What Should We Include in Our Non-Religious Wedding Ceremony?

Ceremony & Vows, Etiquette

It's exciting to look forward to the reception (and that amazing dance party you've planned), but really, the most important part of your wedding day is the ceremony. If you're having a religious ceremony, it may not involve too much planning beyond choosing readers and deciding on aisle décor. But for a non-religious wedding ceremony, there are a lot more details to consider, since the format is really up to you. Where's a couple to start? Here are a few things you should make sure to include in your non-religious wedding ceremony.

Before you start adding personality to your ceremony with fillers like readings, songs, or unity rituals, make sure you've included the basics: A word of welcome from your officiant, your vows and ring exchange, and your presentation as a married couple. For a ceremony that's truly bare-bones (we're talking five minutes or less!), that's all you need. Of course, it's such a momentous occasion, and you'll want to give your ceremony a little more heft and meaning. Here are a few things you can include that will make your ceremony one to remember:

Meaningful Readings
Whether you choose a passage from your favorite book, a poem or sonnet you love, or even lines from a song, readings that hold value for the two of you will infuse your ceremony with a hint of who you are as a couple. Look for excerpts that help define what marriage means to you — not just a passage about love in general, but one that relates to your relationship and the future you hope to build together.

Guest Readers
Without a religious context in your ceremony, you have more flexibility when it comes to readers (especially if they practice a religion other than your own). Invite friends or family members who have played an important role in your relationship to share a few words, or get creative and have two readers share a passage together.

Unity Rituals
You might opt to skip a unity candle, which has roots in Christian tradition, but there are so many other symbolic practices you can weave into your event. Getting married at a vineyard? Blend together two bottles of wine, then share a glass after you exchange vows. Having your ceremony on the beach? Take turns layering different colors of sand into a glass bottle, and have your officiant explain that, just as you two are coming together, the two colors of sand can now never be truly separated. Are you the outdoorsy type? Gather jars of soil from each of your hometowns, then use it to plant a tree that can be permanently planted at your home.

Your Love Story
What's more personal than telling the story of how you met and fell in love? Work with your officiant to write an abridged version of how it all happened, with nods to special moments or events that made you realize you'd each found The One. You can also opt to include some of this in your vows, if you're writing personal ones instead of using more traditional lines.

See more: 7 Common Wedding Ceremony Pitfalls — and How to Avoid Them

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