Months of planning is par for the course for couples about to tie the knot. Much of that planning concerns the reception, and rightfully so. Receptions last longer than ceremonies, and couples are often involved in every reception detail, from picking the appetizers to serve during cocktail hour to choosing the final song before everyone calls it a night. But it's equally important that couples devote considerable attention to their wedding ceremonies.
A wedding ceremony might not last long, but it is the most crucial component of a couple's wedding day and can even set the tone for the rest of the festivities. From choosing readings to honoring loved ones to immersing oneself in his or her faith, these tips can help couples plan their perfect ceremony.
• Give the ceremony equal footing with the reception. Spend time trying to put a personalized spin on the preceedings, whether that entails writing your own vows or choosing moving music that means something to you. When given ample attention, seemingly minor details can make for a special, memorable ceremony.
• Choose a ceremony location that is close to the reception site. If a ceremony will take place in a house of worship, try to choose a reception venue close to the ceremony site. This keeps guests, some of whom may be out-of-towners who have already traveled extensively, from spending too much time on the road during the day of the wedding.
• Get to know the officiant. The officiant should be someone with whom you both feel comfortable. This person should know you well enough that he or she can preside over the ceremony and add sentiments that come across as authentic and personalized.
• Do your best to avoid especially lengthy ceremonies. Couples will need to meet the religious requirements if they are getting married in the faith, and there may be some aspects of the ceremony that you cannot cut short or modify. But if you have wiggle room, try to keep the ceremony to around 30 minutes; otherwise, you run the risk of guests getting antsy, especially if children are in the audience.
• Decorate the ceremony space. While the altar and aisle are key places to draw attention, couples also can dress up the chairs/pews, ceiling (if allowed), and entrance to the space to make it welcoming and romantic.
Even wedding ceremonies that likely won't run long can benefit from some pre-wedding planning.