One of the most-asked questions we receive — right up there with “what the heck am I supposed to do next?” — is actually fairly important:
What is the standard structure of a wedding ceremony?
Most weddings follow basically the same format, with minor adjustments here and there depending upon the desires of the bridal couple. Keep in mind that the bridal couple usually comes up with their own format for the ceremony, but many times you’ll show up and they’ll be looking at you for guidance every step of the way — and you had better be ready with a plan!
Keep in mind that, aside from traditional ceremonies in certain churches (such as in the Catholic, Jewish and Muslim faiths), there is no step-by-step standard format. The bridal couple is free to choose the elements they want to include or exclude, and to customize it any way they want.
No jurisdiction has a law saying what format a marriage ceremony must follow. However, the bridal couple must speak vows declaring their intention to be married to each other (either by repeating vows spoken by the Officiant, or by saying their own vows) and the Officiant must declare them to be married at the conclusion of the ceremony.
After the ceremony, the Officiant must take the couple aside to sign their marriage license, along with the witnesses (if required by local law) to make the marriage official.
A sample “standard” wedding ceremony format includes:
- Special wedding music begins (this is usually “background” music chosen by the couple, or by the DJ or musicians)
- Mothers/parents/VIPs enter and light candles/candelabras
- Parents of the Bride and Groom are seated
- The Minister/Officiant and Groom enter and proceed to the front
- The Bridal Party enters and proceeds to the front
- The Ring Bearer and/or Flower Girl enter, proceed to front
- Music concludes for Bridal Party
- Ushers unroll the aisle runner
- The Minister/Officiant asks the audience to rise and welcome the Bride
- Music begins for the Bride’s entrance (Processional music)
- The Bride and her escort enter, and are met by the Groom
- Bride’s music concludes
- Opening comments by Minister/Officiant
- Bride and Groom light “family candles” to represent their families
- Bride and Groom present flowers to parents and/or VIPs
- “Declarations Of Intent” by Bride and Groom
- First reading (religious or romantic literature)
- Musical interlude (solo, etc.)
- Second reading
- Special music (musical interlude, or musical and vocal performance)
- Exchange of wedding vows (traditional or customized)
- Blessing of the rings
- Exchange of wedding rings
- Minister/Officiant‘s prayer or blessing for the Bride and Groom
- Bride and Groom light Unity Candle (music in background)
- Final comments by Officiant, who pronounces that the couple is now Husband and Wife
- Bride and Groom’s first kiss
- Introduction of the new couple by the Minister/Officiant
- Recessional music begins
- Bride and Groom exit
- Bridal party exits and forms reception line
- Minister/Officiant’s instructions to the guests
- Guests depart for reception