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?
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 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.
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.
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:
- Welcome/Opening Remarks
- Vows (Including the “I do”)
- Ring Exchange
- Unity Tradition (sometimes!)
- Closing Remarks/Pronouncement of Marriage (the kiss y’all)
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?