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Ceremony 101: Order of Events for Your Ceremony

090715-ceremonyorder-01Whether religious or civil, most wedding ceremonies follow the same format. Here’s a typical order of events for wedding ceremonies for you to follow – or modify!

Procession: This is the part where the parents, bridal party, and bride walk down the aisle.

Opening Remarks: The officiant will offer a welcome and make opening remarks at the start of the ceremony. The “charge” to the couple may also be included here; the officiant may talk about the commitment you’re about to make and the significance of your vows.

First Reading: If you’ve chosen readings, whether religious or secular, the first one is typically inserted here.

Exchange of Vows: Write them yourself or use traditional language, but this is when you get into the main part of your ceremony.

Second Reading: If you’ve asked someone to do a second reading, this is when it is typically added.

Exchange of Rings

Pronouncement: Your officiant will officially name you married. You know the language: “By the power vested in me by the state of Maryland …”. In the eyes of the state, this is the part that counts.

The Kiss: Sorry, you’ve got to wait until you’re officially married for that first kiss!

Closing or Blessing: The officiant will offer some closing words or a prayer. He or she may also formally introduce you now.


The type of ceremony you’re planning will determine how much leeway you have with your ceremony. Some church ceremonies allow little flexibility, while others allow more. Civil ceremonies are the most flexible of all.

Some more elements you may want to add to your ceremony:

Unity Ceremony: From unity candles to sand ceremonies to sharing love letters, these ceremonies signifying the joining of your lives are immensely popular. Insert it into your ceremony after your vows.

Rose Ceremony: Some couples like to present roses or other flowers or tokens to their families. This is also best placed after your vows.

Music: Want a special song played or performed? Add it in near your readings. If there is a significance to the song, ask your officiant to explain it to your guests or include that information in your program.

Memorial Candles: To honor loved ones who have died, many couples will light candles in their memory. This is typically done at the beginning of the ceremony. It can be done by the couples, the officiant, or representatives from your families.

TELL US: What unique aspects are you adding to your wedding ceremony?