The Elements of a Wedding Ceremony

I love that you want your close family friend/Uncle/grandma's best gal pal to officiate your wedding. I love that the person who is going to be unifying you and your lover will have actually known you as a couple for more than an hour long consultation. If that's your jam, then I'm your (advice-giving) man. Here are the basics of a ceremony, and ways you can embellish or whatever the opposite of embellish is (simplify?).

Whether your ceremony has a religious feel to it, is a same sex ceremony or includes props (we'll get to that later) read on for the basic elements of a wedding ceremony. 

Alyssa Lee Photography | Priest looking so thrilled | Minnesota wedding


It all starts here. The seating of important family members like parents and grandparents, even siblings who aren't in the wedding party. You can have them walk down the aisle to a separate song once wedding guests are seated.  

Once important family members have processed, the wedding party is next. You can have them walk down the aisle individually or paired, or with their spouses. They should walk in reverse order (the person on the end goes first) to make the transition smooth as [INSERT SMOOTH THING HERE]. Honestly, don't put too much stress in the order of who stands where. Someone is going to have to be on the outside, it's the law of life.

Flower girls and rings bearers will go right before the bride and her escort, so if petals are being tossed it's like the bride is the only one who can trample them lol. The congregation/audience/wedding guests are asked to stand and then the bride enters. She will walk down, traditionally, with the most important parent figure in her life, or with her dad (or with her mom or... you decide).

If you are a same sex couple feel free to walk down the aisle how you want to, have your bridal party escorted however you feel is right for your wedding. Don't for one second feel like, 'well, we aren't doing things the traditional way' and think that's a bummer. IT AINT! No matter who you are this is your wedding, and you should do it your way... period.


Once you as a couple are joined in front of the altar/arbor/tree/gazebo/chuppah/front area part where your guest chairs are directed towards, the officiant will ask everyone to be seated.

This is IMPORTANT. If guests aren't told to sit, then they won't. I have seen it with mine own eyes! Please for the love of lemons, tell your guests what to do, have them take a seat... have a sit...

Your officiant will say a welcome. At this point you may opt to have a 'giving away' ceremony, where either your parents or your fiance's parents answer the question "who gives this man/woman to be married..." with a 'we do'. See more wording here.

The officiant will continue with a short homily or reading, or explanation of how you met or your love story or something engaging about love, about God, about monogamy, about life. They will address the congregation and they may address you two as well. This is an excellent opportunity to shape how your guests will feel about your relationship. If you are animal lovers, your welcome could include a story about penguins, or about your first pet. If you are agnostic, perhaps your welcome will be about Zelda and Scott Fitzgeralds burning love and their heart pounding letters they exchanged. Whatever happens to float your love boat.


Not essential, but certainly a traditional addition. I think it's nice to have persons who are not already involved in your wedding, say in your bridal party, to be able to fill this role. Ask a grandma or a god parent, a sister-in-law or a mentor to read a reading or say a blessing. Make it true to your heritage or silly or serious. Have one reader, two blessings or any combination that you feel fit. Just be cognizant of your guests and the amount of time you are calling on them to sit through your ceremony.


A ceremony during your ceremony? Yup. I am talking about the sand pouring, tree planting, knot tying, broom jumping, candle lighting, wine pouring, bride circling, and glass breaking that may ensue during your ceremony. Ask grandparents about their weddings and repeat a family tradition, or break the mold and do something that means the most to you. Click here for 16 Creative Wedding Rituals from Martha Stewart. Thanks Patsy.


The 'I dos' or 'I wills' of the wedding. Wanna see it in action? Check out Jim Albani, Minnesota Officiant's video here.


Vows! The part where you say out loud that you are committing yourself to this person whom you love and adore and want to be connected to for life. *SIGH* You're vows can be repeated after the officiant, or you can write your own.


Rings are an important part of a traditional wedding. They symbolize your everlasting love, an eternity of marriage and commitment. Awwww, how sweet. This is the part where you might say something like, 'with this ring I thee wed...'. Ordinarily you repeat after the officiant, so no need to memorize anything.


Right near the end, after you've said 'i dos' and exchanged rings, the officiant will make an official statement. Something like, 'by the power vested in me by the state of WHERE YOU ARE GETTING MARRIED, I now pronounce you...'. Check out the different types of pronouncements here.


Need I explain this one? The officiant will tell the two of you to smooch and make it official, since telling you to consummate your marriage later on is antiquated and terribly inappropriate.


This is the part where you and your new MR or MRS strut down the aisle. Depending on your venue guests can throw streamers, petals, confetti or blow bubbles at you as you walk down the aisle, MARRIED. Once you reached the end of the aisle, giddy AF, your bridal party will follow. If you want the officiant to make an announcement or two or three, then after the last bridesmaid and/or groomsmen walks down the aisle they will ask your wedding guests to have a sit.

They can then announce the bar situation, the receiving line situation and also, the ushers dismissing rows situation. Your guests love to be informed and the more information you give them, or direction, or signage, the more they will rave about what a beautiful/fun/amazing wedding you have had.

Alyssa Lee Photography | wedding i dos

Then that's it... well, not really. I mean after you walk down the aisle there are a few more things to think about.


Want your ceremony to be legit? You're going to need to sign that piece of paper, obtained at your county service center (procedures vary depending on your wedding location and state of residence - here is a link for Minnesotans), and with witnesses. This is kind of a cute photo opp, but feel free to just sign the damn paper! In Minnesota your officiant has 5 days to mail that puppy back, so do NOT procrastinate this. 


Yes, your moms are going to want you to take picture with your Aunt Edna and cousin Frankie. They may want full family photos so make sure you prepare yourself and plan accordingly! See the sample ceremony summary if you are at a loss for the flow of your post-ceremony nonsense.


Not required, but certainly traditional. Receiving lines ordinarily line up about 10-30 yards from the ceremony site, outside if weather permitting. Parents will join you in this line and just be sure to remind them to keep the line moving! If you have even the slightest of inclement weather (windy, balmy, above 70 degrees or below 70 degrees) then your guests will be anxious to get inside. Also they want to get to the bar, with a quickness. There will be plenty of time to chat once everyone scoots into the reception hall.

Want to speed up the process or keep your guests seated instead of standing? Try a dismissing line, where you and your new spouse dismiss each row after recessing the aisle. Or skip both options all together and you can stop by each table during dinner to thank your guests for coming and supporting your love.

Feeling freaking overwhelmed after all of that? Try this: hire a day of coordinator and a professional officiant. Here's why. A day of coordinator will help you iron out the logistics of your ceremony timeline (and the whole day at that), they will help cue and direct the ceremony. And a professional officiant? Well, they are professionals and they will help you plan your whole ceremony and then, they'll officiate it.

Still really, really want your aunt/cousin/college roommate/grandma's gal pal to officiate? Hire someone like Susan with Affordable I Do's to help you plan and to train your novice officiant. Best of both worlds.

And if you think for one second, as you read this blog post in not Minnesota, that there's no way Josey would be able to coordinate your wedding day, 'it will cost an arm and a leg to get her to my wedding in Palm Springs'... etc. You are so terribly wrong. Take me wherever you are wedding, I want to go, I want in.

Prosperity, Love & Happiness,

P.S. A big thank you to Alyssa Lee Photography for the photos in this blog post!