You are engaged. Now the work begins, right? The dress, the colors, the music, the food, the venue, the photographer. Then there is transportation, makeup and hair, guest lists, save-the-dates, invitations, seating arrangements. Oh! And a marriage license! And hey – probably someone to sign that license, too.
We get it. The actual ceremony, the officiant, and that pesky license to make it all legitimate aren’t at the top of your list. It’s ok. We aren’t insulted. But we are glad you found this blog because this is your reminder that while it may not be top of the list, your ceremony can’t be last on the list either.
Here are five things your ceremony should include:
This varies from place to place, but generally speaking, you will need a marriage license to make your marriage legal in the eyes of the government. (Why you may want to do this is a different blog!)
The marriage license is most often issued by a county within the state you are marrying. These days most county offices have websites, and as marriage licenses are among one of the most common documents they handle, you can easily locate details on how to obtain the license, the fee for the license, any waiting or “cooling off” periods, and filing deadlines. If not, pick up the phone and ask. It’s worth the few minutes it may take you to puzzle this out. Otherwise, all that planning may not yield an immediately legal marriage.
Most licensed and ordained ministers and officiants will agree: consent and vows are a necessary piece of a wedding ceremony. In fact, I will suggest the consent and vows are at the very soul, the very core and root of the marriage. What exactly are the consent and vows? Well, you probably think of them as the “I do/I do” part followed by the “for better/for worse/for richer/for poorer” (and all its versions) section.
Why is this necessary? Well, first and foremost, the consent is exactly what it sounds like. You consent to the marriage contract, understand what you are doing, and are entering it with a sense of acceptance and agreement. The vows that follow are the promises you make around your consent to marriage. The vows are what you promise to do for yourself, for your spouse, and for the marriage.
3. A Spirit Animal/Intention
A spirit animal? You bet! As in, what is the intention you are setting for your ceremony? It should be present and articulated. Why? Because while marriage is a universal covenant, each marriage is also unique. Some people marry with the intention to always be kind to each other. Others marry because of connection. Others make their spirit animal the wandering wildebeest, always traveling and seeking adventure. Others couples have tenacity as their marriage’s DNA. More than any theme you might choose for décor, understanding your marriage and articulating your relationship for yourselves and your community makes for a meaningful wedding ceremony and sets you off on your marriage path with a compass.
4. A Joyfulness
People, this is a wedding, not a dirge. Have fun! Celebrate! Sure, this is a momentous and weighty moment, but it does not need to be solemn. In fact, please don’t let it be solemn!
I mean several things here. First of all, logistically create boundaries within the ceremony. The ceremony should be long enough to honor this joyous (see #4) occasion, but not so long everyone has checked out or is falling asleep. Secondly, create boundaries around your relationship. This is not your mother’s, nor your best friend’s, nor your in-laws’s marriage. This marriage is yours. There are wonderful ways to honor where you come from, your traditions, and your culture without compromising your relationship. Finally, and building on that thought, learning to set boundaries around your marriage ceremony is a great skill for your marriage. There will be many moments in your marriage where boundaries will be important for your health, your well-being, and the life of your marriage and family. Learning how to do that at your wedding ceremony, even in the smallest way, is a great way to develop that skill set.
Cheers to both of you as you embark on this marriage adventure. And don’t forget . . . we are here to help you both now, and throughout this journey!
Sarah has been crafting custom weddings for couples of all kinds since 1999. Sarah is a Ravenclaw, and loves mythology, historical fiction, hot tea, and cycling of all sorts. She is an ordained minister who believes in coloring outside the lines. Sarah has been married to her best friend, Joe, since 1994. Together, their greatest treasures are their two children and the marriage they’ve worked hard to cultivate.