can hold her bouquet just as easily as a girl and the grooms daughter may be just the one to calm her Dad before the ceremony and to hand him the ring. Supporting a parent during his/her transfer into a new life can build a childs self esteem.