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4 Reasons Why You Should Invest in a Wedding Album

4 Reasons Why You Should Invest in a Wedding Album

When you’re planning a wedding, sometimes deciding on a wedding album is one of the furthest things from your mind. The event hasn’t even happened yet so envisioning how you’ll enjoy the memories of it for years to come can seem super duper abstract. But if you know me, you know I love albums and I think photos shouldn’t just exist on hard drives. I want to share 4 reasons why you should invest in a wedding album as part of your photography package.

1. Tell your story in a tangible way over and over again

Many of us I’m sure can remember flipping through our parents’ or grandparents’ wedding album. I remember when Josh and I were engaged, his mom got out their wedding album for us to flip through together. It’s hard to imagine trying to share these memories with someone through a gallery of 1000 photos or through a Facebook album. A wedding album seeks to tell the story of the day from beginning to end. It’s not just a bunch of prints slipped into sleeves.

Just imagine pulling out your wedding album to show to your children or grandchildren (or heck, just to enjoy together after 40 years). It’s easier than ever to illustrate your story in a way that can be passed down for years to come. A wedding album is the window into the first chapter of your marriage, just like engagement photos are a window into the anticipation of being engaged and getting ready to commit to one another. 

Every anniversary we have, or just any time where we are feeling a little down, Josh and I get out our huge wedding album (I went all out with it, y’all). It’s a whopping 70+ spreads of pure joy from our wedding day. Honestly we never watch our wedding video and we only look at our photos. I never look through the images on my computer, even though I do have them backed up!

album

2. Technology is ever-changing and albums stand the test of time

Remember when floppy disks were all the rage (maybe you don’t if you’re a Gen Z-er)? What about putting things on a CD disc? Apple has removed USB ports from their computers. Technology changes so quickly and we just don’t know what’s next. Photographers have changed the way they deliver photos so many times over just the last decade. Most now don’t even deliver a USB; they use digital gallery tools to send images. And social media sites aren’t great places to archive your photos…who knows if they’ll even be around! Ahem, MySpace!

But you know what never changes? A hard copy of your images in print.

One to of the key reasons why you should invest in a wedding album is to protect your investment. It’s much harder for an album to be corrupted or become completely obsolete. It’s my guess that people will continue printing photos and enjoy albums for many, many years since there is truly nothing like that tactile experience.

3. Enjoy your investment

Weddings aren’t cheap. Photography isn’t cheap. A wedding album is an extra expense, but it pays dividends over the course of its life. Photos are all you have left at the end of your wedding (besides a dress you’ll probably never wear again), so why not enjoy them over and over again?

Most couples forget to print their wedding photos. It took me over a year to get ours up in our house! One day, you’ll realize you never made that album yourself or never printed a photo. How sad is that? After all the effort, the photos sit on social media or your hard drive. 

When you pre-order an album, I’ll ensure you have it just a few months after you walk down the aisle. You’ll be able to enjoy your day over and over again!

4. Quality

With my business, you’re always free to design an album yourself or print photos anywhere you’d like. If you want to make a Shutterfly album for yourself, that’s totally allowed. But I urge you to consider quality; it’s a big reason why you should invest in a wedding album from a professional.

My albums are meant to last. They’re expensive because they’re quality items that you CAN pass down (see reason number one) to future generations. You CAN enjoy them for years. Also, when you order an album through me, you’ll get a white glove experience where I design the album and take care of all the ordering…I make it easy! Around 80 percent of Shutterfly albums go unfinished…don’t let that be you!

Wedding Album FAQs

How much do wedding albums cost?

My wedding albums begin at $400. The cost is dependent on the size and number of spreads in the album.

What’s the different between an album and a book?

I offer both albums and books. Books are printed on press paper, meaning paper like you’d write on (think very heavy cardstock). Albums are printed on professional photographic paper and mounted on cardboard to create pages. Albums are usually thicker and come in higher quality covers.

What’s a spread?

A spread is two pages. We design in spreads because albums and books are lay-flat, meaning the photos can be spread across two pages in a panoramic way.

Do you offer parent albums?

I offer parent albums as an add-on to your album order. Parent albums are exact replicas of your album sold at discount. They must be purchased when you order your album for the discount. 

What are the cover options?

I offer leather, linen, and velvet covers. There are many colors and textures to suite your tastes! You can also choose to engrave or stamp the cover with your names.

How does the design process work?

After you order your album, I’ll send a link for you to select images via your gallery. Or if you’d prefer, I can select images for you. Then I’ll create proofs based on these images and send them to you to approve. Once they’re approved, I’ll order and you should have your album in 7-10 business days. 

To learn more about wedding albums from Madalyn Muncy Photography, visit this page.

COVID-19 & Your Wedding: A Guide to Rescheduling Your Wedding

COVID-19 & Your Wedding: A Guide to Rescheduling Your Wedding

Before you proceed, just take a deep breathe. Know that I’m here for you; your other vendors are here for you; and that we are going to make sure you get hitched!

I know that the prospect of rescheduling or postponing or re-imaginging your wedding is hella stressful. BUT, it can be done! I know it feels overwhelming and things are changing by the day. There are a lot of unknowns at this time, and we will likely know more about the long-term impact of this health crisis soon. This post is meant to prepare you or help you if necessary, not to scare you!

Just like I have a plan for your wedding day (no matter what), I still have a plan. And right now I am here to help you navigate this storm.

If you have to reschedule or postpone your wedding, here is a step-by-step process to help you navigate it!

1. Decide whether you need to reschedule or re-imagine your day.


We are all bound by the law and government mandate. Though the CDC or state may issue guidelines, guidelines are not law. Guidelines are meant to help guide decision-making. If there is a law or mandate by the government, we must follow it. If there are guidelines in place, you will have to decide whether you’d like to follow them. I implore you to try to reschedule or postpone, and not out-right cancel your day (in the name of saving all of your vendors’ small businesses at this scary time). We all ultimately want you to do what’s right for you, so some questions you can ask to help guide your decision:

  • What is the current policy on headcount?
  • Would you be happy with a wedding day with that headcount?
  • Are there elderly guests or guests with health conditions that would miss the wedding? Are they important to you?
  • Are any guests traveling from afar that would have to miss the wedding?
  • Would absent guests diminish your joy on your wedding day?
  • Would you consider a small elopement right now and a larger celebration with everyone in the future?
  • Can you livestream or record the event for those who can’t be there? (I can help with solutions for this)

Re-Imagining Your Day as an Elopement + Future Celebration

If you do decide to forego the reception at this time for an elopement in your backyard, your living room, your favorite park, etc. then reach out to your ceremony venue (you could have two ceremonies if you really wanted to – ha!) to check their policies. You’ll want to reach out to me as well to make sure I know the plan and we can discuss how to make this happen smoothly! I have a ceremony script, know great locations, and will split up your package to make this happen. Elopements and intimate weddings are amazing and a great way to still be married now while saving a big celebration for later. Think, you can wear your dress TWICE! You’ll want to follow the remaining steps if you choose to have a celebration at a later date.

2. If you decide to reschedule any part of your day, get in touch with your venue as soon as you can to determine open 2020-2021 dates.

You’ll want to identify a handful of dates that work for both of you, your families, and your venue. Don’t be afraid to keep weekdays, Fridays, or Sundays in mind. Your people will show up for you! The more flexible you can be, the more likely you can reschedule quickly and easily.

3. Send dates to vendors to see who’s available.

The goal, of course, is to ensure that you find a date that works for the majority, if not all, of your vendors. For my clients, you can see my open dates by visiting this webpage. For others, send an email with the dates you’re considering.

My open dates are updated every time there’s a reschedule or booking. They are first come, first served, but there is plenty of space for everyone! I can make photos in any season look incredible and have experience doing so (hello winter weddings!).

4. Talk with vendors to find a solution that works best for everyone.

If you have a lot of vendors, it might be hard to find a date that works for every single one. If you have only a few, try really really hard to find a date that works for everyone. This is why weekdays, Fridays, and Sundays may help since they’re less popular dates. Some vendors may be able to offer associates (I can do that if necessary!) or if they can make recommendations if that’s not possible. For my clients, I will take care of you either way if you reschedule! Don’t worry!

5. After you decide on everything, get reschedule contracts in place.

You’ll want to refer back to your original contract or your vendor’s guidance for this. There is no fee to reschedule in 2020-2021 for my clients impacted by COVID-19. We will just apply the retainer and any monies paid to a new date, keep the scope of work and package as is, and sign a reschedule agreement that just changes the date for you. Easy peasy.

6. Contact your guests.

This is a great time to post on social media with a link to your wedding website with more information, or send an email, or even print up a new invitation that lets everyone know the plan!

When things seem completely out of control, I hope this guide helps maintain a little control for your decision-making. At the end of the day, no matter what you’re going to be married! That’s what’s important. This is only one storm in a long, beautiful partnership. I promise I will do everything in my power to make this an incredible experience for you, no matter what happens or how you decide to tie the knot. If you need help at any time, please contact me! I am here for you.

How to Choose Wedding Ceremony Music: Wedding Ceremonies Part 4

How to Choose Wedding Ceremony Music: Wedding Ceremonies Part 4

We all know that music can make or break a mood. Throw on a song that doesn’t pop and the dance floor clears. Put on something you can shake and shimmy to and the floor is packed. But for a wedding ceremony, you’re not necessarily relying on a DJ or band to choose music for you. Even in a traditional religious setting, you’re often asked to choose music for your wedding ceremony. How do you choose wedding ceremony music?

Before you choose, what are the major wedding ceremony music selections you’ll probably need to make?

Prelude Songs

These are played before the ceremony while guests gather. Many choose to start playing these pieces 20-30 minutes before the ceremony begins. That equates to 4-6 songs (don’t be like me and pick 3…it means they’ll be on repeat, oops!). Sometimes if couples are having a more traditional wedding, they like to pick the less traditional songs for the prelude music. Prelude music really sets the tone for the ceremony.

Popular prelude songs: “God Only Knows”; “I and Love and You”; “Ho Hey”; “Moonlight Sonata”; “Ave Maria”; “Clair de Lune”; “Crazy Love”; “Make You Feel My Love”

Processional Songs

Usually there are two, one for the wedding party headed down the aisle and one for the bride. The reason for this is to signal the standing of everyone as the bride comes down the aisle, traditionally. But you’re free to choose just one song for everyone to walk to as well. Or some people are now choosing to skip the wedding party walking down the aisle. It’s really up to you.

Popular processional songs: “Canon in D”; “A Thousand Years”; “Air” by Handel; “Can’t Help Falling in Love”; “Book of Love”

how to choose wedding ceremony music

Interlude Songs

These are not necessary, but it’s nice to have music playing during a unity tradition. Or perhaps you have a friend or family member with a music talent they’d like to share (my sister sang Make You Feel My Love by Adele while we did a hand fastening ceremony).

Popular interlude songs: “Ave Maria”; “Perfect”; “The Luckiest”; “Thinking Out Loud”; “Amazed”; “Your Song”

how to choose wedding ceremony music

Recessional Songs

These are always the most celebratory. You’re married, it’s time to party! Recessional songs are played as you recess down the aisle, followed by your wedding party.

Popular recessional songs: ” Lovely Day”; “Happy”; “Can’t Stop the Feeling”; “Love on Top”; “Forever”; “10,000 Hours”; “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”; “At Last”; “You Make My Dreams Come True”

Postlude Songs

As guests filter out of the ceremony space or perhaps linger, it can be nice to have some postlude songs to fill the space. It depends on your venue and how quick you want guests to move out!

Not sure where these songs fit into the larger ceremony structure? Read part one of this blog series on ceremonies.

So how do you choose wedding ceremony music?

I think it first goes back to style and vibe. For instance, if you’re having an untraditional wedding, it might feel weird to hear an organ rendition of “Here Comes the Bride,” the super duper traditional wedding march that we all know. 

The sky is truly the limit when it comes to music and ceremonies. I’ve heard everything from the traditional Canon in D to Hobbits from Lord of the Rings to the Leia love theme from Star Wars played. Really the music can reflect what you love as a couple or the vibe of the day!

You’ve probably already established your vibe and written at least a draft of your ceremony (if not, make sure you read this blog post about writing your ceremony). So now choosing the ceremony music is like the cherry on top. 

You already know your overall music preferences (and if not, talk with your partner). It’s okay to choose country songs if that’s what you both enjoy. It’s cool to pick oldies if that’s more your vibe. Don’t worry about the latest song trends…the important thing to pick songs that resonate with your personalities, preferences, and overall tone for your ceremony. If you’re more untraditional, you can totally go for rock music. If you’re having a more traditional, religious service, maybe you include more classical or religious music. 

how to choose wedding ceremony music

Of course, it’s 100% your call and you know your music preferences better than anyone. For reference, here’s what we played at our wedding:

  • Prelude songs: “The Luckiest” by Ben Folds; “On a Night Like This” by Dave Barnes; “Wild Horses” by The Rolling Stones; and “Crazy Love” by Van Morrison
  • Processional: “The Book of Love” by Gavin James
  • Bridal Processional: “I Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Ingrid Michaelson
  • Interlude: “Make You Feel My Love” sung in the style of Adele by my sister Candace
  • Recessional: “Lovely Day” Bill Withers

We avoided religious songs and played songs that we LIKED. We both tend to enjoy oldies and folk/acoustic pop, so that’s what we played.

To help get you started, I’ve compiled some wedding ceremony songs I like on Spotify. This is geared more towards the non-traditional (as you have more choices), but don’t be scared to literally play some of your favorite movie scores or favorite songs during the ceremony! 

Other Ceremony Tips and Tricks:

how to choose your wedding ceremony music
How to Write Your Own Vows: Ceremony Series Part 3

How to Write Your Own Vows: Ceremony Series Part 3

“To have and to hold.” “To love and cherish.” “Until death do us part.” We have all heard the age-old wedding vows. But what if these vows don’t fit what you’re wanting to promise to your beloved? Writing your own vows can seem daunting at first, but never fear. Here is some advice on how to write your own vows.

I recommend writing most of the ceremony BEFORE writing your vows. Save the vow writing for after you’ve discussed all the things about your ceremony so that you know the tone and understand how you’ve set up your marriage contract or thesis (reference part two of this series if you’re confused and writing your own ceremony).

If you’re not writing your own ceremony but writing your own vows, I suggest reading over your ceremony first to get a sense of the overall tone and what’s already being said. No need to repeat all of the same things or agree to always pick up someone’s dirty laundry when the tone of the ceremony is more serious. It will feel really weird.

What are Your Options for Vows

  1. Write separate vows
  2. Write vows that have similar statements with some personalization
  3. Write vows together that say the same thing but swap out your names

Where Can You Share Your Vows

If you are unable to write personal vows to each other and share them during your ceremony (say because of religious reasons in the ceremony or if you’re nervous to share your heart in front of a crowd), then you can share your vows in a private moment. Perhaps share them during the first look, or take a moment after the ceremony to read them to one another. 

how to write your own vows

Where to Start: Agree on the Parameters

Before you even put the pen to paper, I recommend sitting down with your partner to try to figure out what the parameters around your vows will be. Establishing the approximate length and tone ensures that one person doesn’t have five pages worth of content and the other has a half page. 

Hopefully you’ve already agreed on the vibe and tone of your ceremony (if not, see part two of this ceremony series). Discussing what might be off limits, i.e. we won’t make inside jokes, or no poking fun at each other, as well as approximately how long you’d like the vows to be is important. It’s really awkward when one partner promises some serious stuff in their vows but the other partner jokes their way through them. It’s 100% okay for your personalities to come through, but keeping a similar vibe is important in my opinion.

how to write your own vows

You can also discuss if you’d like to both include some of the same things in your vows. Some couples opt to write a few statements they both include and then let each other say a few sentences they wrote themselves. 

Another thing to consider is if these vows will be secret from each other or will you share them ahead of time to get feedback? It’s up to you!

Ask:

  • How long should our vows be?
  • Should we share jokes or keep things more general?
  • Will the vows be more humorous, sentimental, or both?
  • Are we going to incorporate any religious or cultural traditions?
  • Are we going to say the same vows or include a few of the same statements?
  • Will we write separately or together?
  • Will we share them before wedding day?

Next: Start with a Brain Dump

After you’ve agreed on the parameters, time to start brainstorming. Depending on how you’ve decided to go about writing your vows, you may do these exercises together or apart. Just grab a piece of paper and start jotting down some notes. Nothing fancy needed.

When I wrote my vows, I started with just writing out some of the reasons I was marrying Josh. What did I love about him? Why did I choose him? Why did I want to spend my life with him rather than someone else?

Then I wrote down some of the things I wanted to promise him. What do I want our marriage to look like? How do I want to treat him? What do I promise to always make sure to do? Why did I promise this? 

Once you have some notes, you’ve got a starting point to start writing.

Writing Your Vows

The most important thing is that your vows should come from your heart. I truly mean that. You can always tell if someone feels like they are saying what they think they should say rather than what they actually want to say.

This is the moment to not only tell your person how you feel about them, but more so to make the promises that you intend to keep during your life together. Spend more time on the promises than why that person means so much to you.

I suggest starting with thoughts on why you love your partner and what they mean to you. Sharing an anecdote about how you met or overcoming challenges or why you admire them is a great way to get into the vows. Don’t spend three pages on it, but establish why you have come to conclude you want to marry this person.

how to write your own vows

Then move into what you promise. You can pepper in some of the admiration and things you love into these statements. If you have a fun loving relationship, by all means make sure the promises reflect that. You are free to promise whatever you want, but remember the parameters you set forth.

In closing, I suggest closing with one final big vow. This can be whatever you want it to be, but try to make sure it encapsulates everything you feel about your partner and everything you promised above. If you’ve started with an anecdote, you can also circle back to that and tie everything together.

A Note on the Length of Vows

We have all been to weddings where the maid of honor speech or father of the bride toast is TOO long. I know you’ve been there. Your vows are speeches during the ceremony. Keep them not so long to make sure that you capture the attention of everyone. They’re not a manifesto, they’re vows. 

Other Tips for Writing Your Own Vows

  • Do not wait until last minute to write your vows. Don’t try to write them the night before and don’t think you’ll have time the day of. Set aside some time the month before the wedding to work on them.
  • Read them out loud. Make sure you read your vows out loud and make corrections before the wedding. They are spoken word so make sure everything sounds okay.
  • Don’t try to pile too much into your vows. It’s okay to give the highlights. You don’t have to give a play by play of your relationship in order to make vows special.
  • Don’t be cryptic or embarrassing. No one wants to listen to that on a wedding day, no matter how fun of a relationship you have with your partner.
  • Read vows online. It’s totally okay to see what other people say and how they organized it. But I recommend NOT copying them and just using them for inspiration. You already know why you want to get married. So say that!
  • Make a clean copy for your wedding day. If you don’t want to type them, make sure to copy them cleanly into a vow book. It’s a good idea to give a typed copy to the officiant just in case the vows don’t make it to the ceremony!
how to write your own vows

Sample Vows & Other Vow Writing Resources

Looking for other ceremony resources? Check out other parts of the ceremony series:

how to write your own wedding vows
Wedding Ceremonies Part 2: How to Write a Wedding Ceremony

Wedding Ceremonies Part 2: How to Write a Wedding Ceremony

Last post, we discussed the basic structure of a ceremony, but how do you write a wedding ceremony? Where do you begin?

The first step is to sit down together with a glass of wine or coffee or bourbon or your drink of choice here, turn your phones to silent and talk about some real shit. Maybe you’ve already done this when you got engaged or before you got engaged, but I am a fan of managing expectations for both parties in an agreement.

So How Do You Write a Wedding Ceremony?

I think a HUGE part of writing a wedding ceremony is to first and foremost know mission statement as a couple. I know that sounds corporate AF but hear me out. When you’re making this commitment to each other, you gotta know what that means, for both of you. Yes, it means that you’re going to be together forever, but WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

how to write a wedding ceremony

Your Wedding Ceremony is Essentially Like a Contract

This is what a wedding ceremony seeks to define. Your ceremony is kind of like the contract for your marriage. It states what the hell you’re agreeing to. The first step of how to write a wedding ceremony is to step back and define your terms.

Before nonreligious weddings became a thing (remember only 22% of weddings take place in religious institutions these days), the religious doctrine defined the marriage terms. If you’re planning a nonreligious ceremony or even a ceremony that’s kind of religious-ish, you’re defining the terms of the ceremony and the agreement.

Yes, all you really need to do is agree to be with this person until you die, but it seems like there should be something else said when you’re agreeing to legally bind yourself to someone, amirite?

I am a person who is very into self-reflection and understanding my goals. I brought this into our marriage for sure. Even before we were engaged, we were having conversations about what we wanted our marriage to look like, how we wanted to function together as a married couple, what goals we had for our life together. It doesn’t mean that some of these thing can’t change (they can and they do) but the core of our partnership remains the same, and it’s centered on what we had said at our ceremony and what we said to each other in our vows. More on vows later.

how to write a wedding ceremony

How to Develop Your Mission Statement

First things first, you probably know why you love this person that you’ve agreed to marry. Most likely you’ve told them somehow how you feel about them. Start there. Write that down. It’ll come back to help you when you write your vows.

Now write down (this can be a bulleted list by the way) what you want out of your marriage together. What do you want to do for each other? What are some non-negotiables? How will you treat each other? What is at the core of your love for each other that binds you together?

PS — These are big questions, and I’m not a couples counselor. I would suggest finding one to help you answer these questions if you are having trouble. 

For example, we agreed that we wanted our marriage to be a partnership. We wanted to both share in the household responsibilities. We wanted to capture the fact that love isn’t always grand and perfect, that the real love comes in the little moments, in the daily grind. To us, love isn’t a fairytale, but something that we have chosen to share with each other to help us navigate a life of ups and downs. We also wanted to reiterate that our love must be nurtured and not just something that’s checked off a list since we were now married.

Your list can be long or short and filled with whatever you want. I’m not here to tell you how you should function in marriage or how you should love one another; that’s totally up to you. But actually sitting down and defining what you want your marriage to look like and how you want it to function for you will not only help you write your wedding ceremony, but will also just help you understand what the heck you’re agreeing to.

how to write a wedding ceremony

After you’ve developed your list, write down some statements. They could be:

  • We will be lifelong partners that support each other through the good times and bad.
  • We will always work to bring out the best in each other.
  • We will laugh together always. 
  • We will always resolve our fights before we go to bed.
  • We will make decisions together. 
  • We will stay connected by going on dates once a month throughout our marriage.
  • We believe that marriage is a long journey full of ups and downs and we will constantly affirm our connection to one another.

These are just examples. They can be anything you want them to be. You have the power to define your marriage. 

Once you have a clear indication of what I’m calling the contract of your marriage (cue the sticky note from Grey’s Anatomy, y’all), start writing your ceremony. The mission statement helps you decide the tone of the ceremony which will in turn help you write it. If you don’t have the fundamentals down, you will flounder and become frustrated while piecing together the ceremony.

how to write a wedding ceremony

Decide What Style of Wedding Ceremony You Want to Have

When you’re writing your own ceremony, you get to dictate the terms. Decide together what sort of wedding ceremony you’d like to have. It can be long, short, traditional, non-traditional, spiritual, etc. You can try to fuse religious traditions together or go completely secular. You can research interesting religious traditions that fit with how you feel about marriage and the vibe you want for your ceremony. You can go with traditions that symbolize everything you want to say about your partnership. It’s best to decide what you general style and vibe will be BEFORE you put pen to paper. If you need to consult parents, this would be the time to do it, but make sure that your wishes remain in the forefront and that your ceremony reflects what you both want.

Start Writing Your Ceremony

Ah, the time has come! It’s time to write this bad boy. How to begin?

First thing first, pick a basic structure. Refer back to part one of this blog series on basic ceremony structure and decide what you want to include and what you don’t. Think of the structure as an outline you need to fill in with language that reflects your mission statement. You don’t HAVE to include anything you don’t want to, except the declaration of intent (the “I do”). 

A really common nonreligious wedding ceremony structure is:

  • Prelude/Processional
  • Welcome/Opening Remarks
  • Readings
  • Vows (Including the “I do”)
  • Ring Exchange
  • Unity Tradition (sometimes!)
  • Closing Remarks/Pronouncement of Marriage (the kiss y’all)
  • Recessional

Usually this amounts to fifteen to twenty minutes of content. If you don’t like something in here, THROW IT OUT. There are multiple ways to do each of these elements. Refer back to the basic structures of a ceremony post to understand what each of these elements are if you’ve forgotten.

You can look at ceremony scripts online, but I highly suggest reviewing them closely and tweaking them to fit your own ceremony. The great thing about breaking from the religious traditions and doing your own thing is that you can make it super duper personal which I find to be wonderful. It’s okay to be funny and it’s okay to mention personal things in your ceremony. That’s why you went this route, remember?

how to write a wedding ceremony

Looking for more wedding ceremony writing resources? Here are a few I’d recommend peeking at:

how to write a wedding ceremony
Wedding Ceremony 101: Ceremony Structure and Basics

Wedding Ceremony 101: Ceremony Structure and Basics

So you’re getting married. Yay! You’ve decided to have a wedding ceremony right at your beautiful outdoor venue. But what the heck will you say? What do you do and when do you do it? You need some wedding ceremony 101. In this series, I’ll be taking you through common questions about wedding ceremonies, including the ceremony structure, basics to consider, vow writing, readings, music choice and more.

Weddings have changed a lot over the past twenty years, but one of the largest shift is in the wedding ceremony. According to The Knot’s 2019 Real Weddings Study, only 22 percent of weddings are held in a religious institution. This means that wedding ceremonies are more personalized than ever because there’s no need to necessarily adhere to a specific tradition.

Only 22% of weddings are held in a religious institution.

The Knot 2019 Real Weddings Study

When you’re wedding planning, you’ll make hundreds of decisions. That comes with the territory of throwing a large-scale event. But if you choose to forego any religious tradition or to be married outside of a house of worship, the responsibility of deciding what to include in your wedding ceremony is completely up to you. 

This can seem daunting to couples, even those who have attended countless weddings. When you’re up to bat, it can seem overwhelming. In fact, when I asked my Instagram followers what questions they had during wedding planning, the wedding ceremony came up over and over again. 

wedding ceremony structure

I’m by no means an expert in wedding ceremonies, but I am someone who choose to forego the religious institution and write my own wedding ceremony. I did a lot of research, and spent a lot of time talking to my now-husband about our ceremony, which was something we viewed as very important during the wedding planning process. I’ve also been to a lotttt of different types of weddings during my time as a wedding photographer, both religious and non-religious.

Beyond figuring out where to hold your wedding (I hope you’ve already done that if you’re consulting this blog post), you’ve got to figure out who the heck is going to marry you!

Choosing your officiant 

Unless you live in a state where you can self-declare your marriage, sometimes called self-uniting marriage (looking at Colorado, District of Columbia, Wisconsin, and some other states with Quaker populations), you’re going to need someone to officiate the marriage. In many states, including Michigan, a person must be an ordained minister, magistrate, mayor, or a judge to perform marriage ceremonies. 

This doesn’t mean you’re limited. In the Internet age, it’s pretty simple to be “ordained” online. Many couples are opting to ask a friend or family member to act as their wedding officiant. According to a 2016 Real Weddings survey, 43 percent of couples choose this route, up from 29% in 2009. 

If you hire an officiant, they will most likely be ordained and have some wedding ceremony scripts to show you. They can walk you through what to include in your ceremony and answer questions about specific traditions. They may also write the ceremony for you.

If you opt for the family or friend route, you’ll probably need to take an active role in writing the ceremony. 

Either way, I think it’s important to think about and discuss what YOU BOTH want the ceremony to mean; how you want to say what you want to say; and who is the best fit to facilitate it all. It can be very meaningful to have someone close to you officiate your wedding ceremony. It can also be just as meaningful of a ceremony to hire a professional. I’ve seen both work very well.

So where do you begin with your wedding ceremony structure? Let me give you the basic building blocks.

The Basics of a Wedding Ceremony Structure

wedding ceremony structure

1. The Processional 

This is the part where you enter the ceremony. Many couples choose to include immediate family members including grandparents and parents, seating them during this time. Sometimes, it’s just the wedding party. Sometimes the groom comes down the aisle with the officiant. In Jewish traditions, both partners walk down the aisle with their parents. Josh and I choose to do this at our wedding instead of the “giving away” of the bride. The processional set up is up to you. You don’t HAVE to do anything, you could just enter together if you wanted!

2. The Opening Remarks

Usually the officiant welcomes everyone to the ceremony (think “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today…”). This could include a thank you from the couple, or a quotation, whatever you want it to.

3. The Officiant Addresses the Couple

After an opening statement, the officiant often addresses the couple. If it’s a friend or family member, they may share a memory of the couple. Or they may just emphasize the significance of the vows you’re going to make to each other.

4. Expression of Intent

The whole “I do” thing. This is the moment where you express your intent to marry. In most places, this is legally the only thing you really need. You’re saying, hey I’m here by choice and I do indeed want to marry this person. 

5. Readings

Sometimes couples choose to include readings in their ceremony. Usually in the wedding ceremony structure, readings come before vows. They can be short, they can be long, they can be poems, they can be prose. There are many common Bible readings if you’re from the Christian tradition, but there are also common poems people read at weddings. If there is a special passage that you both love, this would be a great time to share it. Choosing a family member or close friend to share the reading with everyone is a great way to involve others in your ceremony.

wedding ceremony structure

6. The Exchange of Vows

The big moment: the vows! There are a number of ways you can approach your vows. You can both write your own and share them during the ceremony. You can write something together beforehand and repeat it to each other during the ceremony. I think the vows are the most important part of the ceremony. They are the moment you get to declare exactly why you’re getting married and what you’re going to promise to each other. HEAVY stuff. 

7. Exchange of Rings

If you would like, usually the exchange of rings occurs immediately after the vows. You can say something when you exchange rings, or you can just have the officiant say something like “As you place this ring on James’ finger…”

wedding ceremony structure

8. Unity Ceremony & Other Rituals

There are countless unity ceremonies you could perform. Typically you would perform them after the rings and vows are exchanged to symbolize your union. Popular ceremonies include sand ceremony, unity candle, signing of the marriage license, planting a tree, sealing a time capsule box, or hand fastening (that’s what we did). You can have someone perform a song during this time, or you can skip the unity ceremony!

9. The Pronouncement of Marriage

This is the moment when the officiant says “I now pronounce you…” The next few things come quick.

10. The Kiss

Usually couples choose to kiss after they are pronounced married by the officiant. Sometimes the officiant prompts the kiss, sometimes they do not.

11. The Closing Remarks

You may choose to have the officiant state reminders to the guests about the reception or a final blessing before the recessional.

12. The Presentation of the Couple

This is optional, but sometimes the officiant will say, “It’s my honor to present the newlywed couple” or something along those lines before everyone recesses.

13. The Recessional

Typically the recessional is the reverse of the processional. The couple exits together and then the wedding party follows. The parents usually follow after. If you haven’t signed a marriage license yet, usually it’s done right after the recessional.

The Most Important Thing to Remember about Your Wedding Ceremony Structure

There are no right or wrong answers to what should our wedding ceremony structure look like? because it can look like whatever the hell you want it to if you are writing your own or having a friend/family officiant. The beauty in dispelling what’s traditional is that you get to define what your ceremony looks like and means to you both. It’s okay if something isn’t right for you as a couple and someone else chooses to do it at their wedding. That was their wedding. This is yours. Remember that. Just remember to sign the marriage license correctly and send it in. That’s the most important part. Trust me.

Now that you have the basic wedding ceremony structure, I’m sure you have probably a million more questions. My biggest piece of advice is to sit down with your partner and define your wedding ceremony mission statement. Figure out what you want the ceremony to mean to you both. Forget everyone else, what do you want from it? 

Here are some questions to discuss together:

  • How long do we want the ceremony to be?
  • Do we want others to participate in the ceremony? What will their role(s) be? Who will participate?
  • Are we uncomfortable by any certain part of the ceremony? Can we leave that out or alter it to fit our personalities?
  • What type of vows do we want? Do we want to write our own? Do we want to share them publicly?
  • What traditions will we incorporate, if any? Are there any religious/cultural traditions we want to include?
  • What do we believe to be true about marriage and our partnership and how can we infuse those beliefs into our wedding ceremony? —this one is a big question!
wedding ceremony structure

For Josh and I, we knew we wanted a very feminist, non-gender-role-conforming wedding ceremony. We view marriage as a equalitarian partnership and wanted that to shine through our wedding ceremony. We choose to use language that reflected that instead of typical gendered language (we both come from Christian backgrounds). We wanted to include readings because we both like books and poetry and we wanted a way for others to share in the ceremony. We choose a hand fastening unity ceremony because it seemed the most symbolic and simple for us. We had my sister sing a song that we both like during that part. It was pretty short (probably could have been even shorter), sweet, and encapsulated what we believed to be true about the partnership we were embarking on.

It doesn’t have to be the same for you. Remembering that you get to define the ceremony and your marriage is an important first step. Weddings always seem to be a parade of “Aren’t we supposed to do that?” but you don’t have to do anything. You do you. 

Next week, I’ll be covering choosing readings for your wedding ceremony. 

Have any questions about wedding ceremonies you think I should answer? Leave them in the comments!

wedding ceremony 101 basic structure