Guide to Planning Your Wedding Ceremony
Where to start to plan your wedding ceremony?
Chances are you have never planned a wedding before. So, you probably are not sure what to expect of others or what is expected of you. This guide will walk you through some of the most important decisions regarding your wedding ceremony and why they are so important.
This guide will start by reviewing who can actually do weddings in North Carolina and how to decide which choice is right for you. Each choice will be discussed with some pros and cons.
Next you will explore your options for the type of wedding ceremony you want. You can choose between civil/secular, religious or spiritual but not based in one faith. You will find descriptions of the various choices.
You should know what the traditional wedding ceremony looks like. What elements are in the ceremony and how it flows is reviewed. Once you know what is traditionally in the ceremony, you can decide how that fits in your wishes.
This guide then gives you complete information on how to get your marriage license. It includes links to the counties most frequently served by All Faiths Wedding Officiants of the Triad.
“Jac and Liz are phenomenal. They are the sweetest and most genuine people you will ever meet. They wrote us a beautiful ceremony and incorporated both of our families cultures and religions perfectly. We LOVE them and would definitely recommend them to any one and everyone! ”
Why is the ceremony such an important part of my wedding day?
Planning your wedding is a very exciting time in your life. Most of the guidelines and “how to” information is geared to planning the entire day. The ceremony is briefly mentioned as a small part of the overall day. Without a wedding ceremony, your day is a very expensive party!
It is important to remember that your wedding ceremony is the central part of your wedding day. It is what sets the mood and tone for the rest of your day. Your guests are coming to see you make your vows and promises to one another and that is what your ceremony is about. It is the cornerstone on which the rest of your marriage is based. Your wedding ceremony reflects your personal beliefs and values. Your guests should come away from your ceremony knowing even more about your relationship, what is important to you and what you promise to one another. Your guests want to know that the person they love is in a loving and healthy relationship and will be well cared for. Your wedding ceremony is the legally binding event of the day which allows the state to recognize you as married. A well done personalized ceremony will accomplish all of these things.
This guide can help make sure this happens for you.
The first step to having the wedding ceremony you want is to be sure you have the wedding officiant who can provide it. What are your choices in officiants? Are there advantages of each of the choices?
In the state of North Carolina the following people may officiate at a wedding:
- An Ordained Minister
- A Minister Authorized by their church
- A District Court Magistrate
- By the Society of Friends, according to customs of the Society
- By a local Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’i is in accordance to the usage of their religious community.
- By any person authorized by any religious denomination or of any recognized Indian Nation or Tribe.
You will notice that there is no mention of anyone getting ordained on line to do weddings. North Carolina courts do not recognize marriages done by officiants ordained online. You can see some of those court rulings at this blog post.
Within these guidelines, you have even more choices!
Are you eager to get married with the very least amount of fuss, planning and as quickly as possible? A magistrate might be the answer for you, if you don’t mind a strictly secular ceremony which is not customized in any way with only two witnesses in a stark legal setting. Check with your local magistrates’ office to learn how to make an appointment for your ceremony. Each office has different hours and requirements concerning appointments for weddings. The number of witnesses you can have vary from county to county. The ability to take photographs can also be limited since cameras, cell phones and tablets are not allowed inside of the court house.
Are you a member of a church and want the minister to do your ceremony? Most pastoral ministers perform weddings for members of the congregation at no charge or for a small donation. They may require pre-marital counseling sessions. Often the pastoral minister is limited by denomination to the approved format and liturgical order for the ceremony. You may or may not be able to customize your vows, readings or special ceremonies. When you use your pastoral minister you know you share a spiritual or theological grounding. They are someone who already knows you and often your family.
Professional Wedding Officiant/Minister:
Are you looking for a very unique wedding or you are not affiliated with a congregation? A professional wedding officiant brings experience gained from doing many weddings. They are knowledgeable about various ceremonies you can use in the service. You can count on a professional wedding officiant to have a working knowledge of various cultural and faith traditions which can be incorporated into your wedding ceremony. A professional wedding officiant can handle the unexpected things that happen at weddings—because they are not unexpected to them. Professional wedding officiants are not torn in their attentions—they do not have the obligations to other pastoral care and business meetings that congregation based ministers have. Therefore you get more direct and focused attention to your ceremony. Professional wedding officiants often do not require but may offer premarital counseling. If not they can refer you to someone who does, if that is something you are interested in having.
You can arrange an interview with All Faiths Wedding Officiants of the Triad in order to learn more about the offerings of a professional officiant. Are you looking for someone bubbly and outgoing or someone more reserved? Do you want a male or a female officiant or does it even matter to you? Do you share a world view with them and find any level of spiritual connection-if that is important to you?
“Liz was absolutely fantastic. She wrote a beautiful ceremony that included everything we wanted and captured the feel of our marriage completely. We had endless compliments about what a beautiful ceremony it was. We couldn’t imagine anyone else taking her place.”
What Questions Should You Ask an Officiant?
Of course, there are other things to consider in hiring an officiant. Here are some standard questions you might consider asking during your interview.
- Are you legally allowed to perform marriages in North Carolina?
- How much control will we have over our ceremony? May we write our own vows or provide readings that are meaningful to us?
- Do you require or provide marital education sessions?
- Is our spiritual path acceptable to you?
- What is your process for including us in the writing of our ceremony?
- Do you participate in rehearsal?
- Will our ceremony truly reflect our beliefs, values and relationship?
- Of course you will want to ask about any unusual circumstances in your relationship and situation—inclusion of children, pets, cultural rituals, and any family situations they might need to be aware of.
Many of these questions can be answered by looking at the officiant’s website, Facebook page, and other marketing materials. The next step is to schedule a meeting to see if you connect with them. The first meeting should be a no charge/no obligation time to learn about the officiant and be sure that they are someone you are comfortable with.
Retaining your officiant early in your planning process and getting your wedding ceremony written will remove one layer of stress from your planning. You can move forward knowing that the most important part of your wedding day is in competent professional hands.
A professional wedding officiant offers you more choices of the type of wedding you can have. Wait….you mean there are different types of wedding???? Even more choices and decisions!
What type of wedding do you want?
Do you want a ceremony which reflects your strong religious beliefs? Is your relationship founded on a shared faith and religious background? If so, you probably will want your ceremony to include important scriptures and prayers. There may also be other liturgical elements you want included in the ceremony. Your officiant can help you be sure to have those properly included.
Are you a part of the growing portion of the population describing themselves as “spiritual but not religious”? You have very personal beliefs but don’t subscribe to any one faith tradition or organized church. You can work with your officiant to have a very spiritual service without the scriptures or other liturgical pieces. Your beliefs will be the ones your wedding is based upon.
Is your wedding one based solely on your relationship with one another? You want a romantic wedding focused on the love you share with each other. Each element in your wedding can be dedicated to the commitment you make to share your lives without including any religious or spiritual background. Your ceremony can reflect the values you bring into your marriage on which you base your relationship. Love, commitment, devotion, caring and support are common human values which can be the basis of your ceremony.
Do you come from different cultural backgrounds? You can include aspects of each culture into the ceremony in loving and respectful ways. Consider what is important to you and discuss it with your officiant.
Is there a common interest you want to include as a theme in the ceremony? You are both movie buffs and want to include love quotes from your favorite movie. Maybe you are having a rustic country theme and want that included in the ceremony, including how the officiant dresses. Perhaps a Dr. Who based ceremony, including the vows spoken at the wedding is more what you want. Let your officiant know and work with them to have your ceremony exactly as you want.
If you come from different faith backgrounds yet want to honor both, a ceremony can be created that makes sure each faith is represented in respectful ways. The rituals, readings, values and traditions of each faith can be seamlessly woven together. Each faith will receive equal emphasis, no one will feel that their belief system is treated as an afterthought.
Nick and Devin said…
“Fantastic officiants and lovely people! We had a Baha’i and Christian ceremony, which the Revs Grimes wrote to flow beautifully while respecting our religious requirements. The Grimes are very flexible, professional and extremely easy to work with. They sit down with you and go over every little detail. We really could not have asked for better people to perform our ceremony!!!”
What are the different ways to get married or types of ceremonies?
(All legal weddings in NC require two (2) witnesses of legal age. (18) and an officiant.)
A license signing has the legally required language to make a couple legally married but otherwise has no ceremony associated with it. People often chose this when they are needing the legal protections of marriage yet don’t want a ceremony or are planning a larger wedding for a later date. It is asking the necessary questions and signing the legal documents.
Elope or Elopement
This is a short notice, quickly planned wedding. Often associated with “running away to get married”. It does not have to mean leaving your hometown. This is when you decide to get married in the next few days and only have 2-10 folks present. There is no wedding party (best man, maid of honor, flower girl, etc.) This can occur in your home, a local park, at your office, or even the officiant’s home. The ceremony is very short and contains the legally required words to make you a married couple. You can go to the magistrate’s office in NC or find an officiant who does short notice simple ceremonies. We have custom written several short ceremonies for elopements.
Simple Small Wedding
This ceremony is a step up from an elopement. This is a simple wedding that does not include a rehearsal, has a small guest list of about 10-50 people, may or may not include a reception and is planned weeks or months out. If there is a wedding party it is very small. (1 or 2 attendants per side.) When you are planning a small simple wedding, you will want more ceremony than an elopement provides. These ceremonies make room for more customizing and personalization. You can choose or write your own vows, include readings and even include a unity ceremony. Simple small weddings are often held in the family home, a local park or community center or small venue. Often the wedding couple and their friends and families provide many of the services needed for the day-food, photography and music. Some couples hire Professionals for the more public portions of the day, a photographer and dj for example.
Fully Customized Wedding
This is most often referencing all the traditions associated with getting married. This can include a larger wedding party, with multiple attendants including a flower girl and/or ring bearer. A rehearsal is held usually followed by a rehearsal dinner. The day of the wedding is filled with many activities focused on the wedding couple. The ceremony is the start of the public portion of the wedding. The ceremony reflects the couple’s love, beliefs, interests and relationship. After the ceremony, there may be a cocktail hour while the couple gets photos taken and then the reception is held. There are usually professionals hired for most of the tasks of the day: a planner/coordinator, a venue, a caterer, florist, decorator, photographer, videographer, and a dj. There are more guests, often between 50 and 200 or more. The ceremony can be held in one location and the reception in another or they can be held in the same location. Often the wedding is held at location that specializes in weddings or large gatherings.
We have experience in performing all types of wedding ceremonies from License Signings to the Big Fabulous Weddings. Let us help you figure out what you are looking for as you plan your big day and how we can work together to make your dreams come true.
Kate said, “Jac and Liz did a wonderful job getting to know us and writing an amazing ceremony that reflected our story. At our reception, our friends and family approached us and complimented what a great job Jac did, and how much they enjoyed the ceremony!” 5/28/2017 Winmock
What does a traditional wedding ceremony look like?
This outline is simply a guide. It can be changed, items moved around or deleted to suite your needs and wishes.
Begins with seating of Family members. The entry of the Wedding party.
Just like it sounds. “Who escorts this woman and supports this couple in marriage?” Not required, but is traditional. Can easily be done for both members of the wedding party.
Opening Words and/or Prayer
Greeting the gathering and opening statements. About 5-6 minutes. Prayer is optional. Would be called the Greeting and Opening in a Civil Ceremony.
Could be a Bible verse, poetry, personally written works, songs, etc. This is totally optional.
Question/Statement of Intent
Where the officiant asks the couple do they want to be married? Can be worded in many ways. This is a legally required part of the ceremony.
These can be written by you or we can recommend vows, based on what you tell us is important to your relationship, or we can send you samples to chose from or to mix and match to suit you. These vows usually end with the officiant asking “Do you take this person to be your wife/husband?” And the couple responding “I Do”
Just like it sounds. Repeat after me, “With this ring…”
Many different choices here. Example would be: Unity Candle, Hand fasting, Rose Ceremony, Memorial Candle. The list goes on. You can see many more unity ceremonies here.
Closing Comments and Benediction (Prayer)
Again, just like it sounds. Anything from a summing up to a special blessing. Of course prayer is optional.
Presentation of the Newlyweds
Decide ahead of time how you want to be presented, i.e. Mr & Mrs. John Smith, Rebecca and Allison Smith, or Rebecca Jones and John Smith.
The exit of the wedding party.
* Additional readings/songs/music can be placed between nearly any parts of the ceremony.
The average wedding lasts between 20-30 minutes, depending on how many of the unity ceremonies, readings and songs you include. It is our suggestion that the ceremony not go more than 30-35 minutes from the time the bride enters until the recessional. It is also important that it not be too short. You want your guests to know whose wedding they were at and to know more about your love and relationship by the end than they did when they arrived.
“Revs. Jac and Liz Grime went above and beyond what my husband and I expected in an officiant for our wedding. They were incredibly flexible when it came to scheduling meetings and responded quickly to all of my emails, no matter the subject. They truly listened to everything we wanted and offered us a wide array of suggestions and ideas to make our wedding ceremony unique throughout the process. For example, we had a beer unity ceremony and wrote/read vows to our son. Both of these pieces of our ceremony came from Rev. Jac and Liz in reaction to listening to us talk about our son and mention our love of craft beer …another thing that wowed us was their use of technology. Everything was digital, and it made reviewing edits and exchanging ideas seamless… Initially I didn’t consider an officiant to be more than someone who simply says a ceremony and makes things legal. After working with both Reverend Jac and Liz, I realized how important and helpful the right officiant can be. We felt as if they were family by the time our wedding day rolled around and would recommend them to anyone and everyone!”