What makes a good wedding ceremony? Tips from a celebrant

Chloe and Alec got engaged up Mont Blanc and so we incorporated a hand fasting into their ceremony using mountaineering rope.   Image by Damian Vickers

Chloe and Alec got engaged up Mont Blanc and so we incorporated a hand fasting into their ceremony using mountaineering rope. Image by Damian Vickers

A lot of wedding style and taste is subjective, but one thing is for sure: everyone wants a good wedding ceremony.

That goes for both you as the couple and your guests – you don’t want to be stood there bored out of your tree, and they don’t want to be sat there falling asleep.

But what MAKES a good wedding ceremony, I hear you ask? Well, as a Humanist wedding celebrant it’s my literal job to create them, so I’m about to tell you. Strap in, notebooks open and pens POISED – I’m about to give you some fun ideas that will take your wedding ceremony from regrettable to unforgettable.

New rituals

Firstly, let’s talk rituals. The ring exchange can certainly be a lovely symbolic moment in your wedding ceremony, but why not incorporate a ritual in your wedding that’s totally unique to you? It’s a joy to get creative in these moments. For example, I recently had a wedding where the brides’ surnames were Flower and Patel – so obviously, we wanted to incorporate florals meaningfully!

In a nod to one of the brides’ Hindu heritage, we put a floral twist on the Hindu seven steps ritual, asking seven friends to lay seven flowers down the aisle. As they stepped over the flowers, they made their commitments to each other.

Have you got chills? I’ve got chills. What an AMAZING MOMENT. Designing new rituals that are personal to you is guaranteed to make your wedding ceremony super impactful (both for you and your guests.)

Music and singing

Kirsty and Reshma danced together up the aisle to Ru Paul Cover Girl. Amazing start to their ceremony!   Image by Lex Fleming

Kirsty and Reshma danced together up the aisle to Ru Paul Cover Girl. Amazing start to their ceremony! Image by Lex Fleming

One of life’s eternal truths is that everyone loves a good sing-song – and if you say you don’t, you’re lying to yourself really!

Including some certifiable bops is a sure-fire way of having a good wedding ceremony - the feeling where everyone’s singing along and everyone’s energy syncs is ELECTRIC. If talk of energy makes you feel a bit weird, just imagine the same warm, fuzzy feeling that you get when you and your loved ones are all singing your hearts out to the final song at a concert or a festival – PURE, UNADULTERATED JOY.

Dancing

Continuing that inimitable feel-good factor (we’re taking festival weddings to a whole different echelon!), I love a wedding ceremony with a dancing element to it. Getting your guests up and dancing you down the aisle – whether it’s shuffling or salsa-ing – is a lovely way to celebrate the big pronouncement.

Ring duty

Another great way to make your wedding ceremony interesting is to forego the traditional ring bearer (sorry, Best Man, but it’s one less thing to worry about, isn’t it?). Why not get your children to hand them over, or your mums together? In fact, why stop at humans? Why not get your dog to be your ring bearer and bring them down the aisle? If your pet is a big part of your life at home, they can definitely be a big part of your day too.

Granny flowergirls

Flower gran cheerfully hurling her petals at Katie and Jon’s South Farm humanist wedding.   Image by Daniel Ackerley.

Flower gran cheerfully hurling her petals at Katie and Jon’s South Farm humanist wedding. Image by Daniel Ackerley.

Or ‘flowergrans’, as they shall henceforth be known. Having your grans walk down the aisle and line it with flowers, petals or confetti (biodegradable, obviously) to pre-empt your arrival will signal to guests that they’re in for an EXCELLENT power hour. It’s also a lovely way of making the ceremony as personal as possible, by including the people who aren’t traditionally included in the lineup but nevertheless had a preeeeetty significant role in getting you there. Shout out to the flowergrans!

Personal vows

Considering my adoration for dog ring bearers and flowergrans, you might think we’ve already covered my favourite personal ceremony ingredient but BUCKLE UP because it’s coming right atcha: personal vows are my absolute favourite way of making a wedding ceremony exceptional, hands down. If couples have written their own vows, it’s always the best part of the ceremony by far.

Everyone else gets involved in your love story, and it’s the most glorious thing – plus, you get to enjoy the palpable surprise (which quickly turns to absolute glee) when your guests realise they’re not going to have to sit through the traditional vows UH-GAIN. A gift for them but most importantly, a gift for you both, hearing some incredible things you’ll potentially never hear again when you’re arguing over the remote.

Getting your guests involved

Natasha and Dan getting emotional reading their personal vows to each other.   Image by Harry J Michael

Natasha and Dan getting emotional reading their personal vows to each other. Image by Harry J Michael

If audience participation is your idea of hell, don’t worry. A lot of the ideas I’ve detailed above get your guests more involved anyway, just by virtue of being interesting. However, there are ways of involving your guests more directly in activities that won’t shake them to the very core.

For example, I love a ‘Mr & Mrs’ game where you see how well you know each other (this also involves ceremony drinking, which I am a big advocate of as we all know.) Other ideas include a warming of the rings, where your rings are passed round your guests to bestow with their well wishes, call and repeat vows – letting you live your stadium-touring Rockstar dreams – and getting everyone to write down what makes you a good couple and reading these out in the ceremony.

A one of a kind ceremony

This is kind of answering the question with the question, but it’s worth saying again until the cows have come home and tucked themselves into cow beds: the best wedding ceremonies are the ones that are unique to you. Humanist wedding ceremonies allow you SO much freedom with how you celebrate your love, and I don’t mean to brag, but all I hear from guests at Humanist weddings is that they’ve never been to a wedding this incredible and unforgettable. You can put all the effort into creating a one-of-a-kind wedding that looks out of this world, but it all falls a bit flat if your ceremony is meh.

We don’t want meh, we want MAGIC. Are you ready to make some? Drop me a line!