This is your special day, you want to make sure it goes off without a hitch. You'll need to plan every moment and make sure everyone involves knows exactly what they're supposed to be doing when.
The list that follows is a general list for reference only. You may add, omit or move things around as suits you. Some things overlap in a big way and shouldn't be combined in the same ceremony.
Table of Contents
Before the Event
Choosing a Wedding Date
Many people choose a wedding date out of pure convenience and this is fine. I got married on Labor Day weekend so that I wouldn't have to take any time off of work. But it also happened to be the day of the new moon, which I felt was important.
There are other considerations you may wish to take into account as well.
Many folks know that it's considered very unlucky to marry in May. I have even met a Pagan Priest who refuses to perform any marriage ceremonies during the month of May. There are various reasons for this. In many traditions, the Sacred Marriage takes place in May and so it invite's the Goddess's displeasure to plan your wedding too close to Hers. In Roman tradition, the Month of May saw the feast of Lemuralia when troublesome spirits were appeased. To marry during this month was to invite their mischief for the duration of the union. The month of June, however, is closely associated with the Goddess of marriage and many believe she is honored by your wedding during Her month.
Many Pagans prefer to have their weddings in the summer or autumn to increase the likelihood of good weather as Pagan weddings tend to take place outdoors.
The following old wives' rhyme is popular to consult in making this decision but its important to remember that these rhymes came about when people didn't know their spouses well before marrying them. Hopefully you do.
"Married when the year is new, he'll be loving, kind and true.
When February birds do mate, You wed nor dread your fate.
If you wed when March winds blow, joy and sorrow both you'll know.
Marry in April when you can, Joy for Maiden and for Man.
Marry in the month of May, and you'll surely rue the day.
Marry when June roses grow, over land and sea you'll go.
Those who in July do wed, must labor for their daily bred.
Whoever wed in August be, many a change is sure to see
Marry in September's shrine, your living will be rich and fine.
If in October you do marry, love will come but riches tarry.
If you wed in bleak November, only joys will come, remember.
When December snows fall fast, marry and true love will last."
Day of the Week
Weddings most often take place on Saturday or Sunday because these are the most convenient days for people to attend. However, Friday is Venus's day and this energy can be of great benefit while Saturday's energy is somewhat troublesome. Sunday is a good day for contracts and beginnings, however.
The following old wive's poem has some advice that isn't always easy to follow:
"Monday for health
Tuesday for wealth
Wednesday best of all
Thursday for losses
Friday for crosses
Saturday for no luck at all."
If you really want to choose an auspicious day of the week for your wedding, it might be best to have a small ceremony early in the week and a larger reception on the weekend.
The waxing moon is a time for growth. I believe it is best to choose the waxing half of the lunar month for your wedding date to ensure that you are always growing and never stagnant.
Many Pagans like to get married on holidays while others avoid them when planning weddings. Getting married on Beltane is strongly frowned upon in most traditions, but others find it perfectly suitable. Midsummer is a popular day for a handfasting as is the feast of the First Harvest (Lammas). I have known couples who married on Samhain so that their beloved dead could be present as well though some traditions would find this highly inappropriate.
Many traditions agree that New Year's Day and New Years Eve are very lucky days to get married.
The Color Scheme or Theme
What are you going to wear? What is the bridal party going to wear? If you decide your color scheme or theme early on, it will permeate everything right up to and through the ceremony and feast. As a member of the magical community, you probably feel that colors have meaning, so you will probably want to take that into account when making your choice. Or maybe you just want to wear traditional white and have the bridal party wear your favorite color, or black or bright red to make a striking contrast. Or maybe you want to have a themed wedding and make the color scheme of lesser importance. Whatever you're going to do, the earlier you decide, the more likely everything will have fallen into place by the time the big day arrives. (And if you decide early and put the word out, you'd be surprised at how many themed baubles will show up at your doorstep because Auntie or Mum saw that at the flea market and knew it would be perfect! If you'd like to avoid this, keep your theme a secret.)
See Colors for Your Wedding
Where would you like to have your wedding or hand fasting ceremony and reception? Many Pagans emphatically agree that outside is best. There are many advantages to an outside ceremony. Seasonal flowers and the sounds of nature add to the festivities and parks and recreation areas often allow you to reserve space very inexpensively if not for free. But there are disadvantages to outdoor weddings as well. The weather does not always cooperate and insects can be a problem (It is always a good idea to provide your guests with sunscreen, insect repellent and shade regardless of how perfect the day and the spot may seem.)
Indoor venues, churches, hotels, meeting halls tend to cost a bit more to reserve but they also tend to come with a host of amenities. Many have kitchens available to you and some even have their own catering and cleanup staff.
For me, it was important to get married at home. My husband and I had a life together before we made it official and our wedding was a symbol not just of our commitment to each other, but our commitment to our household and family. We had our ceremony right in the front yard and the wedding feast was served in our own kitchen and living room while the band played in the back yard. Getting married at home offers a huge cost advantage but it also pretty much ensures you are going to do everything yourself (even those things you hire other people to do you end up doing yourself). This includes, of course, cleaning the house and landscaping the yard beforehand and cleaning up after. The most important piece of advice I have if you choose to do it this way is to make sure everything is set up ahead of time. We cheated a bit and had the wedding and the reception on different days or we would never have managed it.
Your invitations should go out 6 to 8 weeks before the wedding. This gives your guests plenty of time to buy gifts and new outfits as well as clear their calendar. Do not be afraid to send out separate reception and ceremony invitations. It is perfectly acceptable to only invite a few close friends and family to the ceremony and co-workers, teachers and other acquaintances to the reception.
Your Invitation Should Say:
- Who is getting married, when and where.
- If there is a reception to follow, what time it begins and where it is located (for those who can't make the ceremony)
- If dress is casual or semi-formal (formal is generally assumed). You may also wish to mention if the event is to be held outdoors, though it is generally assumed in the Pagan community, it is not in other communities. A phrase like "informal garden reception" gets the point across without much fuss.
- Your invitation should be addressed to everyone in the household that is invited (or each can get their own invitation). If you don't mind if your guests bring guests, write "and guest" on the invitation. If this is omitted, it can be assumed that you don't want them bringing extra people. If someone asks, don't be afraid to say no!
- How many people do I want at my ceremony. Do I want it to be small and intimate, or large and festive? How many people can the venue I have chosen hold?
- How many people can I afford to feed at my reception? How many people can the reception venue hold?
- Do I want to allow guests to bring guests?
- How important is your RSVP? If you are using a caterer it's more important. Buffet is slightly less important than a sit down dinner. How will your guests RSVP? Providing cards & stamped self-addressed envelopes helps stress the importance of the RSVP, even though they are an extra expense.
If you are getting legally married, you will need an ordained officiant (you will also need to go to the courthouse some weeks ahead of time to apply for a marriage license). Your officiant should insist on meeting with you at least once before the wedding. He or she (or they) should be willing to go over the ceremony with you in great detail, to listen to your concerns and make suggestions. Expect to pay your officiant $150 or so and it would be nice if you also gave him/her a gift. To find an officiant, check with your local Pagan store, ask around at your local Pagan Pride Festival (or email the organizers and ask for suggestions), or visit the clergy AND organization listings on http://www.witchvox.com
The wedding rehearsal is a Christian tradition that seems to have been lost on the Pagan community. While it is true that there is a bit of magic in spontaneity, the rehearsal helps everything go much more smoothly on the big day. It helps to calm nerves and gives you the opportunity to fix anything that just doesn't flow. If you have people in your wedding party that aren't familiar with your traditions, a rehearsal gives you the opportunity to make sure they are comfortable with them. You don't have to perform the entire ceremony word for word at the rehearsal. At various points you may want to say "And Jane does her reading here" or something like that.
The rehearsal usually takes place the day before or the weekend before the wedding and often includes a meal, traditionally it is the responsibility of the groom's parents. Usually the immediate family, wedding party and officiant are present. This is a good time to present them all with gifts of gratitude. This is also a good start to an evening of partying, if you want to have Bachelor and Bachelorette parties afterward.
See Gifts for the Wedding Party
The Shower and Bachelor(ette) Party
This is not your job. It is the job of your maid of honor and best man or your Circle. You have enough to worry about. Let your friends know if you feel strongly against (or for) strippers or if you'd like to have some sort of preparation ceremony as part of the event, but don't get caught up in planning the peripheral parties. Instead, use them as a chance to relax and forget the stress of wedding planning!
You may wish to spend some time preparing before your big day. It is a major rite of passage, after all, and some preparation may be in order. For many, the bridal shower or bachelor(ette) party is enough, but some people want a little extra. This can be as simple as a cleansing bath, or a day at the spa, or you may wish to do a sweat or a thorough chakra clearing. Whatever works for you.
The Big Event
The Sacred Space
Where is your wedding going to take place? Many Pagans prefer an outdoor ceremony. I prefer a wedding at home since a wedding is all about creating a household and I love to entertain in my garden anyway. However, if weather is a concern, your house or yard isn't big enough or there just isn't anywhere outdoors available that gives you the kind of privacy you need, you may choose to rent a hall or have the wedding performed in a church or temple.
The ceremony space will need to be prepared ahead of time. This may be a job for your wedding party or other family members or you may hire someone to do it. You will want it to be decorated according to your wedding theme or color scheme and appropriate to the season and time of day. Seasonal flowers are appropriate, candles are appropriate for evening ceremonies and you may wish to have other festive elements such as streamers or an aisle runner.
The space will also need to be cleared and consecrated. This can be done ahead of time or you may wish to have it performed as part of the rite. Discuss this with your Priest/ess.
You will also need to think about where the reception/wedding feast will be held. It may be held in the same location as the ceremony but if you have a separate guest list or if the feast is to be held several hours or even a day or two after the ceremony itself (all acceptable if that is what works for you), then this may not be possible.
- Where do I want to have my wedding? Is there a place that is meaningful to us? Or perhaps a place that is traditional for my family or my partner's family?
- What time of day will I have my wedding? Am I going to need special lighting? Candles may be appropriate for a moonlit wedding, but at noon on a bright day they may seem kind of pointless.
- How can I engage all the senses in order to make my wedding a truly emersive event? Flowers, incense, chimes, color and lighting all play into this.
- Who will cleanse and bless the ritual area? Will this be done ahead of time or will it be part of the ceremony?
Oh yes, there should be music. If not at the ceremony itself, surely at the wedding feast/reception. The question is, where is the music going to come from? Is your Circle going to provide the music through chanting? Will you play recorded music (make sure someone is in charge of this. Not you!)? Will you hire a musician or a band or perhaps a DJ? What songs will they play?
If the wedding is outside, you may wish to hire an "unplugged" musician, like a harpist, an accordion player or a fiddler to provide the music. If a musician or DJ has to bring a power source, you may end up paying extra.
Your officiant may have something to say about this, so ask his or her (or their) advice. If you hire a musician, band or DJ, they may also have some suggestions of songs that have been well-received at weddings before.
- Is there a song or songs that are particularly meaningful to us? Perhaps the first song we danced to, or made out to or maybe a song that we feel particularly reflects our situation or challenges we have faced? Or maybe a song from the movie you saw on your first date? Or perhaps songs that are even more personal from your childhood?
- How much can you afford? If you hire musicians, be prepared to pay at least $150 per person. A DJ will probably run you about $300. It is also nice to feed them.
This is the part where everyone walks in. If you are having a circle, the guests may process in either ahead of or behind the bridal party. If everyone is already seated, then the bridal party will process in. This is a very important part of the ceremony and I urge you not to omit it. Every woman in your family and circle of friends is going to be craning her neck to see you as you process down the aisle, or into the circle. The effect will go off best if the guests are already in their places when you enter looking fabulous.
- Who will escort the bride? The father, the mother, both or neither? Perhaps the bride will enter with her maids. Or perhaps she will enter alone in a symbolic act that will culminate later with the couple walking out together.
- Likewise, who will escort the groom? Will the groom be waiting in the center? Or will the bride and groom enter from opposite directions and meet in the center?
- Will there be music for the processional? If so, will it be recorded or will you hire a musician or singer? Or will you have your guests sing or chant
- (See Wedding Chants and Wedding Music)
The Bridal Party
Traditionally the bridal party consists of the bride and groom, their parents, a maid or matron of honor and bridesmaids, a best man and groomsmen and a flower girl and ring bearer. (Check out The Bridal Party - A History for more information about the significance of each.)
You may choose to have no bridal party at all or have parents, grandparents and siblings fulfill the role (Check out Your Wedding - Getting the Family Involved. Remember that it is traditional to present each member of the bridal party with gifts, so if cost is a factor you may want to choose a smaller rather than a larger party.
- What will the function of each member of the party be? (Check out Put the Bridal Party to Work )
- Will children stand with the wedding party or sit with their parents during the service?
- Will bridesmaids enter single file, two by two, paired with an usher or groomsman, or will they escort the bride?
- Will there be an aisle runner? Or flower petals perhaps?
- How will bridesmaids & groomsmen be ordered? By height is a good option for pictures or perhaps by age?
- What music will be played during the processional? Will the guests sing or chant or will an instrument be played or perhaps you will ask a person or group to sing the processional for you.
Sanctifying the Ritual Area
See Your Sacred Wedding Space
This is where you cast your circle, call directions, and/or open portals and invite the Gods, spirits and ancestors to witness the forthcoming rites. You and your partner may wish to do this or you may wish to have members of your wedding party do it. The officiate can also do it.
- How can you relate the symbolism of your own faith to the institution of marriage?
- Who will call the quarters/open the portals/etc. for you? Perhaps this can be a function of members of the wedding party. (Check out Put the Bridal Party to Work )
- If this is a mixed-faith pairing, how can you incorporate elements of the both faiths?
- What Gods are you inviting to be present?
Divine Guests of Honor
See Wedding Evocations
Hera is the Goddess of marriage and Zeus, her husband, oversees contracts. Therefore it is appropriate to evoke both of them for your wedding ceremony. Hymen is the God of the marriage feast and He should also be evoked through bawdy toasts and songs. Eris will come whether you invite Her or not, so invite Her and leave her a golden delicious apple as an offering, asking nicely that She refrain from causing discord among your guests.
You may also wish to invite Aphrodite, Goddess of Love and Passion though her realm does not extend to the contract of marriage. Her invitation should be a "thank you" for the gift of love and passion that brought you together and a prayer that your passion for each other will continue. Some refrain from inviting Aphrodite out of fear that She will encourage infidelity. But Aphrodite is kind to those who love Her and will respond to your request that She keep Her gifts between you and your partner.
Greetings and introductions
What is this?
This is the part where the officiant says, "We are gathered here today to join this couple in holy matrimony, etc.". He or she welcomes the guests, announces why they're here and introduces the couple.
Is there a nice poem or story you would like the officiate to recite at this point? Maybe you could share how you met, some of the trials you've been through together, etc.
Giving Away the Bride or Blessing of the Family
This is the part where the priest says, "Who gives this woman in marriage". This is holdover from those times when women were subject to men and a marriage was simply the father passing his responsibility for her over to a new guy. Many ancient wedding ceremonies simply consisted of the father placing his daughter's hand into that of her new husband. In ancient Greece this was accompanied by the words (paraphrased) "I give you this woman for the begetting of legitimate heirs". If the bride has a close relationship with her father and is looking forward to motherhood, perhaps this is exactly what you'll go for. Perhaps the groom would like to be given away by his mother as well, to balance things. This is perfectly okay.
It may be that you don't like the idea of being given away like property. Or perhaps you don't have a close relationship with your parents. Or maybe you've been independent of your parents for so long the idea seems ludicrous. However, a marriage is more than a union of two people, it is a union of families. So, it is a good idea to solicit the blessing of your family on the union, even if they aren't actually giving anyone away.
Are you going to be “given away", or perhaps the officiant can simply ask “Who speaks for this man/woman?” or “Who will support this union?”. Or maybe you prefer a silent, symbolic act? What family members are you going to include? If you are being "given away", this might be easy. Just choose who takes care of you.
If you are soliciting a blessing, you may be asking someone to speak or to perform a symbolic act. Who will it be? The head of each family is a good option. Or the eldest member of each family. Or you may choose the person you feel the closest to.
Support of Family and Friends
Every marriage is going to suffer moments of trouble and it is a good idea to have your support team assembled ahead of time, just in case you need it later.
Who do you know you can count on to be objective? Whose couch do you know you can sleep on if you need to? Who do you think will show up with a casserole after one of you has had surgery? Who will you be comfortable asking to take the kids for a weekend when you and your partner haven't had sex since the last one was born? Who is going to sit up all night keeping you or your spouse company while the other one is in labor or in surgery?
Don't be afraid to choose more than one person. The bigger your support system, the better. You and your partner can each choose someone you know you can count on and then choose a third person together. These people can be family members, members of the wedding party, your clergy, or friends. Just think of these people as your marriage's Godparents.
Many people choose to break up their wedding ceremony with little interludes, readings, songs, etc. Too many of these will have your audience looking at their watches and have your feet and back aching before it's all over, but not having them is going to make your wedding seem like a quickie.
It's probably a good idea to have 2-3 interludes, but if you are having mini-ceremonies, such as a family blessing involving a reading or symbolic act, you should count this as an interlude to avoid having your ceremony start to feel cluttered.
This is the part where someone reads some touching story, or one that teaches a lesson about marriage or love. It can be a story or a poem or it can be a musical interlude. Or you can skip it altogether. Many people chose to have Bible readings in this section, and it may be appropriate if this is a mixed-faith affair. Or you may wish to share a story about how you met, or how you fell in love, or a poem that you like that’s well suited to the occasion.
- Who will do this reading? And what is it all about? This is a good time for you and your partner to read poems to each other or you may honor one of your guests by having him or her do a reading. I am partial to the idea of having someone who has a happy marriage give marital advice at this point.
Most weddings have a musical interlude or two. Choose songs that mean something to both of you. It's good to have some songs for the audience to sing as well.
If your wedding/handfasting is taking place outside. I suggest hiring one musician to provide the music. I am personally partial to the accordion as it is flexible enough to go from slow and romantic to wild and festive, but so is a fiddle/violin. A harp or guitar is also nice, but not as flexible in my opinion. You may have a musician friend who would like to give you the gift of music for your wedding. Feel free to take them up on it, but give them a gift of gratitude in return.
(See Music for Pagan Weddings)
- Do you have a song that's "your song"? Perhaps you would like to honor a particular God or Goddess in song.
Appropriate places to put music- The Processional and the Recessional, while the license is being signed, wherever there is a lull in the action.
If you are getting married by a denominational minister, he or she may insist on religious music only, but this isn't usually an issue in the Pagan community.
This is where your Priest or an Elder of your family or Circle admonishes you to respect each other and whatever else he or she feels like saying. It is a good way to honor a grandparent and include them in the ceremony where they may otherwise be excluded.
It is probably best out of respect to let your clergy or elder come of with this entirely on his or her own. It's really not something you're supposed to hear ahead of time. You may ask to hear it if you wish, or you can replace it with the Rose Ceremony or something similar instead.
Exchange of Vows
This is the best part! This is also the part you'll agonize over the most if you decide to write your own vows. This is the climax of your ceremony. No pressure.
Make sure you give your clergy a copy of your vows. Chances are, no matter how hard you try, you will not remember them. Your pride will suffer a lot less at being prompted by your officiate than it will after standing up there looking stupid, sweating with everyone you care about staring at you expectantly. It happens, I've seen it. I've done it. Give your vows to the officiant. That's what he's there for!
Binding / Handfasting
You may wish to have your hands bound while saying your vows. Your best man or matron of honor, a parent or the officiant may bind your hands or you may simply clasp hands. You should only clasp one hand to the other, not both. One hand should be free, the other bound (or clasped).
There are several different types of hand binding ceremonies. Review them all and see which ones you like the best. It is better to choose a shorter hand binding if the rest of your ceremony is long and vice versa. Your hands don’t actually need to be bound at this point, clasping is perfectly acceptable and actually more traditional in many cases.
Once your vows have been spoken, you may slip the rings on each others fingers as a physical representation of those vows.
See Ring Ceremonies
What is this?
This is when the Priest blesses the couple and wishes them a long life, happiness and many children.
Things to think about
Your officiate will usually have free reign on this one, as it should be. You may want to make a special request, such as “please don't wish us lots of children”.
Alternatively, you can have the entire congregation sing a blessing song by way of benediction as your processional. The Irish Blessing Song is a good one.
This is a good time to open your circle. The benediction can easily be incorporated into this.
Presentation of the Couple
This is it! The officiate will now present you to the community as a couple. You are no longer a single person. You have entered a new state of being and a new phase in your life!
How do you want to be presented? You may be presented as Mr. and Mrs. Hisfirst hislastname or Mr. and Mrs. Hislastname or Mr. Hisfirst Hislastname and Mrs. Herfirst Hislastname or whatever.
The Broom Jump
The jumping of the broom symbolizes the beginning of your domestic life together. It is akin to carrying the bride over the threshold (which you may choose to do instead).
(See Jumping the Broom
- Who will make your broom, or will you buy one?
- Who will hold the broom during the ceremony and put it down for you to jump over?
- Will you also use the broom at the start of the ritual to help establish your sacred space?
Rice or What?
Throwing rice over the bride and groom as they exit the wedding ceremony is a popular (and fun) tradition dating back to time immemorial. It is a blessing of fertility and prosperity and can be performed with any grain or seed, as all carry similar energy. There is some concern that raw rice left on the ground outside presents a danger to the local wildlife, particularly birds. I have found no credible evidence to support this supposition. I think you can have folks throw rice in good conscience if you like. However, you have many other options.
At my wedding I opted to have my guests throw wildflower seeds, which I provided them in small bags tied with a ribbon. The wedding took place in my garden and I enjoyed the idea of wildflowers from our wedding blessing popping up in the coming years. It was pretty annoying to wash out of my hair, however.
Some couples choose to have millet thrown instead. Millet is a wonderful grain that is a popular addition to wild bird seed mixes and lovely offering to the wild spirits of the place in addition to carrying the energies of fertility and prosperity to the couple.
Another option is rose petals. These are not as aerodynamic as seeds and are more likely to flutter around you than fly over you and they don't hurt as much when they pelt you. Rose petals would work best if the people throwing them were on a slight elevation from their targets. Their energies are more about love and passion than fertility. If you want them to retain their scent, you may have to treat them with perfume oil.
Lavender buds are more aerodynamic than rose petals and retain their scent much better. The energy of lavender strengthens love and encourages fertility.
Confetti is also an option, but it's not usually made of Earth-friendly materials and if it carries any energy at all, it's just about being festive. Plastic confetti shapes are also an option and the shapes and colors will lend their energy. But they are still not made of Earth friendly material and must be cleaned up afterward.
Some venues will not allow you to throw anything for fear of attracting rodents or presenting a slip and fall risk to guests. If this is the case with your venue, consider having your guests blow bubbles instead. The energy here will be playful and shouldn't affect the local wildlife. You can get little bottles of bubbles or make your own and print out labels with your names and the date of your wedding to turn it into a cute wedding favor.
If you want folks to throw something specific, you should provide it to your guests in small bags. This also limits the amount they're going to throw at you. You can give one of the children in your bridal party the duty of distributing these. If you do not provide your guests with something to throw, they may surprise you by throwing stuff anyway. Or not. You never know with people. Be careful when they're throwing to watch your eyes and your footing.
Some couples opt to have doves or butterflies released at their weddings. I am not sure how I feel about this, but it is definitely impressive. Doves are a symbol of Aphrodite and butterflies symbolize new beginnings. If you choose to do this, please do your research to make sure the creatures are handled in a humane way and released in a way that will give them the best chance at survival.
The recessional is the parade out of the ritual area. If you've cast a circle, you should open it before you recess. Usually, the recession is done in the opposite order of the processional with the bride and groom leading the way. Think about how you would like to see it done. In the case of a circle, it may seem natural for everyone to clasp hands and head out, bride in the lead, with the bridesmaids leading out the guest in one long line.
Will there be music or chanting for the recessional?
Where will you be recessing to?
Do you even want to recess or would you rather just disperse?
The Receiving Line
What is this?
This is where you stand outside the ritual area shaking hands and hugging your guests as they recess out OR stand outside the feast area greeting your guests as they make their way inside
Who will be in your receiving line? Usually the parents and grandparents are there with the bride and groom and sometimes the wedding party and siblings are there as well. If you have children, will they be in the line with you? If you have a circle, you may hug everyone while in the circle before recessing instead.
The Wedding Feast
The feast is a traditional part of Pagan weddings from time immemorial. These days, it is usually referred to as a reception. It is traditionally handled by the bride's family. You may choose to have your feast as part of your ceremony, before or after your ceremony, or if you are having a small Pagan wedding but wish to celebrate with non-Pagan friends and family who wouldn't understand, you may wish to have a wedding reception on a different day. Remember the all important cake-cutting ceremony and toasts.
- Do you want an actual meal or a small symbolic feast? Perhaps you would prefer to just serve appetizers and cocktails.
- Will this be a catered event? If not, talk to your close friends and family about what they can help you prepare.
- Will there be an open bar? Will you serve alcohol at all? What type? Will you hire a bartender, or just place a bottle of wine on each table?
- Who is serving the food? Who is cleaning up?
- Will you be renting a hall? What services can you get from them?
- Who will be sitting at the head table with the bride and groom? Will there be a table just for the immediate family? For the bridal party?
- Will there be assigned seating for other guests?
- How many people can I afford to feed? This is probably the biggest consideration when determining the size of your guest list. Be realistic. There is a tendency to say "I'll make it up in the gifts" but that is an irresponsible and somewhat impolite attitude. You cannot expect your friends to give you a more expensive gift than someone else just because you celebrated with a fully staffed four course meal and they served a buffet of food prepared by the loving hands of their mothers.
Signing of Certificate
This is what makes it official. You need to apply for your marriage certificate several weeks in advance and should have it on hand on your wedding day. You and your spouse, your officiate, and two witnesses (usually your best man and maid of honor) all sign the certificate. Now it's official! Well, actually it's not official till it gets sent in. The officiate will usually do this for you but you may have to visit the court house in a couple of weeks to get a certified copy.
You can sign your certificate as part of the ceremony or wait till later. If you do it as part of the ceremony, it's probably a good idea to entertain your audience with a little music as it tends to take a bit of shuffling and whispered discussion in the best of circumstances.
- Who are your witnesses? Usually this is the job of the Maid of Honor and Best Man but anyone over 18 will do.
Pictures can be a big pain in the butt. You will probably be asked to rebind your hands and re-jump the broom a dozen times or so. Schedule this into your plan of events. Some people have a photo shoot before the ceremony, but this ruins the whole "don't see the bride before the wedding" thing. Know that you will be going back to your ritual area at the end of things and plan at least an hour.
- Will you hire a photographer? If not, who will take pictures? You could designate a photographer from among your friends, although I'm sure there will be many.
- How about a videographer? You may wish to hire someone for this as well.
You may choose to open your gifts at the reception or feast, immediately following the wedding or you may choose to open them later on after your guests have gone. Many choose this last option because a big deal has already been made of gifts at the shower and you don't want to take up valuable dancing, eating and socializing time with gifts. Take note of who gave you what so you can write a personalized message on your thank you notes.
Thank You Notes
Thank you notes are a must! They should go out within two weeks of the wedding and include a personalized note to each person. Whether they mailed you a gift or card or showed up with or without a gift, everyone should get a note. You should take special care for those who helped with the wedding. Make sure you have a guest book available at the wedding and at the reception so that you can review it when writing your notes. You may also wish to have someone stationed near you with a notebook as you open gifts during the reception so that you can remember who gave you what.
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