You and yours are probably knee deep in designing and planning a Washington DC area wedding reception with style and personality so, naturally, your ceremony should be no different! Earlier this morning, real DC area bride, Stephanie, shared tips on the process for that she and Keith took to write their own personalized, non-secular wedding ceremony. (Make sure you check out her wedding ceremony writing tips first!) If you’re experiencing a little writer’s block, fear not because Stephanie is here to share her full, real wedding ceremony script to guide you along the way! Take it away, Stephanie…
Photo Credit: Meredith Hanafi Photography
You can choose to have your guests seated before you come in to the ceremony location – this is pretty standard, but here are two forms:
- Wedding Party Procession: Officiant, parents, groomsmen, groom, bridesmaids, ring bearer, flower child and bride.
- Bridal Party Procession: Groom, groomsman & officiant are already in place. Enter ring bearer, flower child, bridesmaids and bride.
Surprise! You can do any form of these! We had our officiant in place, then our groomsmen and bridesmaids came in together (as well as our ring bearer, our puppy!). Keith and his mom came in next, followed by my dad and me. Our setup was pretty standard, except for Keith escorting his mom—we added that after we wrote our “presentation”.
Someone, usually your officiant, welcomes everyone and politely asks everyone to turn off electronic devices and get things started! For brevity, we skipped this and combined it with our opening.
Opening Statement of Address
The officiant shares a message, think “We are gathered here today…” We asked Keith’s father to be our officiant. He is a great speaker, and we were so excited to include him in such a special moment, it meant a lot to all of us. He wrote something to share with everyone about us and our relationship, then read a statement that we had put together.
- Officiant: We have come here today to celebrate love. We see it in the faces of Stephanie and Keith who stand before us, but we experience it in our own hearts as well. It is a love which is spoken in all religions, which kindles our souls with hope and which is our true home and meeting place.Stephanie and Keith have opened their hearts to one another. And today in just a few moments will share their vows of marriage together. We are deeply grateful to them for opening their hearts to us as well, inviting us to witness and share in this precious moment.
Presentation of the Couple
In a lot of ceremonies, the officiant asks, “Who gives the bride in marriage to the groom?” Traditionally, this is a chance for the bride’s father to say, “I do,” lift her veil, and put her hand into the groom’s. Skip this entirely if you intend to present yourselves, or have the father, mother, brother, sister, child etc. give the bride away.
This part was super important to us as a way to incorporate our families. My father spoke on behalf of my family, and Keith’s mother spoke on behalf of his. It was really important for us to include his mom directly in the ceremony, so all of our parents could be involved. My mother passed away from breast cancer a couple of years before our wedding, and having my dad recognize her and speak on her behalf, made us feel like she was present.
- Officiant: Today, as we join Keith and Stephanie in marriage, we celebrate them as they begin a new family together. Yet we also know that this new branch of the family tree will be strengthened and enriched by the love, traditions, and appreciation of their roots. Does this couple have the blessing of their family for this marriage?
- Response, mother of the groom: On behalf of our family, with love, joy, & support for this union, we give our blessing.
- Response, father of the bride: With the knowledge that Laurel loved and supported this union as much as I do, I freely give my blessing.
Readings, Songs, & Poems
I’m grouping these together, because these are the “fluff” of the ceremony. You can have someone sing, play a song, read a passage, read a poem, perform a skit, interpretive dance. Seriously, this is where you can put the “you” into your ceremony. If you end up using Google here, aim for something specific, like: “readings from Jane Austen about marriage” or “love quotes from Star Wars.”
We tossed around a lot of ideas, and our method was to try and find something that was both of us. We wanted something light and sort-of offbeat to balance it out. We both grew up with Shel Silverstein poems, and decided to find one that could be read aloud. When I read “The Romance” to Keith, we agreed on it right away.
There are a lot of traditional and new things (knot tying, sand mixing, candle lighting, tree planting) to do here.
We settled on a hand ceremony that felt sweet and meaningful to us. The version I found was to be repeated to each other, but we chose to combine it into one moment so that we could really look at each other and soak in the words.
- Officiant: Steph and Keith, Please step forward and take each other’s hands, so that you may see the gift that they are to you.These are the hands of your best friend, young and strong and full of love for you, that are holding yours on your wedding day as you promise to love each other today, tomorrow and forever.These are the hands that will work alongside yours as together you build your future.These are the hands that will passionately love you and cherish you through the years, and with the slightest touch will comfort you like no other.These are the hands that will hold you when fear or grief temporarily comes your way.These are the hands that will countless times wipe the tears from your eyes, tears of sorrow and tears of joy.These are the hands that will tenderly hold your children.
These are the hands that will give you support and encouragement to chase down your dreams.
These are the hands that will hold you tight as you struggle through difficult times.
These are the hands that will give you strength when you need it.
These are the hands that will lift your chin and brush your cheek as they raise your face to look into eyes that are filled with overwhelming love for you.
And lastly, these are the hands that even when wrinkled and aged will still be reaching for yours, still giving you the same unspoken tenderness with just a touch.
The Declaration of Intent
This is where the officiant traditionally says some version of, “Do you, Groom, take Bride to be your lawfully wedded wife?” and the answer simply needs to be affirmative (hell yes!).
I’ll reiterate, some states require this in a ceremony. It will be in every single courthouse wedding, and though the wording may be different, almost every professionally officiated one. The Declaration is a formality that is usually upheld, if you choose to forgo it and are concerned about legalities, call the marriage bureau in your jurisdiction to ask if it’s necessary.
Exchange of Vows
We know there are a lot of options for vows, you can each write your own, you can find traditional ones, and you can write them together. We chose to do a community vow as well. In Episcopal ceremonies, the church congregation vows to do its part in the support of the marriage of a couple. I grew up in this tradition, and wanted to do something similar. So we had the officiant state the vows in the form of one big question and everyone yelled out, “We Will!” (We had some helpful directions as well as this vow, printed in the programs).
- Officiant: To all our friends and family that have joined us here today, please affirm your support by responding, “we will.” Will you surround this couple in love, offering them the joys of your friendship? Will you support this couple in their relationship? At times of conflict will you offer them the strength of your wisest counsel and the comfort of your thoughtful concern? At times of joy, will you celebrate with them, nourishing their love for one another?
- Response: We Will!
Ceremony of Rings
In a religious ceremony, the minister will bless the rings before they are exchanged. You can do a variation of this as well. You can do a “ring warming” where guests touch the rings and send good thoughts to them either as they come in, or pass them around the guests during the ceremony. Or maybe ask your parents or someone special to “bless” them with special thoughts or a message.
Photo Credit: Meredith Hanafi Photography
Exchange of Rings or Tokens
It’s customary to exchange rings, tastes of symbolic food, or symbolic tokens in a lot of cultures. The Officiant will often ask the couple to repeat a pledge with the exchange, or explain the meaning of each item exchanged. We chose to exchange rings.
- Officiant: Love freely given has no giver and no receiver. You are each the giver and each the receiver. The wedding ring is a symbol, in visible form, of the unbroken circle of your love, so that wherever you go, you may always return to your shared life together. May these rings always call to mind the power of your love.
- Officiant: Keith, please take Steph’s ring, place it on her finger and repeat after me: Steph, I give you this ring as a symbol that I choose you, to be my wife, my partner and my best friend today, tomorrow and always. Wear it, think of me, and know that I love you.
You often hear the officiant say, “By the power vested in me by __, I now pronounce you…” It can be more complicated than that, or simpler, and you can have your officiant make a closing statement. A lot of information tells you that this is also a required part of the ceremony, but I never found any documentation that says you must do it – so it could be optional, but how great will that moment of hearing “You’re Married!” be?!
- Officiant: Keith and Steph, in the presence of your family and friends who have joined you to share this moment of joy, you have declared your deep love and affection for each other. You have stated your wish to live together, always open to a deeper, richer friendship and partnership. You have formed your own union, based on respect and honor. Therefore, it is my joyful responsibility to officially acknowledge your union as “Husband and Wife.”
I’ve named this as the action move, because this is where it would be appropriate for the bride and groom do something together. For example, breaking a glass or jumping the broom. We didn’t have anything to do here, and wanted to get right to the kiss!
- Officiant: Congratulations, you may now kiss your bride!
Usually the bride and groom leave first, and you can have your guests toss flowers, wave streamers or do something equally celebratory. We chose to have the officiant ask everyone to stand and we were presented for the first time as Mr. & Mrs.! It helped to ask everyone to stand, to avoid that awkward moment at weddings when a third of the guests stand up, a third stay sitting, and the rest are stuck in that awkward crouch of indecision about two inches above their seats. Of course, if your guests are all standing up—problem solved!
- Officiant: If you will all stand, It is my pleasure to present to you… Mr. and Mrs. Keith Smith!
How incredibly sweet is this ceremony script?! Thank you for sharing, Stephanie! The amount of advice and inspiration that you provided is unbelievable! We know that couples going through the same wedding ceremony writing challenges will find help here! As we said earlier, we’ll be sharing Stephanie and Keith’s cute wedding in just a few weeks. You can see a few preview pics through these two posts!
To find more Washington DC area wedding advice, check out our tips section with everything from flowers to budgets to venue searches. Don’t forget to look through our amazing DC area wedding vendor guide for all the vendors you’ll need to make it happen!