What Should We Include in Our Nonreligious Wedding Ceremony?

Make sure the main event is super-personal

Groom putting wedding ring on bride's finger

Bokeh Company

It's exciting to look forward to your reception (and that amazing dance party you have planned), but really, the most important part of your wedding day is the ceremony. After all, that is the portion of your wedding when you can truly express your love for your partner before celebrating with your first married kiss.

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 nonreligious wedding ceremony, there are quite a few details to consider, and the format is really up to you. But where's a couple to start? Are there things that absolutely need to be included in a nonreligious ceremony? From the ceremony readings to adding a unity ritual, here are a few ideas to consider including in your nonreligious wedding ceremony.

Start With the Basics

Before you start adding personality to your ceremony with readings, songs, or unity rituals, make sure you begin with the wedding ceremony basics. As you're mapping it out, be sure to include a welcome from your officiant, your vows and ring exchange, and your presentation as a married couple. And for a ceremony that's truly bare-bones (we're talking five minutes or less!), that's really all you need.

Choose Meaningful Readings

Since your wedding is such a momentous occasion, you may want to give your ceremony a little more heft than just the basics. 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.

Invite Guest Readers

Without 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 meaningful passage together.

Consider 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 ceremony. Getting married at a vineyard? Blend together two bottles of wine, and 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. Do you enjoy gardening or have a particular love for spending time in the forest? Gather jars of soil from each of your hometowns, and then use it to plant a tree that can later be permanently planted at your home.

Focus on 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 the special moments or events that made you realize you'd each found your partner for life. You can also opt to include some of this in your vows if you're writing your own instead of using more traditional lines.

Related Stories