Okay, so here’s the thing; civil wedding ceremonies (in Australia, at least) can be as wacky or subdued, formal or relaxed, modern or traditional as you and your fiancé want. All you need is an experienced and willing celebrant to guide and support you (call me) and the intent to make your marriage ceremony one that your guests won’t sleep through.
So the truth of the matter is, there are no rules. But in the interests of giving you something to work with, here are my 9 new-world rules of wedding ceremonies.
1. Understand expectations and how they work. Your family and friends will all have different ideas and expectations when they hear the word “wedding”. Their perspectives come from a lifetime of different experiences and can also be influenced by their age, culture, religious beliefs, you name it. Although you don’t want to whip yourself into a frenzy worrying about what everyone else thinks, it can be very smart to have a handful of honest discussions with your immediate family before you start planning your ceremony. Sometimes parents expect that you will ask them to participate in your planning, ceremony or reception in certain ways and feel overlooked or disrespected if you are not on the same page as them.
Sometimes brothers and sisters expect that because you were the groomsmen or bridesmaid at their wedding, that they should be asked to be included in your bridal party too. Sometimes immediate family members have a burning, and as yet unexpressed, desire to do a reading or perform a song during your ceremony. Although you and your fiancé may choose (and have every right) not to incorporate other people’s wishes into your ceremony, it’s better to make informed decisions now than to discover what their expectations were (and have to deal with the hurt feelings) after your big day.
2. Write down your ‘top 3’ as a couple, put them on the fridge and refer to them often (if you don’t know what I mean, have a read of 'Staying true to you; your top 3').
3. Express yourselves. If you and your fiancé are hard-core computer geeks, football fans, music nuts, foodies etc. (you get the idea), let your freak flag fly and include your passions in your ceremony. It’s what you love about each other and it’s what your family and friends know and love you for too.
4. Change up the processional. That’s the walking down the aisle bit. Custom and tradition dictate that the bride's mother enters first, followed by the groomsmen, best man, the groom, the officiant (celebrant), the bridesmaids, matron/maid of honour, flower girls and page boys and finally the father of the bride and the bride. Yawn!
Make your ceremony your own, right from the very start. If you want your entire family to escort you down the aisle playing musical instruments or just your best friend, your dog or even your fiancé — do it! Do it.
5. Your bridal party (bridesmaids/groomsmen) can include everyone, anyone or no one. Again, old fashioned rules are just that. Have a think about including your grandparents, your dance troupe or your hockey team members raising their sticks in a guard of honour..
6. Work the ceremony set-up to suit you. You can choose to have allocated seating for your family members and ‘sides’ for your guests if you want, or not. You can have your bridal party flanking you and your fiancé in the traditional church way, or encircling you in a spiral shape, or sitting down during the ceremony in the 2nd row—whatever works for you. Once you decide these finer points about your ceremony, just be sure to communicate them with everyone so they know what is expected of them on the day.
7. A ‘first look’ is not bad luck, it’s smart. Some couples are opting to have their professional photos taken before their wedding ceremony. Think about it; you’re freshly made-up and you get to see each other before the rest of your guests do. You can take some time to just be together without the added pressure of knowing that you need to get back to your guests or rush your photos because of fading daylight. It also means that your ceremony is likely to be more relaxed because you’ve already seen and spoken with each other.
8. Unplugged ceremonies are gaining in popularity and here’s why.. I chat with professional wedding photographers frequently and it can be quite frustrating for them to have some of their shots compromised by competing camera flashes and the odd tablet being thrust into the aisle by excited wedding guests. Why should I care (I hear you ask)? If your guests are experiencing your ceremony from behind a screen or down a lens, it means that they are focused on something other than the reason they were invited in the first place. And it also means that during the ceremony, when you and your fiancé look to your family and friends for support, you will be met with a sea of Apple/Samsung logos rather than their smiling/laughing/crying faces.
Some couples draw the line at phones and tablets, others don't want photos posted on social media until they have the chance to and others just want you to check everything (your phone, tablet, camera, DSLR) at the door. Make a decision with your fiancé that you will feel comfortable with now and in the future and again, communicate it clearly and in advance to your guests.
9. Take/make the time to enjoy every moment. Make sure that your celebrant allows you a couple of little pockets of time during your ceremony to breathe, look at each other and say ‘holy hell, this is it!” It will help you to remember and enjoy your ceremony, slow your heart from racing and make you smile too — and that’s always in style.
How are you planning to, or already have, personalise your wedding ceremony? Let me know in the comments.