If you are reading this, you are probably getting married soon. Congratulations! Have you thought about the ceremony itself? Perhaps your wedding ceremony experience is already in the top three priorities for your wedding day and you are brimming with ideas. Maybe you are considering breezing through the ceremony because you do not want to be the center of attention or because you are not religious and do not think there is a lot to say or do for the ceremony. Maybe you have just never pictured yourself as someone who would have a wedding but your partner wants one and you are seeking out ideas. I would like this post to be a little oasis for you where you can pause and think about the actual ceremony and not all of the stuff surrounding it.
This post is inspired by Rev. Maureen Cotton who you can find at her website here or on Instagram. She always posts inspiring content to help couples think about their ceremony apart from the trappings of wedding industry culture and I am using one of her Instagram posts as a writing prompt.
Let us start by coming to agreement around the premise that your wedding ceremony is not entertainment for your guests. You would be forgiven for thinking otherwise because it does sometimes feel like a big production with planners and coordinators and musicians and microphones and cue sheets. While these and other vendors are extremely helpful in making everything run smoothly, their presence should not make you feel like you are being put on stage to act out a scene, taking on the roles of two people getting married. If that is what you are imagining, know that you can absolutely have a better, more real experience. You do not owe anyone a picture perfect moment. You do not owe social media a hashtag-able glimpse into your life just because you are getting married. If flowers and nice clothes make you feel special, then include them as part of your day. If you are including anything because you think you should, it is ok to think again.
Think of your ceremony as a gift to your guests - a gift of time and connection.
The people you want there and the people who want to be there all want to connect with you and have a shared experience. Everyone spends the day of your wedding getting ready for it, thinking about the couple, the family and friends they will see again and the new people they will meet. The ceremony is when everyone comes together for the first time and it will set the tone for the rest of the day/night. Acknowledge your guests and the time and place in which you are all gathering. Acknowledge the travel and effort it takes to bring everyone together. When was the last time family or friends gathered together? What happened since that time that you could acknowledge and give space to? It does not have to be much, but speaking to something in that ceremonial space can make it so special for everyone there.
Give your guests the gift of knowing you and your partner better. The details you include are up to you, but it is important to share your love story while you have everyone gathered. Do not assume that everyone will be bored hearing parts of it repeated. Humans love stories. Sharing your love story in ceremony makes everyone a part of that story in a new way. They get to hear and feel how they are connected to you and all of your other guests.
Give your guests, through your wedding ceremony, a chance to set down the cares of the weary world, renew their personal understanding of love and commitment, and to fill their hearts. We ask so much of ourselves as we speed through life from one activity to the next. Time to sit and reflect on our lives is precious. Instead of your ceremony being something you have to rush through to get on to the next thing on the itinerary, make it an oasis in which you can relax and regenerate. Take time to simply breathe together. Know that however you choose to express your love and commitment to each other, you will influence those loved ones who showed up for you. It may feel vulnerable to stand and be seen, but if you rush through or hide your love and commitment ceremony, you deny the opportunity to connect with your loved ones on a deeper level. The more chances we have to express or see or experience love, the more it grows and the more we grow to contain it.
Ultimately your wedding ceremony is about your marriage not your wedding day so reframe it that way in your mind and see how clear and simple and nourishing your thoughts become around your ceremony. When you think about the values you bring into your marriage, into your relationship, those become the highlights of your wedding ceremony. Those become the connections that bind you to each other and bind your guests to you. It does not take much and it does not have to take a long time, but consider that it may take someone who knows how to hold that space.