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Planning your Wedding Ceremony

Posted by Jennifer Constant on Wednesday 9th August 2017
Planning your Wedding Ceremony

You’re engaged! Congratulations! It’s a really exciting time in your life. There are so many wonderful things to organise when planning your big day, including the most important part, the ceremony!

Our group of expert Celebrants have come together to create a list of your do’s and don’ts when it comes to planning your wedding ceremony.

Book the venue

As Celebrants, we can officiate wedding ceremonies in any location, you are free to let your imagination run wild! Ceremonies can be performed on the beach, at a festival, in a stately home or even in a tipi. The options are endless which is fantastic as it opens up so much choice! 

When you’ve chosen your wedding venue, just let them know you are having a Celebrant officiate for you. If you are in the UK, and you have chosen a venue with a wedding license, the venue will be able to offer other non-licensed rooms or locations for the ceremony as a Celebrant ceremony can take place anywhere, so ensure you let them know and have a look around at the options they have.

If you’ve chosen an outdoor venue, ensure there is a backup plan in case of bad weather. This could be anything from a marquee or a simple stack of umbrellas. This is also an opportunity to be creative and fun. 

Pick your Celebrant

Finding your ideal Celebrant comes with lots of questions and choices. Most Celebrants are extremely flexible and offer a huge amount of versatility. Many have officiated in hundreds of different locations, and you will be able to read through their experience and see evidence of this on our site. 

Search for your chosen location and the date you’re looking for a celebrant, then scroll through The Celebrant Directory availability list and save your favourites too! Making contact is easy through the directory, and we believe it’s a good idea to speak with one or multiple Celebrants on the phone, or by something like Skype as you can tell a lot by the sound of their voice! 

Each Celebrant is also likely to offer a slightly different style, so get to know them a bit first as it makes the ceremony so much more personalised and meaningful.

If your Celebrant can offer free consultations, it might be worth meeting up to discuss your ceremony and requirements in person, after all, they are a very important part of your day and you wouldn’t choose a dress without trying it on it first! 

Personalise your script

The words that are said on the day are so important. These words will tell your story, be a reflection of your life together and will bind your commitments as a couple in front of your loved ones. Choosing the right Celebrant means the words that are said on the day should encompass all of these aspects, and more (or less if you choose).

The experience should be tailored just for you. You’ll have an emotional connection with your Celebrant so get to know them, meet them and tell them all about your life together, hopes and dreams for the future and any ideas you have for your ceremony itself. You can share as much as you want to as it only assists a good Celebrant in creating a truly personalised ceremony!

The script can, however, be as personalised as you like, or it can follow a traditional and more formal structure. You have the freedom to decide how it flows and this can be discussed with your Celebrant along the way as its wise to choose your Celebrant as soon as possible so as to secure them for your chosen date and allows you plenty of time to create a bespoke ceremony. 

Perhaps you’d like two readings, or a song? Perhaps you’d like your dog to walk the rings down the aisle? Or you’d like to include a handfasting? All of these little additions will make your ceremony unique and can be discussed with your Celebrant for them to include, or give you inspiration about or take inspiration from you! 

Get your timings right

Once you have chosen where to have the ceremony, consider the distance between your reception and the ceremony, or rather, more importantly, your dressing room to the ceremony as you may want to avoid a long walk once you are ready!

Have a good think about timings too.  How long will it take you to get from A to B on the day, or from B to A after the ceremony? It’s worth taking note to ensure you have enough of it!

Typically, a Celebrant led ceremony will last anywhere between 20-40 minutes and our Celebrant will be on hand to run through any timings so that they are also totally clear about the logistics on the day.

A Celebrant should arrive in plenty of advance time on the day of the ceremony to ensure they make contact with any important people such a best man, the point of contact at the venue, the music person or band, the photographer and any other person in the ceremony such as those doing a reading or taking part in a symbolic ritual. They will put your important people’s minds at rest and will fully take control of the Ceremony on the big day.

Work out the seating arrangements

Ensure there are enough seats for your guests and try not to add too many ‘just in case’ extras. Consider how your photographs will look with lots of empty seats!

It’s a good idea to make a few reservation signs or instruct your groomsmen to not seat people on the front row so there are seats spare for your bridal party. And you may wish to consider saving some allocated seats for anyone doing a reading, but as long as your Celebrant is introduced to them on the day, they can briefly talk them through where they would like them to stand when doing the reading.

Think Choreography

It's often a good idea to have a rehearsal. If you cant get to the venue before the ceremony, just have a little run through at home to ensure you know where you are standing and who is sitting where on the day.

Traditionally, the bridesmaids will walk down the aisle first, filtering either side of the aisle to take a seat. Next up the bride and the person giving her away will walk down and once she reaches the groom, everyone else will take a seat. You could also have your bridesmaids and groomsmen stand for the duration of the ceremony at each side of the aisle if you’d like. With same-sex couples, many choose to walk down the aisle separately with their parents, or some together. The choice really is yours!

These kinds of fine details are entirely your choice and can be tweaked any way you wish with a Celebrant led ceremony!

Decide on readings and poems

From traditional readings, or quotes, through to the lyrics from your favourite songs, it’s easy to personalise your ceremony by choosing to have readings and/or poems.

Take a look at this month’s stack of amazing readings and poem ideas!

Our top tip is to choose a confident speaker who is happy to read. It can be quite a daunting task for some and the last thing you want to do is have them worrying about it or changing their mind on the day! A good Celebrant will seek to put their mind at rest by meeting them before the ceremony on the day and calm any last minute nerves.

Get your playlist in order

If you are having a musician attend, check they have the right equipment required to play. For example, if they need electricity, ensure its available, or ask them to make arrangements to be without. Also, don’t forget to check they have a seat or somewhere assigned to play during the ceremony itself. Your Celebrant will always introduce themselves to the musician so they can ensure they signal them at the right time when starting or stopping music.

If you are have your own music, choose wisely. Check the introduction to the song isn’t too long so you don’t have to wait to start the walk down the aisle or keep your guests standing and waiting. Speak with your venue too so they know what type of music you are having and can get what sound equipment they may need in place. Again, your Celebrant will speak with the person in charge of starting and stopping the music and will signal them at the appropriate time. 

It’s always a good idea to test the music before the ceremony so you know it will be loud enough for everyone to hear. 

Practice your vows

Your ceremony is more than just ‘I do’, it’s a chance to say to each other in your own words why and how you commit your lives to each other.  Many couples opt to write their own vows as it holds more significance and its in your own words.

It’s a good idea to send your vows to your Celebrant so they can make a copy before the day and bring it along. One less thing to worry about!

See our tips on how to write your wedding vows.

Choose a photo policy

Many couples ask Celebrants to inform their guests to not take any photographs during the ceremony as it detracts from the special moment. But this is entirely your choice as you may want to have more photos rather than less or there could be multiple photographers/videographers for instance. You have no limitations whatsoever with a Celebrant.

Some couples also choose to ask guests not to post on social media before the official ones are available.

The great thing about having a Celebrant ceremony is your guests are able to take photos during a certificate signing, for example, which is unlike that of a Registrar service where there are more limitations. The signing of the wedding certificate is a lovely opportunity for your guests to come up to the front or where you're having the ceremony and feel like they're part of it. 

Get ready for the reception       

It’s a great idea to let your Celebrant know what the are plans directly after the ceremony has finished so they can guide your guests if you would like them too. Some couples have an MC or individual such as an usher guiding guests or there are simple instructions for them to see on boards or anything else creative to display them. 

The wedding planner, if you have one, may also take charge of this, but always best to have a plan in place so your guests aren’t left stranded and unsure where to go next.

Most couples will have a handout or form of the order of service to give to guests upon arrival so they know about timings and locations. Your Celebrant should have a copy of this too on the day or can discuss it with the person they liaise with at the venue, such as the best man, groom, wedding venue contact or another person of your choice. 

Your Celebrant will be very experienced in leading ceremonies in different locations and with different styles. Use this excellent resource and talk to your Celebrant about any ideas for the ceremony, the timing and any tweaks you want to have to make it truly personalised. 

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