This is a basic outline which provides a framework around which wedding ceremonies are usually constructed. You are welcome to use it as a guide for creating your own ceremony.
– Traditionally the groom waits at the wedding venue for the bride who arrives escorted by her father and retinue.
– Other options are for the couple to arrive together once the guests have gathered, or for them to arrive with the guests and move to the front when it is time to start the ceremony
– The guests are welcomed to the ceremony and the proceedings are “set up” with a brief introduction and a few words about the significance of the occasion. This is usually done by the officiating marriage officer but can be done by others. It is also feasible for the couple to address their guests at this stage and welcome them.
SONGS, READINGS, ADDRESS
– Before moving into the marriage ceremony itself it is appropriate to have some reflection on the meaning of the day. This can be done through readings, either sacred readings or favourite excerpts from literature, and songs or music. The readings can be read by a friend or family member or by the marriage officer. Songs can be sung by the guests, or music played for them to listen to. If you would like your guests to sing it is best to select well known songs to make the guests feel comfortable and for it to be a positive addition to the proceedings. Likewise, ensure whoever is going to read the readings is competent and has a clear voice. It is appropriate also for the marriage officer or someone else who is skilled in public speaking to say a few words about marriage at this point.
– The heart of the marriage ceremony is the exchange of vows and making of legal declarations. The legal declarations are the only compulsory part of the entire ceremony as they make the marriage legally binding. The legal declaration, put by the marriage officer, is:
“Do you AB declare that as far as you know there is no lawful impediment to your proposed marriage with CD here present, and that you call all here present to witness that you take CD as your lawful wife/husband?”
To which each partner must answer “I DO”.
– In addition to the legal declaration many couples prefer to exchange vows, either traditional vows such as have been used in church ceremonies for centuries, or more modern vows taken from various marriage resources or written by themselves. They may recite the vows from memory during the ceremony, read them to each other or be led through them by the marriage officer.
Rings: It is customary for couples to exchange rings during the ceremony. Either both or one of the partners can give and receive rings. Again, words may be spoken by the couple to each other describing the meaning of the rings. These can be traditional or modern words, gained from other resources or written themselves. The exchange of rings, while customary, is not a legal requirement.
Declaration of the marriage: Once the couple has answered the legally required questions, the marriage officer is, by law, required to make a legal proclamation of the marriage as follows:
“I declare that AB and CD here present have been lawfully married”.
This declaration is usually made only after the personal vows and exchange of rings, if they are to be included, have taken place.
The ceremony may conclude with another song, reading or blessing. Before they leave the venue the couple are required to sign the marriage register. They may then leave (usually together!) and their guests follow, or, in a more casual atmosphere, may simply mingle with their guests. If the ceremony has taken place in the same venue as the reception a simple move from one focal point to another is all that is required.