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Not Just Any “I Do” ~ Creating a Unique, Meaningful Wedding Ceremony

Lissin Lev Chaya

Now what?  The fairy tale moment of the proposal and the excitement of being newly engaged has quickly become the ocean of wedding planning.   There is so much information about wedding planning: colors, trends, styles, table pieces, capturing the moment ~ but where is information about the ceremony?  

Weddings have one thing in common.  A ceremony.   Whether public or private, without a ceremony, your wedding would be just another party.  

So many couples say it was all such a blur ~ they don’t even remember their ceremony.  So how can you make your wedding ceremony mean something for you? What elements can you include that honor the uniqueness of your relationship as you cross the threshold into marriage?  How can you be truly present and engaged with your Beloved and your community?  In this post you'll learn ways your ceremony can be the heart of your wedding event, infusing your energy and intention into all parts of your celebration.

We’ve all been there ~ sitting at a wedding ceremony looking at our watches wondering when it will be over and we can get to the bar.  For me, it was my cousin’s wedding that made me long for more, for depth, for something real.  The judge officiating actually said “Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today…” and the next 15 minutes went on like that, lifted directly from the quintessential television wedding. 

Ribbon Tying Ceremony, photo by  Robert Stewart of Artseed

Ribbon Tying Ceremony, photo by Robert Stewart of Artseed

Many people don’t realize they actually have a choice in what their ceremony looks and sounds like. 

If you are having a traditional wedding in a religious institution there may be little or no flexibility, but for the majority of couples who get married outside of the church, temple or mosque, the possibilities can be endless.  When it’s your turn to stand at the altar (or under a tree, or by the ocean, or next to the merry-go-round, or in the courtyard, or ballroom, or wherever) let’s make it special.

Creating Your Unique Ceremony

There are many elements to creating a conscious wedding ceremony.  Here’s an exercise to get you started based on a few questions I ask couples when I meet with them for the first time:

*First, find a time to be together without interruption for a half hour to an hour.

*Before you begin, gather pens and paper and create a “love nest” ~  a special space to be together in.  Maybe you’re outside at a park under a tree with a bottle of wine.  Maybe you’re in your kitchen at the table with chocolate and tea, or in the living room with a candle.   Something that will create time outside of the ordinary.

*Begin by facing each other in a comfortable, seated position.  Take each other’s hands, and look into your Beloved’s eyes.  Breathe.  Connect.  Come back to why you’re getting married in the first place.  Take at least 5 breaths together, more if you want.  When you’re ready, each find your own space and get ready to write.  You can answer the questions all at once and then share, or set a timer for each question and share in between.  Remember, there are no wrong answers.

The Questions:

What are your dreams and visions for your wedding ceremony?

How would you like to feel at the end of your ceremony?

What would you like your guests to remember about your ceremony?

Are there any traditions from your religion or cultural heritage that you would like to include?  If yes, what meaning to these traditions have to *you*?

This is a great start.  Take time to discuss your answers together, and use them to create the ceremony of your dreams.  One step in creating an awesome ceremony is choosing your perfect officiant.

Choosing Your Officiant

Deciding who will stand before you and hold your ceremony space is a highly personal decision.  For some, going to the county courthouse is just perfect.  Others have a trusted Rabbi, Priest, or Spiritual Leader who will no doubt perform their ceremony.  But for the high percentage of couples who want a meaningful ceremony, but don’t have a religious affiliation, they don’t know where to turn.

In many states a friend can be ordained for the day and officiate your ceremony.  Here in California, it’s easy to do.  In fact, I started down this path because my dear friends Aaron and Kari asked me to officiate their wedding.   A few things to think about before asking the class clown from University or Uncle Eddie to be your officiant:

*Will it feel good and joyful to be standing up there with that person?

*Are they comfortable speaking in front of a crowd?  Will they be heard?

*Will they write the ceremony or will you?  It’s important to be clear on everyone’s expectations of each other.  Some officiants, including myself, offer Ceremony writing support and consultations for people officiating for the first time.

The other choice is to hire a professional.  And like the myriad of options for every aspect of your wedding, there are lots of professional officiants out there, each offering different levels of service.

Some officiants personalize your ceremony by letting you choose from pre-written templates, mixing and matching certain readings, and choosing or writing your own vows.  For many, that level of personalization gives them just the right input.

Other couples want something that has never been done before, with a ceremony that focuses on their love story and symbolism that is authentic to them.  For these couples, I recommend working with a Certified Life-Cycle Celebrant®.  To find a Life-Cycle Celebrant® in your area, contact the Celebrant Foundation and Institute

Meeting with three to five different Celebrants and Officiants to see who feels best for you can really give you insight into everyone’s unique style.  Each Celebrant brings their own gifts to the table, and not everyone is right for every couple. Many officiants offer complimentary meetings to get to know each other.  When you are sitting with your potential officiant, close your eyes and ask yourself ~ “Can I imagine this person standing with us during this important milestone?”

Your wedding ceremony can be anything you want it to be.  You want your guests in a circle as you invoke the elements of nature, sweet!  You want to exchange dog collars instead of rings, go for it!   You want your guests to serenade you as you recess into the sunset, wonderful!   Let your ceremony springboard you into your wedding celebration and the rest of your life together in love, joy and celebration.