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.
, 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.
allows you to type in a keyword (such as "forever") and find relevant poems, songs, and quotations.
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.
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.
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!
What it is: The bride gives a flower from her bouquet to her mother upon walking in, and to her new mother-in-law before walking out.
What to Know: If the gesture feels genuine, go for it; otherwise, it can seem forced. Adding a quick hug and a few words cuts the schmaltz.
Breaking the Glass
What it is: In Jewish tradition, the groom steps on a glass. The shattering symbolizes, among other things, life's mix of joy and sadness.
What to Know: Use thin glass (colored is best if you're planning to save the pieces) and wrap it in a cloth napkin so the shards don't fly.
What it is: In this ritual, based on a Celtic tradition, the hands of the bride and groom are tied together to symbolize the joining of lives.
What to Know: This ritual isn't universally allowed at religious ceremonies. Check with your officiant and specific house of worship.
Jumping the Broom
What it is: In this African-American ritual, a couple jumps over a broom to symbolize sweeping away the old and starting anew.
What to Know: This custom dates to the days when slaves weren't allowed to marry. It represented "jumping" into the bonds of domesticity.