If you’re going to all of the trouble of getting married, you should put some effort into the ceremony to make it memorable and enjoyable for you and your guests.
I’ve put down a guideline here of what a typical format could be and will help you make it individual. There are many books and templates on the subject and much information on the web.
Length of ceremony
The ceremony can be as short as five minutes, including the signing of certificates, or as long as you like. As a guide, around twenty minutes is a reasonable time for a ceremony so that the guests feel they have participated in or witnessed a meaningful ceremony.
Type of ceremony
Do not be coerced by a celebrant into accepting a ceremony that you do not find appropriate. Their job according to the Code of Practice is to:
…give the parties information and guidance to enable them to choose or compose a marriage ceremony that will meet their needs and expectations…”
There are only four mandatory elements in a wedding ceremony, the inclusion of the full names of the couple being wed, the monitum from the marriage act, the vows, and the signing.
A suggested format for the introduction is:
- welcome to guests
- statement about the day, the couple, the significance
- how they met
- why they are choosing to get married
- what they feel about each other
- anything else special
At one wedding the couple decided to ask me express how they felt about each other in a reading they had composed. It was quite beautiful and moving, especially as they had not shown each other what they wanted me to read. This is what Amanda wrote:
Amanda didn’t know she wanted to spend the rest of her life with someone until she met you, Trevor. She loves you for taking her to be your wife, is humbled by your desire to have her as the mother of your children, and honoured to be chosen to be your friend for life.
Amanda looks forward to your love growing, both deeper and stronger, and is proud that you two will continue dedicating your souls to each other.Your time together has been exciting, diverse and continually rewarding.
She loves waking up to you each day, and lying with you throughout the night.She misses you when you are apart and looks forward to every new meeting. She gives herself to you forever.
Another reason Amanda loves you is because of your unique and unconditional respect for other people and generosity of spirit where you freely helps those in need, expecting nothing in return. You bring these wonderful characteristics to your relationship as well as being hardworking, thoughtful and considerate.
You have a strength of character showing how much you care for her and you support her difficult career at all times and especially when she has been in personal and professional crisis.”
If you choose a reading, make it personal and meaningful to you. If the last time you read a Shakespeare sonnet was in year 10, steer away from “Love is like a red, red rose” and perhaps choose the words from a modern piece of writing or a song.
The song “All My Life” by K-Ci & Jojo was meaningful to one couple I married, so we modified the words slightly.
I will never find another love sweeter than you,
or another love more precious
You are close to me you’re like my mother and father
and sisters and brothers
You are the only one, my everything and
I sing my songs for you.
You’re all that I’ve ever wanted when you smile your face glows,
You pick me up when I’m down. I give thanks that we’re together
and that you love me as I love you.”
Consider choosing a friend or relative to read. This can make the ceremony really enjoyable for those present.
Monitum from the Marriage Act
This is mandatory and can only be varied slightly. Your celebrant will guide you in this.
“I am duly authorised by law to solemnise marriages according to law.
Before you are joined in marriage in my presence and in the presence of these witnesses, I am to remind you of the solemn and binding nature of the relationship into which you are now about to enter.
Marriage, according to law in Australia, is the union of two people to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life..”
or words to that effect.
Giving away the bride (optional)
This is an old-fashioned, but nice part of the ceremony that some couples include to honour the father of the bride in the ceremony. It is often more lavish, with statements about the special relationships between fathers and daughters, and that the wedding ceremony is one of the few times it is expressed in public.
Who gives this woman to be married to) this man?
Sometimes both parents give the bride away, and in another ceremony, the families of both parties pledged support to the union.
This is a nice traditional part of the ceremony where you can include the”for richer or for poorer” elements etc and you get to say “I do.”
It is normal for the celebrant to have you repeat the words of the vows because you will probably be nervous and/or excited and possibly ‘fluff’ your lines.
This section is mandatory with the minimum words being:
I call upon the persons here present to witness that I, A.B. (or C.D.), take thee, C.D. (or A.B.), to be my lawful wedded wife (or husband, or spouse).
This change allows marrying couples to make a personal choice about the terms to be used in their marriage vows that best reflect their relationship. The term ‘husband’ can refer to a male marriage partner, and ‘wife’ to a female marriage partner, regardless of the sex or gender of the person saying the vows. The term ‘spouse’ can refer to a male, female, intersex, non-binary gender or transgender person. .”
Having said those words as a minimum you can add others, like:
Today I marry you as my best friend, my lover, my partner in life and my one true love. I love you completely; not only for who you are, but also for who I am when I’m with you. You accept and love me as I am but you provide me with freedom and encouragement for me to grow.
I promise to always be honest and fair to you. I will trust you, respect you and support your dreams. I will always be there for you and for our married life together.
I choose to love you faithfully and forever. This is my promise to you on our wedding day and for each day that follows. For love would have no meaning without you.”
Exchange of rings
We can talk about the symbolism of the ring or keep it simple, as this couple did, in their own words
Amanda, take and wear this ring always. Let it remind you that you are loved, and that I am yours.”
This is where the celebrant winds up and tells everyone that the couple have exchanged vows and rings and understand the commitment they are making to each other. The celebrant declares them married. The “you may kiss the bride” or similar bit comes here.
Signing of certificates
Introduction of the newly married couple, “Mr and Mrs Smith”, if requested.
I highly recommend you have a rehearsal at the time of day and location where you are getting married. Depending on the time of year, the sun may be in your eyes causing you to squint, or there may be unwanted pests like mosquitoes. This happened at a rehearsal in the Botanic Gardens. The bride was to wear a sleeveless, strapless gown and during the rehearsal, swarms of bloodsucking mozzies descended on us. The next day we brought plenty of Aerogard!
I hope this all helps, and remember, my job is to make it easy for you.