Create a Personal Ceremony

Tips for planning a lively, loving and utterly unforgettable ceremony

Every element of your wedding (the crystals on your gown, the mountain views from your reception, the microbrews lined up behind the bar) is meaningful to the two of you. The ceremony should be no exception. So, unless you love them, don't just settle for the same readings and songs you’ve heard at a dozen weddings before, even if your officiant suggests them. Take time to discuss your shared vision for the vows; talk about what you want to say and about any hymns, Scriptures, or passages from books or poems that move you.
Searching for just the right ceremony readings? The following Web sites can help:

Songs: There are dozens of song lyric Web sites, but is searchable by both artist name and song title, making it easy to navigate.
Literature: At, you can find material from literary powerhouses such as Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, the Oxford Shakespeare, and the King James Bible, as well as poetry, fiction, and nonfiction anthologies.
Scripts: Love lines from The Princess Bride or Moulin Rouge? has downloadable scripts from hundreds of movies, plays, musicals and television shows.
Poetry: allows you to type in a keyword (such as "forever") and find relevant poems, songs, and quotations.

Good Reads
There's more to readings than the oft-heard "Love is patient, love is kind..." These lesser-known works will make guests sit up and listen.

Family: Matthew 7:25 (King James version): "..And the rain descended and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house; and it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock."
Faithfulness: The Irrational Season, by Madeleine L'Engle (excerpt from chapter 4): "[Commitment] demands the courage to move into all the risks of freedom...into that love which is not possession, but participation."
Friendship: "You're My Home," by Billy Joel (from the album Piano Man): "Well, I'll never be a stranger and I'll never be alone/Wherever we're together/that's my home."
Romance: "Letter XXI," from Confidential Correspondence of the Emperor Napoleon and the Empress Josephine: "To love you alone, to make you happy...this is my destiny."

Meaningful Wedding Rituals
These symbolic gestures (both old and new) can inject more significance into the ceremony.

Unity Candle
What it is: Each of the mothers lights a taper; the couple uses the tapers to light a candle representing the merging of two families.
What to Know: This is not a religious custom, so you should check with your officiant to see if it's permitted at your place of worship.

Sand Ceremony
What it is: A twist on the unity candle: family members (or just the couple) combine sand from different vessels into a single bowl.
What to Know: This newly invented ritual doesn't suit every couple or setting. Outdoor beach wedding, sure thing. Cathedral, no way!

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