Planning your wedding ceremony

posted in: examples of work, Weddings | 0

Pasties & Petticoats blog 4

When you plan your wedding, you need to put as much thought into the ceremony itself as you do to the dress, or the flowers.  I’ve talked about the vows in another blog post, but here I’m going to be talking about the rest of the ceremony. 


As the bride walks into the church or venue, and as the bride and groom leave afterwards, it’s customary to have some music.  You can choose something sedate or joyful, traditional or modern, recorded or live, sung or instrumental.  But check the words for the second and third verses are appropriate to the occasion, just to be on the safe side, and Google the piece of music to make sure it’s not bee used in an advert on TV for loo roll or something!

If you’re having a church or religious service, you’ll probably want to have hymns or songs during the service.  If you and your partner are regular members of the congregation, you may well have favourite songs.  However, it can be uncomfortable if half the wedding guests are singing with gusto, and half are attempting to fit unfamiliar words to an unknown tune, or standing mutely as they don’t believe the sentiments being uttered.  Choosing well known hymns or songs can be the way to go, to minimise the number of people who are uncomfortable, but it’s your choice.

However, do make sure that you’ve got the same words for everyone.  Either print them in the order of service (with the correct copyright and attribution to the author and composer), or hand out hymn books.  You’ll need to make sure there are copies under the chairs of the bridal party, as I’m sure bouquets aren’t meant to be accessorised with hymnbooks! 

There are hymns which have so many verses your guests will have lost the will to live before the end, so check, and specify 1,2 6 & 8, for instance.  And make sure they’re the version you’ve familiar with.  Some have been modernised, or politically corrected in more modern hymnbooks  (taking out he and him, and putting in them and their, for instance, or re-writing without thees  and thys). 

Having music while you’re out signing the register, if you’re having a church wedding, keeps your guests from getting restless.  If you know musicians, or wish to pay the church choir, or hire professionals, that’s often nicer than recorded music, at this point.  You won’t be around to hear it, which is one of the regrets my husband has from our wedding – that he didn’t hear my Uncle playing the church organ like it had never been played in its life before, while we were signing the register!  (Another is that he was so nervous that he barely remembers the ceremony at all, but that’s another story.)


If you’re having readings, it’s customary to choose at least one from the Bible if you’re marrying in a church.  But there are plenty of other choices that you can use as well.  Other religious faiths will have traditional texts you may or may not have any flexibility with, so speak to your celebrant.

Here’s a list I borrowed from a site called Planning your Church Wedding, which has a host of other useful pages, if you are indeed planning a church wedding. 

  • Paths and journeys: Adapted from Far from the Madding Crowd (Thomas Hardy)
  • Your walled garden: Author unknown
  • The blessing of the Apaches: Author unknown
  • To be at one with each other: George Eliot
  • How do I love thee? Let me count the ways: Sonnet From The Portuguese XLIII, Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)
  • Sonnet 116: Let Me Not To The Marriage Of True Minds: William Shakespeare
  • Marriage Advice: Jane Wells (1886)
  • Never Marry But For Love: William Penn (1644-1718)
  • Extract from ‘The Anniversary’ John Donne (1572–1631)

Order of service

If you write an order of service, couples often have them printed to match their invitations and other stationery.  See my blog post on stationery for ideas, and make sure you proofread, and get a friend to proofread, and probably your mum and her friend too.  Speeling misteaks can have your guests in stitches if you muck up something critical. 

Weddings blog – complete series:

  1. invitations
  2. invitations again – making vs printing
  3. vows
  4. the rest of your ceremony, music, readings, etc
  5. speeches – content, running order, and who should give them.
  6. how to give a great wedding speech

Condensed version: ‘top 10 tips for words to get right at your wedding‘, for the Pasties and Petticoats newsletter.

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