Congratulations, you’re engaged! So, you found your dream venue. You then decided if you were having a Registrar and a Celebrant working together, or whether you are doing the formalities beforehand and then having a Celebrant-led wedding celebration, after.
A lot of couples nowadays actually choose to do the legalities a few days before at the Register Office in a simple no-frills ceremony, and then have the wedding celebration, which they regard as their wedding, without constraints. So it can be anywhere, and they can say anything, for instance! However, if your ceremony is also including the legal side of things, and is the wedding itself all-in-one, then this will affect things like your vows to each other, and what can and can’t be said and done. Also the location itself needs to adhere to regulations. It will be stricter.
I’m sure the resident celebrant/registrar/event planner at your venue will have all your information about this. If you are going for the Celebrant-led Celebration, then please get in touch!
Some things to consider:
- A candle (in a hurricane lantern for safety and to stop it blowing it out) that is in memory of absent loved-ones. Some people also leave an empty chair with a rose on it, but that’s usually more for immediate relatives as it feels a lot more poignant. By the candle there could be a nice frame with a photo, or a little framed scripted explanation, and names if you want them. You can also get details and images on the candles themselves, from Candles2Cherish or Get on My Wick.
- You might also want a unity candle lighting aspect included into your actual ceremony, for the two of you.
- Or a Sand Blending, which is lovely and can involve children and/or other relatives.
- Some couples do a hand or foot washing for each other, which sounds far-fetched but is actually very lovely.
- Or you can have a first anniversary box, where you put in new, unopened love letters and a nice bottle of booze and any other significant or meaningful items. Then nail the box shut (or just close and wrap it) during the ceremony, ready to be opened on your first anniversary. The letters can be written the night before the wedding, or even the morning of it, and then photographs can be taken of each of you scribing – as long as they don’t contain any spoilers to what’s written!
You can ask one or two people to give readings if they want to be included. You can have more than one Best Man or Woman (Mate of Honour) or involve people in other ways – the ring warming, and/or giving of the ring/s at that point in the ceremony. Some couples give roses or rosebushes to their parents or those who have particularly supported them, some give books, framed photos, theatre tickets, or other gifts, it really can be whatever you like! You can choose to make it a formal part of the wedding ceremony where you thank them for their support, rather than or as well as during the speeches, if that feels more significant.
You may want to include an Handfasting element. This can also be a way of getting someone to present the handfasting cord when the time comes. Usually children love to have an important moment of presenting it – this can also be a special relative or friend who you would like to feature in the proceedings. The Handfasting can also include a Blessing by family members with their hands being placed on top for a blessing of the union. Also makes a lovely photo and gets them involved. I can recommend a place to buy the Handfasting cord if this is something you might like. It’s where we get the term ‘Tying the knot’ and ‘asking for your hand, or giving your hand in marriage’ and why a vicar will still wrap their bit of stole around the couple’s hands when s/he says “That which God hath joined together let no-one put asunder” so it’s still done and still traditional, even in church.
Do you have to be “given away”?
Brides: It is still lovely to have your Dad or other relative ‘give you away’ – and of course many fathers dream of playing a formal role in their daughter’s wedding day, sometimes for years. But the actual tradition comes from the fact that women used to be property, and they were being passed from their fathers to their husbands (often with a dowry as payment!) So while I would never dream of denying any Dad this special moment, there are some modern twists you can add if you wish to. Also considering that some people don’t have their Dads, or were primarily raised by their Mums or other folk. So far only fathers professions are listed on the marriage certificates, too, but times are slowly changing! Anyone can walk you down the aisle.
What you could do, is walk up the aisle escorted by both your parents. Or (if the aisle is too narrow, or your parents don’t fancy that) then at the point where the Celebrant says: “Who gives this woman?” It can be changed to “Who blesses the union of this woman to this man/woman?” and either both your parents, or all the parents for both Beloveds can come forward and say: “We do.” I tend to do this at the beginning and then they can all sit down.
If you want to stick with tradition, though, then of course do so, and many Brides still do. Or, simply tweak the wording from “Who gives this woman…” to “Who blesses this union of this wo/man and this woman?” and the father says: “I do” and places the bride’s hand into the hand of her Beloved’s.
Involving more family members in your wedding
I do some weddings where they want more family members involved, so we do this during the certificate signing (I still do celebration certificates, and they can be signed by witnesses, if desired) where they will all come up and flank the couple, which makes for some brilliant photos. Imagine your family on your side and your Beloved’s family on theirs, and them pledging their support as a group. It unites them as they become one family through your marriage.
The wedding photgrapher
I would book your photographer asap and that’s what I would splurge on. All you have left, tangibly, are the photos – and you want them to be fantastic. Find a photographer with a style and vibe you like. Book some engagement shots with them, too, if possible. This will help you feel more comfortable with being photographed, and with the person taking them, as well as giving more casual and natural photos to treasure. In the wedding photos, you don’t really see the details of the cake, or the flowers, or the embroidery of the outfits, or the table place-cards etc. You just want awesome, happy photos of everyone. You want to see yourselves and your guests looking joyful.
I also highly recommend having a rehearsal at the venue a few days before, ideally at the same time that the wedding will be. Invite your photographer to this, too. That way, you can all check the lighting and do a few test shots, ensure the location set-up is positioned correctly (you don’t want to discover that the sun is in your eyes) and get a feel for the lay-out and manoeuvring. The photographer may have suggestions of how and where you should stand, and where the Celebrant can be so that s/he won’t be stuck in the middle of you both for those all-important photos. The rehearsal will also make you less nervous for the day itself and just help things look more graceful and smooth.
You might want a theme, and then this can tie-in with your table plan (if you’re having one) or décor. You might want something to keep guests occupied (some people have cocktail making vans, crepes (pancakes), candy floss, ice-cream vans etc. Even Escape Room vans, or photo booths, roulette wheels, and games and activities. If children are coming, you might want a children’s entertainer, sensory play area, face-painter, or henna artist, or a magician who goes from table to table and moves around your guests (adults love this, too).
I always recommend little pots of bubbles for the children to blow as well as throwing confetti. Bubbles make great additions to photos!
Should you have live music?
Some couples want live music, and will pay for a string quartet, professional singer or band. Whatever feels like ‘you’ as a couple and reflects your style. At my in-law’s wedding reception, there was a Brazilian carnival dancer with the feathered and sparkling costume etc. who appeared during the evening music, and it was awesome! She was only there a short while but it made a great addition, a wow factor, and also added the Bride’s own culture to what was otherwise a very English wedding.
Make your wedding day personal and individual. Make it very ‘you two’.
Brides: Remember there are only seven basic wedding dress shapes. Try them all on (you think you know what works but you should still try them all). Then once you have the shape you can narrow it down with colour, details and pattern. It doesn’t have to be traditional, though. You may want to have some colour, or patterned DM boots, or any other touch that adds a dash of individualism.
Grooms: What about superhero t-shirts and socks for the men, to be shown under their shirts in some photos etc. You can also get those paper roses as buttonholes with themes such as maps, comics, or whatever you want! Plus they make lovely keepsakes.
Really, anything goes, nowadays. Have a look on social media, and also there are many cool ideas on Pinterest and Instagram as well. I’m doing a ceremony at Halloween for a couple who want a ‘Jack & Sally’ theme from ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’. Very cool and very ‘them’! My friend and her hubby had a Gaming theme as they met at a convention, and are both passionate gamers. I’ve also seen a Barn Dance wedding, and a Festival Wedding, as well as a Garden Party theme. There are weddings with movie or literature themes, too. Honestly, tell me your vibe and style for the day and I’ll come up with some ideas!
Look forward to your special day, and Celebrate!
One last thing: The engagement is a special time in itself. It is that magical and rather short time in your relationship where you are transitioning from boyfriend or girlfriend to husband or wife. Enjoy being engaged and being and having a fiancé/fiancée. It’s so easy to get swept away with all the wedding prep that you could miss it. Celebrate this special time in itself for what it is. Enjoy! And Congratulations!
Rachel welcomes all couples, and all cultures. #loveislove
For the personal touch, get in touch.