When you’re planning a wedding, it’s impossible not to spend way too much time looking for inspiration from other weddings in magazines and blogs. Amidst the inspiration overload of these competing images, it’s entirely too easy for your own vision of your wedding (remember when you had one of those?) to get blurred out of existence. It always goes this way: You dive into wedding planning with a mostly-clear idea of what you want; You're just dipping into Pinterest for a "few little added touches". And then before you know it, when you think of your wedding ceremony, all you manage to envision is one Pinterst board after another. How do you make your wedding feel like you and not something ripped from the pages of Martha Stewart Weddings (or Real Simple Weddings or Style Me Pretty or Ruffled or Pinterest… let’s face it, you’ve spend A LOT of time reading about weddings)? It's not that those weddings aren't gorgeous, but will they still feel like you?
Fortunately, personalizing a wedding ceremony—which, arguably, is the most important part of the wedding—is fairly easy and doesn’t have to cost a dime. The main thing is to focus on what you and your fiancé(e) want and what makes you both happy, and not to worry about other people’s expectations. After all, your wedding guests are supposed to be your nearest and dearest, right? They’ll love your ceremony because they love you. Here are a few ways to make your ceremony unmistakably yours.
1.Mix up the processional
It’s traditional for the bride to be escorted down the aisle by her father, but you get to do whatever you want! Think about walking down the aisle with both parents, or your whole family, or your big sister, or by yourself, or with your groom. Do whatever feels best and most authentic for you.
2. Have fun with your programs
The sky’s the limit when it comes to designing programs. Spice up the normal wedding info by including the story of how you met or anecdotes about members of the wedding party. You can make your program a source of fun by including homemade MadLibs, trivia games, and crosswords. (Just be sure to give your guests something to write with!) Or you can go for function, and have your program also work as a fan on a hot day.
3. Write your own vows (or the whole ceremony!)
A sure way to make the ceremony feel like your own is to write it. You can customize everything that gets said, from the welcome greeting to “You may now kiss the bride.” There are so many different ways to say those same words you've heard the exact same way in movies, on TV, and at other weddings. If writing the whole ceremony is too daunting (or there are parts of a religious ceremony that you’d like to keep), then try writing your own vows. Don’t be afraid to mix up the conventional ceremony structure—I once attended a wedding in which the whole ceremony was essentially a series of readings read by friends, with the actual vows stuck at the end, and it was fantastic.
4. Choose readings that reflect you and your fiancé(e)
One of the easiest ways to personalize a ceremony is to choose readings that are, well, personal. Choose important friends and family members to read two or three passages from works that are meaningful to you and your soon-to-be spouse, keeping in mind that these readings don’t have to be “serious” or even explicitly about married love. You can choose from poems, novels, children’s books, even song lyrics and humor essays. (I was once asked to read a David Sedaris essay at a dear friend’s wedding, and it was glorious.) Choose whatever speaks to you in a deep way about love, commitment, partnership, and compassion. If you’re having a religious ceremony, don’t be afraid to mix the scriptural and the secular; have one friend read your favorite religious passage on love, and have another read your favorite song lyrics.
5. Have a friend or family member officiate
What could be more special than having someone you love—like your mom or your best friend—officiate your wedding? The Universal Life Church lets anyone get ordained online for free.
6. Get your guests involved
There are innumerable ways to get your guests involved in your wedding ceremony. You can have them all read a passage aloud together (which can be printed in your kickass wedding programs); you can have them pass the rings around, blessing them before giving them back to the bride and groom; you could even end your ceremony by leading them all in a sing-along to you and your partner’s favorite song.
7. Have fun with the music
If you love the Wedding March, then by all means, go with that for your ceremony. But if the traditional music selections don’t do anything for you, have fun choosing music that you really love. Don’t feel like you have to choose tunes that are “serious,” either. If you and your fiancé(e) fell in love over your shared, shameful addiction to “Teenage Dream,” play it! If you think The Smiths’ “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” is the most romantic song ever, go with that!
And if a double-decker bus Crashes into us To die by your side Is such a heavenly way to die And if a ten-ton truck Kills the both of us To die by your side Well, the pleasure - the privilege is mine
8. Have the ceremony in a non-traditional location
If you’re not tied to having your ceremony in a religious location, you can get creative with your setting. Think about tying the knot in your backyard, a museum, your favorite park, or a library. (Seriously, a library! How awesome would that be?)
9. Create a funky backdrop
Mix up the traditional wedding arbor by making your own backdrop, using flowers, paper, or paint. Check out some amazing paper backdrops here.
Images: NBC; BisforBrown/Etsy; Giphy (2); Rachael/Flickr; Getty; ruffledblog/Instagram