Ceremony Ideas

25 Ways to Personalize Your Wedding Ceremony

wedding time capsule.

Who says your reception is the only fun part of your wedding day? There’s no reason why your ceremony shouldn’t be as exciting, meaningful, and inventive as your reception. Our wedding experts have advice on how to personalize your “I dos”—from a pre-ceremony slideshow to a wedding time capsule.

Have a Drink

Start the celebration as soon as guests arrive by throwing a short (no more than an hour) pre-ceremony cocktail party. It will give everyone a chance to mingle and ensure that even your chronically late college roommate will get there in time for the main event. Keep it simple by serving a festive cocktail or two and a small treat like artisanal popcorn in paper cones. As for whether you choose to make a special guest appearance yourself—possibly in another cute white outfit—that’s up to you.

Thank Your Guests

Make guests feel welcome from the moment they arrive by writing them personal notes and leaving them at the ceremony entrance, recommendsEli Events. Another plus: By giving cards, you can skip the receiving line, giving you more time for photos and the reception.

Plan a Group Activity

If you’re marrying at a location like a museum, zoo, or aquarium, give your guests the option of taking a fun behind-the-scenes tour before your I do’s.

Provide Flower Favors

Gift your guests with boutonnieres (for the men) and fresh-flower hair clips (for the women). Arrange them on trays near the beginning of the wedding aisle.

Screen a Slide Show

Dying to do a slide show? Play it before your ceremony rather than at the rehearsal dinner. It’s a unique way to entertain guests until the vows.

Pick an Alternative Bridesmaid Bouquet

Skip the bouquets and have your besties carry a chic clutch instead. (It doubles as a bridesmaids’ gift!) Other creative options: silk fans, parasols in your colors, or candlelit lanterns (great for an evening ceremony).

Choose a Calli-graphed Runner

Ask a calligrapher—or a friend with good penmanship—to emblazon your aisle runner with something personal, using chalk or fabric paint (a line from a favorite poem, perhaps). Or you can have a custom runner created just for you

Make Your Processional Music Meaningful

Get Creative With the Ring Bearer

Have your ring bearer carry your bands on something unique: a felt flower, a mini fishing rod, or a slice of wood that says “Here Comes the Bride.”

Walk Down the Aisle Together

Buck tradition and walk down the aisle with your guy. It’s a poignant way to kick off your new life together.

Pick an Altar Backdrop

Place something pretty behind the altar. A flower-filled bookcase, sparkly garlands, and a curtain of ribbons are photogenic options.

Sign on a Celebrant

Not having a religious ceremony? Ask a friend to be your officiant. (It’s free to get ordained online through the Universal Life Church.)

Gather ‘Round Your Guests

Seat guests in a circle around the altar. You’ll feel surrounded by love.

Provide a Passage to Read Out Loud

Print a fave passage in your program and invite everyone to read it aloud together.

Make a Time Capsule

Before the wedding, write a letter to your groom. (He should do the same for you.) During the ceremony, put the notes and a bottle of wine in a box and take turns hammering it shut. Open it on your 10th anniversary!

Write Mad Lib Vows!

Want to write your own vows but don’t know where to start? Fill in the blanks and get inspired!

Water a Plant

Another ritual to try: Add a scoop of soil from each of your hometowns to a small potted tree, then water it together to symbolize the merging of your two lives. (You can plant it when you get home from the honeymoon.)

Flip for The Vows

Have the best man flip a coin to see who will say their vows first.

Say No to Poems

Forgo readings and ask a few people to stand up and share their marriage wisdom (but tell them to keep the speeches short).

Slow-Dance at the Altar

Don’t wait until the reception for your first dance. Ending your vows cheek to cheek is really sweet.

Say “Hey” to Your Guests

Share the joy by stepping into the pews for a quick hug from your favorite cousin or BFF.

Toast to Your New Spouse!

Or end the ceremony on a celebratory note: Have the ushers pass around your favorite drink (single-malt scotch, tequila shots and lime) and make your first toast as husband and wife.

Lead the Way to the Reception

If you’re within walking distance, invite guests—and a rollicking band—to accompany you, parade style, from the ceremony to the reception.

Throw Them a Twist

Nix the tossed rice and have guests wave ribbon wands or colorful paper pinwheels as you exit the ceremony. Or place party-store tambourines, kazoos, and other noisemakers on seats so guests can jam while you walk out.

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