A First Class Service – our guide to the perfect wedding ceremony

That first flush of wedding planning excitement will most likely have you scoping out frothy dresses and canapés, but really the most important part you need to consider is the actual ceremony itself (without which it’s basically just a big party!).

The main decision you’ll have to make is what kind of service you and your partner want to have. Where you wish to wed may dictate this answer, for example should you want to hike halfway up a mountain in Guadeloupe then it’s likely a civil service is on the cards.

Types of ceremonies to consider:-

Traditional – These are usually faith-based according to the religious beliefs of the bride and groom.

Non-denominational – This is a spiritual ceremony that is non-religious but may still include references to a god.

Interfaith – Where two people of differing religions marry so the ceremony will include readings and rituals pertinent to each faith.

Non-religious – This generally doesn’t contain any reference to a god or a particular faith and can occasionally be themed, i.e. if couples have a real passion for a period of history or a film then they may incorporate the theme into their wedding.

Religious ceremonies normally require you to follow a traditional order of service, based in a church, temple or other related structure, and within those constraints there are usually options make it more personal to you, like choosing specific readings or poems.

If marrying in a church then you will be asked to choose hymns, rather than popular music, for your guests to sing. There can be some leeway on the processional and recessional music, however it is always best to check with the church to find out the parish rules.

For a christian faith-based wedding you will need to have attended Sunday services for several weeks beforehand, be of the same faith and ensure that neither you or your partner has been married before. You’ll find similar rules in place for most faith-based and religious ceremonies, therefore be sure to book an appointment with whomever you intend to officiate your wedding so that you can discuss in detail your expectations versus their requirements.

If the thought of a religious service seems too constrained for you then there’s a lot to be said for civil ceremonies. So long as your desired location has a marriage license you can generally get hitched whenever and wherever, with no restrictions on music, readings, structure or even who is ordained to carry out the service. If you’ve always fancied Joey from Friends marrying you and your partner then this is the way to go, plus you’ve got carte blanche on writing your own wedding vows – want to use the lyrics to your favourite Elton John song? Done!

Civil services can also work out cheaper, especially if you marry at the same venue as your reception. Packages often include not only the venue hire but the officiant’s fee, marriage license fee and registration fees.

Whatever the faith the basic structure of the marriage service remains pretty much the same. Terminology may vary but this is how you’ll generally find a ceremony running order:-

The Welcome Preface
The Declarations The Collect Readings Sermon

The Marriage
The Vows
The Giving of Rings
The Proclamation
The Blessing of the Marriage Registration of the Marriage Prayers
The Dismissal

Most traditional services include one or more readings from the bible or other religious tome. Generally the bride and groom select a friend or family member to read these aloud. Remember that your narrators need to have a clear and confident voice and not be scared to death at the prospect of public speaking!

The most popular reading for Church of England weddings is from the bible, 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13. You can find it here in our Red Event Photography Guide to Ceremony Music and Readings.

There are also lots of music options to consider for your wedding ceremony. Do you use a choir? Or have a harpist play you down the aisle? Perhaps you’d like a soloist singing a beloved song for your recessional music? For a church service you may want to use classical pieces, like The Bridal Chorus by Wagner, which is traditionally played when the bride walks down the aisle. Alternatively at a civil service you can play whatever you’d like.

Use our helpful Red Event Photography Guide to Ceremony Music and Readings to assist you in understanding the various passages of music required, and options to choose from. Or, if you’re still thinking about what venue you’d like to host your big day, check out our guide here.

We hope this wedding ceremonies article has been useful and if you have any questions, hints or tips please don’t hesitate to respond using our comments section below.