Planning the Ceremony

Ceremony is so important to a wedding because it is the whole reason everyone is together in the same place. Ceremonies symbolize love, union, and the coming together of families in a tangible way so everyone can watch and enjoy it with the happy couple!

Sometimes vows and readings can take a backseat to things like the reception and decor, but these demand just as much attention to them as any other part of the wedding.

There are a lot of ways to make the ceremony personalized to your religion, heritage, or family traditions, and is a great way to give either your family, or the new additions, a little preview into your life, or that of your partner’s as well.

The two types of ceremonies will either fall under religious or non-denominational. Below are some descriptions of each and the different types of ceremonies you can have depending on which you prescribe to.



Buddhism: In Buddhism, there is really no prescribed ceremony or liturgy. The ceremony can take place anywhere, and be made really personal since there are no predetermined traditions.

Eastern Orthodoxy: Many of the rituals are performed in 3’s in order to represent the holy trinity. The ceremony takes place in church and lasts an hour. There is no reciting of vows, but there is an exchange of rings which go back and forth 3 times between the couple and ultimately go on the right hand. After the initial blessing, the couple holds hands for the rest of the ceremony. The highlight of the ceremony is the crowning. In the crowning, a koumbaros, a male sponsor, swaps crowns 3 times between the bride and groom. when the crowns are removed, the couple is married.

Episcopalian: This religion is the one with the famous line delivered at the start of the ceremony, “dearly beloved, we are gathered here today…” Marriage is a sacrament in this religion, and must happen in a church. The rings are blessed before being given to the couple and the ceremony is similar to a Sunday service, with Eucharist distributed if desired.

Judaism: Two customs take place before a Jewish ceremony. First, the couple, rabbi, parents, and designated witnesses gather in a chamber to sign the Ketubah (the Jewish marriage licence). Then the Bedeken (groom) veils the bride to symbolically ensure her identity. Both parents walk the bride and groom down the aisle. At the front of the aisle is a Chuppah, which represents the presence of god and the couples first home. Towards the end of the ceremony, the bride circles the groom 7 times. The groom then steps on glass and everyone shouts “Mazel tov!” This symbolizes the end of the solemn ceremony and signals that it is now the start of the celebration.

Hinduism: Has more than a dozen rituals and can last for several days traditionally. However, It can be condensed into about an hour and a half in North America. The Hindu priest chants Sanskrit mantras from the book of holy scripture during the ceremony. The groom wears white, while the bride wears a red and gold sari. The couple gets married under a Mandap, which is a flower covered canopy. The bride and groom also exchange floral garlands to wear for the whole ceremony. After the father of the bride gives her away, the bride and groom’s right hands are tied together. Mangalfera is the heart of the ceremony wherein the groom’s scarf is tied to the brides sari and the couple circles the sacred fire 7 times. The groom puts a red powder called Sindhoor on the part of the brides hair to show that she is a married woman.

Mormonism: There are two ceremony options in this religion, a temple ceremony or a sealing ordinance. Only Mormons may attend the temple wedding. The ceremony seals the couple together for time and all eternity, meaning during life and afterlife. Details of the ceremony are sacred and not shared with non-Mormons. In a civil ceremony, the couple is sealed by a local bishop, usually in a church or a home. This marriage is intended to last until death, but not the afterlife. Non-Mormons may attend the civil sealing.

Islam: These ceremonies are short and simple, but the celebrations may last for a week. It is important to remember that the customs for the ceremony vary according to region. A Mahr is negotiated between the two sides which is a specific sum of money or valuable gift that the groom gives the bride to guarantee her security and independence within the marriage. the first part of the Mahr is paid at the wedding, and today it usually takes the form of a wedding ring. The deferred part of the Mahr is paid during the marriage. During the ceremony, the bride and groom are separately asked if they agree to the marriage and to the Mahr. After they both agree, the marriage contact is signed by the two sides, two of the three Muslim witnesses must be in attendance. The couple may or may not exchange vows, again this can vary.

Protestantism: This religion is where you have most likely heard the line, “Love, honor, cherish… in sickness and in health…” These are famous phrases from the vows of a protestant wedding which are most familiar to most Americans due to its frequent depiction in movies. This ceremony always has the minister, the vows, the exchange of rings, and the final “you may now kiss the bride.” There is leeway in the vows, musical choices, and readings when the couple is choosing. The service can be as short as 15 minutes if there are no extra traditions during the ceremony. Unity candles are a popular tradition, but not required. The ceremony can also be held outside of a church if the couple so chooses.

Catholicism: In this religion, the ceremony is a sacrament, and therefore must be in a church. The ceremony includes a nuptial mass after the exchange of rings. The ceremony lasts about an hour since it is a full mass that includes the distribution of the Eucharist.


Nondenominational ceremonies-

Unitarian Universalism: This is a pluralistic religion with Judaeo-christian roots that does not have prescribed rituals and rules. Couples can work with a minister to design a ceremony that fits their own personal beliefs and personalities. The ceremony can be in a church or secular space, can be long or short, and couples can be of the same faith or different. You do not need to belong to a Unitarian church to be married by a Unitarian minister.

Humanism and Ethical culture: This is more akin to a philosophy than a religion, and has celebrants who are authorized to perform weddings. Humanists believe in equality, and their vows reflect this. This option is worth investigating for those who don’t find religious doctrines a good fit for their ceremony.

Civil Ceremonies: These are presided over by a legal official rather than a religious official. People typically choose civil ceremonies when they are getting married on short notice, come from different faiths, or want a neutral ceremony. The classic civil wedding takes place at city hall, but in reality it can take place anywhere. The ceremony is usually based on the Episcopalian book of common prayer. The officiant would not need to include religious prayers or blessings, but some may allow the couple to make them part of the ceremony.

Same-sex ceremonies: While gay weddings are legally recognized in the united states, the views of various religions on same-sex weddings are still in flux. Clergy from more than a dozen religions are permitted to organize some sort of wedding, commitment ceremony, holy union, or blessing for same sex couples, but not every clergy will necessarily comply. It is important to find LGBT-friendly vendors, and should be one of your first priorities. Some couples opt to have a family member or friend officiate, to make it easier in their search.