Is There a General Wedding Ceremony Outline That We Should Follow?

Ceremony & Vows, Etiquette

Writing your own ceremony? Great idea! There's no better way to really personalize your exchange of vows than to choose a series of elements that really speak to who you are as a couple. But figuring out where to start can be daunting! To help you narrow down what you're going to include in your ceremony, our experts have put together a general wedding ceremony outline that you can use to build your wedding from the ground up.

No matter the religion, rituals, or readings you choose, most wedding ceremonies follow the same basic outline. Here's how it goes:

The Welcome
Once all the guests are seated and you've both arrived at the altar, your officiant will welcome your guests and thank them for joining you. This could be brief, or could lead into a longer excerpt that tells the story of your relationship and describes how you ended up standing at the altar together.

The Readings
Either grouped together or interspersed between your officiant's address (which might take a moment to explain the meaning of each reading), your wedding ceremony readings are pages from a favorite book, song lyrics, religious passages, or any other text that you choose to have shared. Look for readings that help support what marriage means to the two of you, or reflect something valuable about your relationship. Need help deciding on yours? Here are some nonreligious wedding ceremony reading ideas.

The Vows
If there's one part of the ceremony that should hold the most meaning, this is it. Whether you write your own vows together, use traditional phrases, or choose to surprise one another at the altar, these are the promises you make to one another that you intend to keep for your lifetime.

The Rings
Wedding bands are a symbol of the vows you've just shared. They are often exchanged as you say something along the lines of "I take you to be my husband/wife...", and can be seen as the final lines and acceptance of your vows.

See more: How to Write a Ceremony Program in 3 Easy Steps

The Pronouncement
Your officiant might follow up your vows with closing remarks, or you might go straight from the ring exchange to being formally pronounced a married couple.

The Kiss!
The moment you've been waiting for! Seal those vows with a kiss, then it's time to head back up the aisle and get the party started.

Give a Subscription to Brides Magazine as a Gift

Get personalized planning advice, exclusive offers and must-read wedding news.

Thank You
for Signing Up!

Check your e-mail inbox for the latest updates from