Your Ultimate Ceremony Guide

Updated: Jun 22

This week’s blog is ALL the things you need to know for your wedding ceremony! Starting with vows and walking through the important stops like choosing an officiant, making sure you’re legally wed (no one wants to forget that step!), altar etiquette and so much more, we are going to help make sure you are all set to strut down that aisle! Let's dive in!



Jessica Thomas Photography


First let’s talk about the most important part of your ceremony - your vows.


How to Vow

Your wedding vows are the most important part of your wedding day. If nothing else matters, your vows should. They are what will bind you in matrimony and represent your commitment to each other. Work closely with your fiancé and your officiant to decide if you want to have traditional, religious, or personal vows.

For traditional or religious vows here's a guide to help get you started. Every state, religion and tradition can vary, and having some inspiration for incorporating them into your ceremony can be a huge help! Be sure to check the local parameters to be sure you hit all the important and binding parts!

If you're writing personal vows, there are lots of things to consider when choosing what to include. Here are some helpful tips on the what's, the how's and the where's:

  • Your vows should reflect upon your relationship and lay out the promises you wish to uphold in your relationship. Some people choose to go all serious while others insert humor into their vows. My brother vowed to always let his wife bring snacks to bed. Funny, but also a serious promise as she is a serious snacker. Another crewmate unfolded a 13 page memoir when it came time to vows… as joke of course, but it made for a huge laugh for the future Mrs. and the guests!


  • Vows should last between 1 to 2 minutes. Pick the most important promises and get at the heart of what marrying this person means to you. I promise that one minute lasts longer than you think, and a concise message straight from the heart has lots loaded into those 60 seconds!

✨W E D D I N G T I P✨: Finding more things you just can’t imagine not saying? Consider writing your future boo a love letter to open while you are all getting ready! They will love the extra love from you before you get to say I Do!

  • WRITE THEM DOWN. WRITE THEM DOWN. WRITE THEM DOWN!! The last thing you want to do is get up there and go blank. Write them down!! Here's an alternative to that piece of paper that may be traveling in a best friend’s pocket or bra! (There are tons of different types of vow keepers and you can even get them personalized)

  • If you're like me and you're terrified of speaking personal words in public (I'm a crier. Big time.) but you still want personal vows, you can choose to recite your vows in a semi private setting (just your photographer, videographer and planner… don’t worry, you won’t even know we are there!) during your first look/touch. This gives you the opportunity to recite vows, get it documented and get the tears out. That being said, it will not guarantee that you won't cry during your repeated vows at the altar but at least you will have a fighting chance!

  • PRACTICE. Recite them in front of the mirror and in front of a trusted friend. Get all the jitters out and practice, practice, practice.

Your vows are personal and however you choose to do them, they will mean the world to you both. Work closely with your officiant - there are some phrases in some states that are required by law to be said for a marriage to be official. Also, have fun with it. It will be a memory that will last a lifetime!!

Have writers block or don’t feel those lovey phrases coming together? If you didn’t know already, there are professional vow writing services to help you craft your vows! This is an amazing add on service to help you be confident in the message you want to give your other half on wedding day. https://www.vowsandspeeches.com

Who’s At The Altar With You?

Next, let’s talk about your officiant. They’re the ones orchestrating the event so they’re a very important thing to check off your list. While we can suggest our local favorites we'd like to leave you with some tips on how to find the perfect match. First we'll give you tips on how to find a professional officiant and then, if you're looking for someone more personal, how to choose which one of your friends or family members. Nailing down an officiant should be done at least 8 months before the wedding. This will help with the timeline! Most of these tips overlap but do read through the whole thing. It only takes a minute!


Anna So Photography

Professional Officiant

The benefit of a professional officiant is that they do this hundreds of times a year. Here’s some tips on how to choose one:

  • See them in action. Either live or on video. Watch an entire ceremony and make sure their vibe fits yours.

  • Get to know them! Ask to have meetings with them and get to know them well. You want your officiant to be able to tell stories or anecdotes about you. Everyone has their own process for gathering these details, so having that process work for you can be a massive game changer in your wedding day vibe.

  • Be honest about your values. You want your values to match.

  • Talk about any special ceremonies (sand ceremony, religious ceremony, unity candle etc) that you want to include.

  • Decide if you are writing your own vows. This will change the ceremony drastically. (Don’t forget, even if you are writing your own vows, there are still many officiant guided sections that are mandatory in most states, so you still have to go with the flow a little bit here)

  • Give a realistic timeline for how long you want your ceremony.

Friend-Officiant

Oftentimes couples choose to have a friend or family member officiate their wedding. If you choose this path, follow the tips above and the tips below:

  • Make sure they can and are comfortable speaking to a crowd.

  • Make sure they are ordained or carry the proper credentials IN YOUR STATE. Here's a website we like: https://www.ulc.org/. In Florida, a Notary of the Public can also marry a couple if you or your friends would like a secular option.

  • Your friend is doing you an honor and a favor, so we always recommend to be sure to cover their expenses for getting ordained.

  • Make sure you choose someone responsible enough to send in your marriage license for you. You don't want this to be the reason you're not legally married.

  • Read their script or write it together with them to make sure everything you want is included. Make sure they know the list of things they are legally bound to say during the ceremony as well.

  • Talk about timing! Be sure they are comfortable practicing and knowing how long the ceremony will go.


Legally Wed … don’t want to miss this on

e!

Next on our list is the marriage license. Kind of essential for getting married!! Below are the guidelines based on the state of Florida but this might vary depending on where you live.

  • Marriage licenses are issued by counties but you can get married in any county regardless of where you obtained our marriage license.

  • Identification: a picture ID such as a driver's license, state ID card, or valid passport; both parties will also have to provide their Social Security numbers, but do not need to provide their Social Security Cards.

  • Fees: $93.50. Marriage license fees can be reduced by up to $32.50 if you complete a licensed Florida pre-marital course.

  • Marriage license is valid for 60 days and you must perform the ceremony before this 60 days has expired.

  • There is a 3 day waiting period before you can get married unless you complete the premarital course in which case the waiting period is waved. (You would be surprised how often that three day mark is a little too close! Don’t be late!)

Now that we got all of the essential information out of the way, let’s talk about the fun stuff!

William Arthur Photography

Unplugged Ceremonies

Chelsea, our lead coordinator extraordinaire, says she has a beautiful photo from her wedding of her and her dad walking down the aisle. It’s blow up and print worthy in every way except for the photobomber with their camera phone leaning into the aisle. Now while you can certainly get this photoshopped out there’s a simple way to avoid this. Ask your guests to follow the Unplugged Ceremony rule. Have your officiant, or coordinator, make an announcement at the beginning of the ceremony. You can do it with a sign at the entrance as well! Here’s some verbiage we like to use:

  • “We’ve asked a professional photographer to capture this special moment so that you can sit back, relax and enjoy it with us. Our beautiful images will be available after the wedding.”

  • “There’s a pro here taking pictures – we asked them to come. Please rest your cameras as our ceremony only needs one!”

  • “As we tie the knot, please be our guest. Our photographer will take care of the rest!”

  • “Please turn off your cameras and devices until after the ceremony. We want to see your lovely faces and happy smiles!”

  • “We’re so glad you’re here! Please stow away your phones and cameras until the reception. We promise to share the beautiful pictures taken today.”

  • “The bride and groom have requested that everyone be fully present during the ceremony and ask that you please keep your cameras away. They have a photographer here and will be happy to share photos of the ceremony with you later. Cameras are absolutely welcome after the ceremony is complete.”


Reserving Appropriate Seats

Most times the front rows are reserved for immediate family members. Traditionally the bride usually stands on the left (facing the altar) and the groom on the right. Two ways to remember this: 1) traditionally the groom needed to keep his sword fighting hand free to ward off any potential bride thieves. Apparently stealing maidens on their wedding night was a sport back in the day. 2) It’s the last time the groom will be “right”. 😉


Usually this means that the bride’s side of the family and friends sit on the right and the groom’s on the left. A lot of couples are throwing this tradition out the window - “Pick a seat, not a side, we’re all family once the knot is tied!”. This also eliminates the need for ushers. Another tradition couples are challenging is having their parents sit on opposite sides of the aisle, still in the front row, but so that they can see their children’s faces, not the backs of their heads.


In the end it’s up to you where you want everyone to sit (or stand) but be sure to tell those special people if they’ve got a seat reserved for them in the front row!


W E D D I N G T I P: Practice the hand off from the person giving you away to your partner during rehearsal. Perhaps hug the person handing you off and have them shake hands with or hug your fiancé. But practice this so it's not awkward!


Jessica Thomas Photography


Flower Girls… Flower Grandma’s… or Flower Men… You Decide!

Traditionally speaking, a flower girl prepares the aisle for the bride by throwing flower petals down behind her and capturing the audience with her adorable cherub face. This makes for a cute “awww” moment and includes that special little girl in your life. But what if you’re not having children at your wedding, or all the special little girls in your life have grown up past poofy dresses and hair bows? What do you do then? Some couples are leaning towards the new tradition of flower men. They’re always a laugh and never disappoint. You can dress them in coordinating colors like you would a flower girl and they can throw flowers from a basket or a fanny pack! Can’t use petals at your venue? Consider handing out shooters or beers instead! Granny in a flower petal fanny is ALWAYS a show stopper too. The options are endless and you get to choose what fits best for your day!


Choosing Songs

There are a few songs you typically need for your ceremony.

  • Prelude songs - songs to welcome your guests as they begin to sit down

  • Processional Songs - songs for going down the aisle

  • Song for the parents (and any other guests of honor that may be walking down)

  • Song for groom and bridal party

  • Song for bride

  • Recessional song - song to celebrate and come down the aisle with your honey to!

Sound overwhelming? There’s no hard rule that says each group needs their own song. Feeling one great instrumental for the family and bridal party? Then let that song roll! Make the ceremony uniquely yours, but if the details are boggin’ you down, don’t sweat them. Don’t be afraid to ask your DJ for suggestions too - they always have great ideas for these songs!

Shelbi Demartino Photography


Your ceremony is as unique as you are, make it show you and your fiancé's personalities and demonstrate your beautiful relationship. No matter which details you choose to include, or not include, the most important part is that you include your deep feelings for one another.


If you have any questions regarding this blog or how to create your perfect ceremony, feel free to ask us in the comments or schedule a consultation call to go over all the details!


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