Wedding Ceremony Checklist: A Comprehensive Guide
The wedding ceremony is one of the most meaningful aspects of your big day. Your marriage officially begins at this moment!
This comprehensive wedding ceremony checklist will help ensure that your ceremony kicks off without a hitch.
1. The Venue for your ceremony
The venue for your ceremony is the first thing your guests get to see when they arrive. It should be a place that is special to you and your fiance. A beautiful venue will make your wedding day even more perfect.
What kind of place would be best for your ceremony?
- a house of worship
- a hotel ballroom
- a botanical garden
- a museum
- a historical landmark
- a private backyard
- a beach
Policies on decor, music, and photography:
If you are getting married in a church or synagogue, be sure to check their policies on decor, music, and photography. Some houses of worship have very strict rules about what type of music is allowed, and where the photographer can set up.
Churches and temples also often have specific rules about what type of decorations are allowed and who can officiate the ceremony.
Likewise, if the ceremony is at a hotel, inquire about the hotel’s policies; however, most are more than happy to work with you.
How many guests can you accommodate?
Be sure the place you’re using can comfortably accommodate your anticipated number of guests and that you’ve planned how many people you’ll invite.
Include the following points on your checklist:
- Parking: is there adequate parking for your guests?
- Is the venue handicap accessible?
- Restrooms: Are they close to the ceremony area?
- Weather: if you have an outdoor wedding, is there a backup plan in case of inclement weather?
2. Choose the type of ceremony that’s right for you
When it comes to planning your wedding ceremony, you will encounter the question of what type of ceremony is right for you. There are many different types of ceremonies, including traditional religious rituals and more contemporary non-religious ceremonies.
- What kind of style do you want to set for your ceremony?
– Formal (black-tie) or informal (festive outfits)?
– Traditional religious or non-traditional religious?
– Serious or lighthearted?
- If you’re having a religious ceremony, what religion do you belong to, and what guidelines does that religion have for wedding ceremonies?
- Are there any specific elements you want to include in your ceremony? For example, many couples choose to write their own vows while some may add a unity candle ceremony. Jewish weddings usually include the seven blessings while Catholic weddings may include communion.
Once you’ve decided on the type of ceremony you want, it’s time to start planning the details!
3. Plan the logistics of Your ceremony
There are a lot of logistics to consider to make sure your wedding ceremony runs smoothly. From doing a wedding rehearsal prior to the ceremony, who will be seated where, organizing the music, printing programs, transportation to how you’ll make your grand entrance.
The first step is to decide on the physical setup of the ceremony if you have that option.
Will it be traditional with rows of chairs and a center aisle, with the bride and groom standing in the front, or more unique, with them standing in the center of the room encircled by chairs?
Once you’ve decided on the layout, it’s time to start on the next particulars:
- Who will be officiating the ceremony?
- Who is walking down this aisle and in which order?
- How will you make your grand entrance?
- What type of music (classic or modern) will be played during the procession and recessional?
- Is there a specific piece of music for the bridal party and a special song for the bride’s entrance?
- What particular songs will you have playing?
- Who is guiding the musicians when to change songs during the processional?
- Clarify the standing position of each wedding party member in the front.
- Who will be responsible for carrying out each task during the ceremony?
- Will you use any ceremonial items, such as a unity candle or other symbolic objects during the ceremony?
- Are you exchanging wedding vows?
- Will there be any wedding readings during the ceremony or special songs performed?
Placement of Musicians for the wedding ceremony:
- In which area of the space will musicians or DJ be placed?
- How many chairs do the musicians need?
- Is there a power source nearby if needed?
- Can the musician see the processional to synchronize their performance?
- Is the lighting adequate for the musicians?
- Is it possible for the musician to utilize the venue’s piano (if one is available), and does it need to be tuned?
Details To Consider in the front of the room to include in your wedding ceremony checklist:
- Is there a small table for ceremonial items? (i.e., unity candles, Jewish wedding ceremony: kiddush cup, glass to break for the groom)
- Do you need an easel to display ketubah (Jewish wedding ceremony)
- Do you need a wireless or wired handheld microphone(s) or lapel mic(s) & sound system for B&G, officiant and readers, and vocalists?
- Do you need musicians’ notestands for readings and vocalists?
- How much room do you need for decoration (i.e., arch, flowers on pedestals, or religious ceremonial canopy, i.e., chuppah)?
- Will you need a stage riser (if yes, how many people can fit on it?)
- Does the stage riser need to be covered in fabric (i.e., by a florist)
- Are you planning to incorporate a memorial table to honor loved ones who have passed away?
- Who will be seated in the front row?
- Do you require name cards for each reserved seat in the first and second rows?
- Will you need spotlighting for B&G and uplight floral accents in front of the room?
Wedding Ceremony Programs
- Are programs for the ceremony given out by ushers or placed on each chair?
- Who will place them on each chair and pew?
4. Writing your vows
While you may have a wedding coordinator to help you with the details on the big day, there are still some things that you’ll need to take care of on your own.
One meaningful task is to write your wedding vows.
Try to write your vows well in advance of the big day. This will give you time to revise and perfect them and will ensure that they are truly meaningful.
When writing your vows, remember that they don’t have to be overly long or complicated. Sometimes, the simplest statements can be the most powerful.
Try brainstorming a list of things that you love about your partner to get started.
Once you have a good list, start narrowing it down to the most meaningful points. From there, you can begin to craft your vows. Keep in mind that your vows don’t need to be perfect – they just need to come from the heart.
So, take your time and enjoy the process!
5. Select music for Your Wedding ceremony
Choose songs for your wedding ceremony that represent who you are and the relationship you have with each other.
You’ll also want to make sure that the music is appropriate for the setting and the length of the ceremony.
In addition, when you select music for the ceremony, think about the mood you want to create and the overall tone of your wedding day.
Do you want something traditional or modern? Uplifting or reflective?
Once you have an idea of the vibe you’re going for, start selecting music that reflects that. If you’re not sure where to start, ask your wedding planner if you have one or consult with a musician. They can help recommend songs that will be perfect for your wedding ceremony.
Choose music that reflects your style: If you’re a classic bride, opt for traditional wedding songs like “Canon in D (Pachelbel’s Canon)” or “Here Comes the Bride (Bridal Chorus, Richard Wagner.”) Try something non-traditional like “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri or “All you need is Love” by The Beatles if you’re more modern. The options are endless!
6. Choose an officiant You Connect With
The wedding officiant is the person who presides over the wedding ceremony. While you may be tempted to ask a friend or family member to officiate, it’s important to remember that this is a big responsibility.
The officiant will need to be comfortable speaking in front of a large group, be familiar with the wedding ceremony, and be able to keep the ceremony on schedule. Choose someone you feel confident will do a great job and who you know will add an extra special touch to your wedding day.
- First, decide whether you want a religious or non-religious ceremony. This will help narrow down your options for officiants.
- If you have a specific religion, contact your clergyman or woman to see if they would be available to officiate your wedding ceremony.
- If you are having a non-religious ceremony, you can ask a close friend or family member to officiate. Just be sure they are comfortable speaking in front of a large group and are familiar with the wedding ceremony.
- You can also hire a professional officiant. This is an excellent option if you want someone with experience presiding over weddings. Wedding planners can often recommend officiants that they’ve worked with in the past.
7. Decorate the wedding ceremony space
Decorating the space for the ceremony sometimes becomes an afterthought in the hustle and bustle of wedding preparations. It is certainly an additional expense to factor in embellishing the location where you will exchange your vows.
When decorating your ceremony site, you’ll want to keep in mind where guests are entering and exiting, where guests will be looking while seated and what kind of surroundings you want to create.
There are many ways to add beauty to the ceremony area, from simple floral arrangements that set accents to over-the-top ornate decorations that provide a spectacular backdrop.
Take a cue from your wedding ceremony location.
Then choose decorations that reflect your personal style and the overall tone of the wedding.
For example, if you’re getting married in a church, set the focus on the front and adorn the altar with elegant statement flowers and greenery.
Or, if you’re exchanging vows outdoors make it about nature; blend natural elements and colors into your ceremony decorations.
If you are doing the ceremony in a ballroom, you can go for a glamorous look with uplighting and magnificent flower installations on pedestals.
If you are adorning the aisle, Ensure you know the following to make things fit:
- How long is the aisle?
- How wide is the aisle?
- What kind of decoration can fit on both sides down the aisle? (i.e., lanterns, flowers, row markers, topiaries candles in glass cylinders flanking the aisle?)
- How long of an aisle runner will you need (if applicable)?
- What amounts of flower petals are necessary?
- Are the decorations on the aisle (i.e., glass cylinder-type candle holders) sturdy enough should guests accidentally collide with them?
- Are there any open flame candles on the aisle? Female guests in long gowns should be cautious with their clothing near open flames.
Aisle runner etiquette:
- Will you have the aisle runner pre-set, pulled out from the get-go?
- Are there side aisles for guests to reach their seats if you’re using an aisle runner and set up beforehand?
- To prevent guests from stepping on the runner, consider using a silk ribbon to block off the aisle.
- Is the aisle runner just being pulled down for the bride?
- Who is in charge of pulling the runner down before the bride walks down the aisle?
8. optional Items to include on your wedding ceremony checklist
- Personal flowers such as the bridal bouquet, bridesmaids bouquets, boutonnières, and corsages.
- Flower Petal Baskets for the flower girls
- Ring-pillow (with fake rings) for the ring bearer
- Sign-in book with a nice pen
- Gift Card Box for envelopes
- Picture frames with Bride & Groom photos
- Yarmulkes & bobby pins (Jewish Ceremony)
- Confetti, rice, bubbles: make sure your venue allows these
- Pre-ceremony beverages for guests upon arrival, self-serve or butler passed, (i.e. assorted waters, sodas, juices)
- Welcome sign
And make sure you bring your Marriage license!
A wedding ceremony checklist is essential to ensure that your big day goes off without a hitch. Make sure you have everything planned out ahead of time so that any last-minute surprises or difficulties can be avoided.
And yet, there is much more to a wedding ceremony. If you’re interested in learning more, please keep reading about How To Plan Your Wedding Ceremony.