I’ve been a professional wedding officiant since 2011, so I’ve seen a lot of wedding ceremonies. Over the years, I’ve fine-tuned the wedding rehearsal to cover all the tiny details of how the ceremony will unfold. I’m now sharing with you some of the behind the scenes ideas you might want to consider about your wedding ceremony. Many of the items below related to the ceremony are things you might not have thought of. And, it makes sense, until you do it (hundreds of times, like me) you wouldn’t know that these are important. You can definitely have an awesome wedding without taking these ideas into consideration, but if you want a smoothly run, seemingly effortless, joy-filled ceremony, I strongly suggest using this list to get there!
You Probably Haven’t Considered these Wedding Ceremony Ideas
#1 Curve chairs for more intimate feel
This one is so important, I wrote an entire blog post about it! Taking the time to set the chairs up in a slight semi-circle can make a huge difference in the intimacy of the wedding ceremony. Trust me, I’ve seen it both ways, and although it’s very subtle, it does make a difference.
#2 Unnecessary to reserve front row
It used to be that you had to reserve the front row for parents and important family members, but that’s no longer the case. From my experience, guests are so careful not to take seats away from family members, that they avoid the first two or three rows. While reserving the front row isn’t entirely necessary, you’ll definitely want to reserve the second or third rows if you have important people assigned to sit in them. Otherwise, don’t worry about this tiny detail.
#3 Invite guests to fill seats
Following up on the previous idea, because guests avoid sitting in the first couple of rows, it often means there are many empty seats up front. If you have a wedding planner or professional officiant, they’ll usually invite guests to fill in those seats. However, if you don’t have a wedding planner or professional officiant, you’ll want to assign someone to welcome guests to sit up there. Otherwise, you’ll have empty seats up front and guests in the back standing for the entire ceremony.
#4 Make aisle fit a trio
As I mentioned in my blog post about wedding ceremony trends, many couples are choosing to walk down the aisle with their parents. I happen to love this trend, by the way! If you’re choosing to do this or even just having your wedding party paired up and you have a trio, you’ll need to make sure your aisle is wide enough for three people to comfortably walk side-by-side down it. If you have shepherd hooks with flowers, you’ll need to take those into consideration and make the aisle even wider. Talk to you wedding florist and wedding planner or venue coordinator about the width of the aisle.
#5 Make adjustments when no one’s looking
This is a total PRO TIP! That moment during the ceremony processional where everyone stands up and turns to watch the bride walk down the aisle means there are 20-30 seconds where no one is looking at the wedding party. Your bridesmaids and groomsmen should use this moment to make any adjustments to their clothes, how they’re standing, their bouquet height, etc. This is a great a little trick that no one knows about!
#6 Curve attendants so they can witness the moment
I always instruct the wedding party attendants to stand in a slight curve to ensure they can see their person (brides/grooms). Rather than standing in a straight line and staring at the back of the head of the person in front of them, this subtle shift allows them to be active witnesses to your marriage and to be energetically participating in the ceremony. PRO TIP: If you have a large wedding party, you’ll need to make sure the first row of chairs is far enough back to allow for the slight curve.
#7 No cell phones in back pockets
Please, please, please ask your groomsmen to put their cell phone either in their jacket pocket or better yet, not have it on them during the ceremony at all. The big bulk of a cell phone in the back pocket of a groomsmen doesn’t look great in photos.
#8 Slightly face guests for first part of ceremony
Even the most in love couple cannot stare lovingly into each other’s eyes for 20-30 solid minutes! It’s impossible, and the pressure to do so can become excruciating. My advice for the wedding couple is to turn every so slightly towards their guests for the first half of the ceremony. This gives them a chance to look around and out at their guests, while periodically making eye contact with their love. Once we get to the vows, you can hold hands and face each other for the rest of the ceremony. But, do yourself a favor and not force yourself to gaze into your partner’s eyes the whole time. You’ll thank me for this one!
#9 Hold bouquet until vows
Many wedding planners encourage brides to hand off their bouquet to the maid-of-honor as soon as they reach the “altar.” However, I encourage my brides to hang onto their bouquet until the vows. The reasoning behind this is two-fold: 1) holding onto the bouquet gives your hands something to do (see above: you don’t want to be holding hands and facing your sweetie from the moment you get up there); and 2) You paid good money for that gorgeous piece of floral artwork so let’s have it in as many photos as possible!
#10 Adjust dress if necessary
Most maids-of-honor know to adjust the bride’s dress when she finishes walking down the aisle, but you may want to prompt her (or him for men-of-honor) to adjust the dress any time it’s needed during the ceremony and right before the recessional. It’s a lovely little gesture and keeps the dress looking fabulous throughout the entire ceremony.
#11 Stop and kiss
This is a fun one! There’s a really awesome photo opportunity as you’re recessing back down the aisle after the ceremony. When you reach the last row of chairs, pause for a kiss. Your photographer will capture you kissing with your guests cheering in the background. It’s such a sweet moment!
#12 Guests will follow you
Just like the title of this sections says, your guests will follow you out of the ceremony. So, in order to avoid getting mobbed with love by every one of your guests, plan to recess to a spot just far enough away from your guests. You’ll have plenty of time to give them all big hugs at the reception, but immediately after the ceremony you may want to pause for some quiet time or get right to signing the marriage license. Plus, if you’re not doing a first look, you may have photos to take, and extricating yourself from your loving guests to go take those photos is really, really challenging. Once the hugging starts, it’s hard to get it to stop. Lol!
#13 Don’t break festive energy with announcements
Immediately following the ceremony there is a joyous energy in the air! In order to allow that festive energy to continue, it’s best not to interrupt it with announcements from the officiant, wedding planner or DJ. It may seem like the most efficient way to alert everyone they need to get on a bus or make their way to the cocktail hour, but I’ve seen it shift the energy quickly and not in a good way. Consider instead assigning someone, or better yet, a few people, to act as the guides for your guests. Maybe they have driving instructions or maps to pass out, or maybe they’re just there, at the end of the row of chairs, warmly inviting your guests to do whatever they need to do to transition to the next part of your wedding celebration.
I’m not going to say that your wedding will be a disaster if you don’t do these things. On the contrary, it’ll still be lovely! But, taking these items into consideration will ensure a well-run and enjoyable wedding ceremony celebration for all!