How to Plan the Perfect Wedding Ceremony

We managed to squeeze our wedding ceremony in just before the pandemic hit in late November of 2019. I can’t believe it’s almost been two years of marriage.

I’ll be honest…not quite how I pictured my first couple years of marriage!

I didn’t always love being a bride, but I do love being married. In thinking back over our wedding ceremony, I was able to pick out so many tips and tricks I’ve been passing on to friends as they get engaged. Let’s dive in to all my suggestions as a recent bride for how to make your wedding ceremony go off without a hitch.

Or like – get hitched.

low waste wedding ideas

How to plan the perfect wedding ceremony.

Find an officiant who aligns with your values.

Hands down, the most important aspect of your wedding ceremony other than you and your partner is the officiant you choose. Your officiant serves not only as the one to make your marriage official in the eyes of the legal system – but also as the MC who sets the tone for your ceremony. Officiants control the pace, the emotion, and dare I say it, even the entire mood. Officiants can make or break a ceremony.

I highly recommend working with an officiant who aligns with the personal values of you and your partner. Find an officiant who believes what you believe and takes the time to learn about you as a couple. You don’t have to have your BFF be your officiant – a great officiant gets to know you regardless of how long they’ve known you.

If you’re in the Bay Area, I can’t recommend our officiant enough. My husband is culturally Jewish while I am spiritual, floating between Deist and Pagan. It was important to my husband and his family that we observed many of the Jewish wedding traditions – and our officiant managed to do so while also keeping things feeling safe, spiritual, and personal.

Have your officiant make note of any special guests.

Transparently I had no idea this was something officiants could do, but ours suggested it! Our officiant asked us if we had any special, important people living or not that we’d like to honor and acknowledge at the start of the wedding ceremony. We thought this was such a beautiful idea. We kindly had our officiant pay homage to passed away grandparents among other important guests that are living, but unable to travel due to disability or illness. This sentiment was beautiful, because it made us feel like all these people were with us on our big day even if they couldn’t physically be present.

Provide your officiant with readings.

Optional readings was another suggestion from our officiant – otherwise I also never would have considered this either! Our officiant asked us if we had any passages, quotes, or poems that felt special to us. We passed along:

  • A quote from Einstein on relativity: “Gravitation cannot be held responsible for people falling in love. How on earth can you explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a biological phenomenon as first love? Put your hand on a stove for a minute and it seems like an hour. Sit with that special girl for an hour and it seems like a minute. That’s relativity.”
  • A passage called, “All I ever really needed to know I learned in Kindergarden.”
  • A passage called “Blessing of the hands.”

While I had really never considered any ideas for readings at our wedding ceremony prior to the suggestion – on the day of it all came together beautifully. We chose not to recite our vows publicly (more on that later), so these readings actually helped fill in the extra space nicely.

Ask your officiant to step aside when it’s time for the big kiss.

Our officiant was a pro so he already knew to do this – but I definitely recommend kindly reminding your officiant to quickly step to the side after pronouncing you married and as you go in for the sealing kiss. Your first kiss as a married couple makes for an unforgettable photograph that definitely looks its best when there’s no other humans in the background.

san-francisco-wedding-julia-morgan

Work on a wedding ceremony script in partnership with your officiant.

Great officiants are collaborative. I highly recommend partnering with your officiant to create some wedding ceremony guidelines, come up with a timeline, and maybe even have a bit of a trial run for what will be said. Our officiant improvised a little on the day of – and we loved that! We chose our officiant because we loved his personality and he made us feel safe and heard. But we also had worked so closely together for months that we felt like if there were going to be any wild cards on our big day, he wasn’t one of them.

Opt for an unplugged ceremony.

I personally felt very strongly about having a truly unplugged ceremony and worked with our officiant to make this point clear to our guests. We live in such a fast paced world where people are constantly plugged into their phones. For just this one moment – I wanted it to be about those of us in the room and nothing else.

We also paid a lot for our photographer, so I didn’t want blurry iPhone photos to hit the internet before our professional photographer photos did.

If you’re like me and wish to have an unplugged ceremony, I recommend doing everything you can to kindly but firmly stress this to your guests on the day of the ceremony. We had a large “unplugged ceremony” sign printed up and on display when you entered our wedding venue. We also asked our officiant to make an announcement at the start of the ceremony – not to ask guests to silence their phone but explicitly to not have their phones out and not take photos.

It’s totally possible to be firm, but polite at the same time about your wedding ceremony preferences and requests! Asking guests to keep their phones away doesn’t make you rude. This is your moment.

san-francisco-wedding-julia-morgan

Decide on a vow exchange that makes you most comfortable.

It’s okay to break from tradition. Many religions require specific vows and in many wedding ceremonies it is often expected to recite specific vows publicly. In my opinion? It’s your wedding ceremony – it’s all up for discussion.

Will you write your own vows?

Personal wedding vows can feel like a whole lot of pressure! I will admit – I recommend writing your own vows. I think a blog post packed with wedding ceremony ideas would be amiss if it didn’t include the suggestion to write your own vows. Personal vows feel really personal.

That said – the wedding day can feel stressful enough as it is. If you’re someone that finds the idea of writing your own vows terrifying, have a heart to heart with your partner about if more scripted, traditional vows could make sense.

Where will you recite your vows?

The time and place of reciting your vows doesn’t have to be a given. Yes, the standard ceremony order would include vows being read in front of the entire guest list – but traditions are okay to break.

I personally felt like the wedding ceremony was a very vulnerable moment. I had a lot of really personal, private promises I wanted to make to my husband. A good chunk of my vows were things I really wanted to say to him on our wedding day – but I didn’t feel comfortable saying those things in front of coworkers or plus ones I barely knew. Our officiant recommended we exchange vows in front of our bridal party and immediate family prior to the larger ceremony – and I loved that. I also wrote my husband a letter to read on the morning of our wedding, which contained some sentiments just for the two of us.

Pro tip: design an extra wide aisle.

This may seem like a weird tip – but trust me. Even if your florist and coordinator promise the aisle will be wide: ask for the aisle to be made 1-2 feet wider than planned. My husband and I had both our parents walk us down the aisle. Our aisle seemed wide enough at first, but by the time we got me, my dress, and two additional humans into the equation it felt like a claustrophobic tight squeeze. My mom even ended up tripping on my veil and having to scoot around to walk behind me about halfway down the aisle.

My wedding isn’t the only example I have of an instance where a wider aisle could’ve done a lot of wonders. I attended a wedding with a candlelit aisle and saw a mother of the bride’s dress nearly go up in flames on the walk down.

Trust me – widen the aisle.

san-francisco-wedding-julia-morgan

san-francisco-wedding-julia-morgan

san-francisco-wedding-julia-morgan

san-francisco-wedding-julia-morgan

Pick wedding ceremony songs that are personal to you.

Couples are always pretty quick to create playlists for the wedding reception – but don’t forget the ceremony music! Music can really set the tone of your ceremony. All in all, I recommend choosing music for the wedding party to walk down the aisle to, potentially an individual song for the groom, and definitely a song for the bride. We chose, again, to buck tradition and not play the traditional wedding march song. We opted instead for classical renditions of some of our contemporary favorites (yes – I did walk down the aisle to a classical version of Sweet Child O’ Mine).

Design your altar thinking of the photos.

The wedding ceremony will be over in a flash, but the photos last forever. When going through the process of wedding plan, take extra care for the visuals of your altar and aisle. Unlike designing areas throughout the wedding reception, the ceremony is really a one-set wonder – meaning a ton of photos will be taken in this one setting. From the floral arrangements to the lighting to the backdrop, give your ceremony space a little extra love so that the photos stand out! You won’t regret the attention to detail later.

Another option: pick wedding venues that need very little decor.

On a budget? Us too, LOL. Weddings are expensive! You can honestly save a ton of money on flowers and decor when the venue itself has a history, a personality, and shines on its own. We got married at the historic Julia Morgan Ballroom. To try to decorate that ballroom in excess would be a crime. We opted for a fairly simple candlelit aisle with minimal flowers and heavy foliage on our minimalist chuppah. Because the venue itself is so gorgeous, we didn’t have to spend a ton to make the ceremony space look romantic.

san-francisco-wedding-julia-morgan

Pause for a photo at the end of the aisle.

Photographers know to snap a photo of the first kiss as a couple at the altar – but ask your photographer to also snap a shot of a kiss at the end of the aisle to capture the full magic of the moment. Kisses at the end of the aisle get not only the couple and the kiss in frame, but also the energy of the crowd and the ambiance of the venue. Pausing for this one extra shot takes an additional 2-3 seconds and makes a huge impact. I personally love our end of aisle photo far more than our altar photo.

san-francisco-wedding-julia-morgan

san-francisco-wedding-julia-morgan

Know that hiccups are normal.

Your wedding ceremony – hell, your wedding day – will likely not go exactly to plan. And that’s okay. That’s normal.

I still sometimes cringe when I think of my mom tripping on my veil on her way down the aisle. But then I chuckle, laugh, and remember we’re all humans. No , weddings aren’t just like the movies make them out to be. Your ring bearer might do snow angels in the flower petals on the aisle floor (yep – we have a friend who had this happen LOL!). Your wedding favors might go missing. Your flower girl might trip. Stuff happens! And it’s okay. The important thing is that you and your partner are getting married. The rest of it is just a party.

It’s okay to challenge old traditions.

The wedding planning process is laced with so many traditions. Brides (and grooms alike) have grown – many of us want to push boundaries that sometimes make family uncomfortable. As a bride who tried to honor the traditions while also making our wedding feel like us – I highly suggest holding your ground about things that matter most to you.

Make a list of all the things that matter most to you in your wedding, be it the food, the color scheme, the venue, the music, galore. Have your partner and each of your parents do the same. Try to keep this list to five things maximum – and start to compare.

I really cared about the colors of our wedding and while my mother in law didn’t love the idea of black as a wedding color, it mattered a ton to me. I’m really happy we kept all the black accents because I feel like aesthetically this wedding was truly representative of my style. For my in laws, the overall Russian style of the wedding was the most important – so we honored that!

Traditions are beautiful and important – I’m definitely not against a traditional wedding ceremony. It’s all about finding the right balance between the old and the new.

Planning a wedding ceremony? Drop your tips and tricks in the comments below!

*Blondes & Bagels uses affiliate links. Please read the disclaimer for more info.

Comments are closed.