Bride-to-be Blogger Stephanie: Starting to Design Our Ceremony

Bride-to-be Blogger Stephanie: Starting to Design Our Ceremony

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This week, I started to loosely map out our wedding ceremony. And while the task is a little daunting and a rather huge undertaking, I’m genuinely excited about it.

I’m thrilled to be able to cater the ceremony to us. My family and Pat’s very much wanted us to get married in a church and have a traditional Catholic ceremony. I, however, was yearning for a ceremony that would move beyond merely a mass (where you only remember you’re at a wedding when the bride and groom stand up at the end) and a ceremony that would enable us to craft our own vows and weave a more personal narrative into the ritual.

The best wedding ceremony I’ve ever witnessed was that of my friends Chrissy and Brian. Standing beside Chrissy as a bridesmaid, I learned so much more about she and Brian as a couple through their ceremony. They met through music, and Brian’s brother, the officiant, did a brilliant job incorporating a music motif into the readings and blessings. The ceremony was about celebrating them, rather than merely the concept of marriage and spirituality.

So I championed for a ceremony outside of the church. And after walking through the outdoor courtyard at the Four Seasons, our families hesitantly consented.

Before embarking on my first attempt at designing the wedding ceremony, I asked Chrissy for help. And since Chrissy is awesome, she sent me over the outline of her entire ceremony. I truly can’t put into words how helpful it is. It’s a starting point in a confusing array of priorities, timelines, and infinite options.

My eyes welled up as soon as I began reading it. I remember how moving it was watching it all unfold last October. I’ve never felt so connected and invested in a wedding ceremony. It was interesting and personal, and because it did not necessarily following the conventional steps, it was compelling. You didn’t know what was coming next. I can only hope to create something as personal and meaningful as they did.

I started the process by researching reading options. A literature major in college, I stumbled upon a passage from Jane Eyre that I love and think is very relevant, as well as a few others from novels. One of the main reasons I’d like to incorporate readings into the ceremony is that I feel it’s an opportunity to include other important people in my life—particularly those I wanted but felt unable to include in my bridal party or Pat in his groomsmen.

I also researched unity rituals, and wow, there are a lot of options ranging from water, sand, wine, candles, and flowers. Is there a unity ritual that you’ve seen that you loved? Are there any you’ve seen that you thought were not so good?

I concluded my first ceremony-designing attempt with researching ceremony songs. When listening to an interlude on the album of one of my favorite bands (Earth, Wind, and Fire) a few weeks ago, I got inspired. I’m thinking it could be the song I walk down the aisle to with my dad. It has a magical quality about it, and it was my Dad who fostered my love for Earth, Wind, and Fire. EWF has a slew of awesome interludes on their albums, and there was one that I always found to be particularly beautiful. When my sister and I uploaded the song to our iPod way back, the artist and song name didn’t transfer. We decided to affectionately name it “Pretty Interlude,” for which my Dad has continually made fun of us for and at which I still laugh when I see it scroll across the screen (yes, I’ve had the same iPod for a very long time).

As for what the bridesmaids might walk up the aisle to, I fell in love with a piano-cellist instrumental version of a song that pops up on my Pandora radio stations all the time. I think the instrumental is more beautiful than the original song. It gives me chills—and confusingly makes me question whether I should have it be my own song. But the interlude has more meaning for my Dad and me. I’ll have to think on it some more.

Several people have also warned me that I might regret not going with something more traditional, like Canon in D. I just love the idea of making every component of the ceremony personal, and I feel like something more traditional isn’t me. But are there any brides out there who walked up the aisle to a non-traditional song and later wished they had stuck with tradition?

I also hate to be so vague, but I’ve decided that I’d really like to keep some things a surprise. As much as I want to share wedding details with all my family and friends, as much as I want to involve them in the process, I think the whole experience will be that much more special with surprises.

My search for a ceremony-exit song proved to be rather fruitless. My band, who will have their duo perform at the ceremony, recommended something a bit more upbeat. And I love that idea. I love that it’s time to set the tone for the rest of the evening: fun! But I struggled to find something that still had some seriousness to it, as well as didn’t require a ton of instrumentation. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

So that’s it for now on the ceremony, but I feel like I’ve made some progress. And most of all, I’m excited. While my excitement level is brimming at the moment, when it comes time to get everyone’s buy-in, I’m worried I might be slightly deflated—as has happened quite often throughout this process. But for now, I feel extremely grateful that we’re going to be able to infuse creativity, personality, and life into something that will have tremendous significance to us for the rest of our lives.

In what ways did you make your ceremony completely personal and a reflection of the two of you? I would love any suggestions you have!

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  • http://www.weddingsbypaul.net Rev Paul

    Don’t forget to include whomever will actually be your officiant in the ceremony planning. They may have readings and ideas all their own. I know that *I* don’t publish all of my readings and ideas on my website, or any other website, because they’re mine — for the benefit of my couples, or prospective couples.

    Additionally, I can tell you that not every officiant (or every speaker of any type) is good at reading/performing every kind of ceremony, or every ‘reading’ contained within the ceremony. A successful ceremony can reply upon inflection, timing, and other factors… simply including a good, or funny, or interesting reading may not be enough to achieve the result you want. :-)