Anyone who’s ever been to a wedding knows that the ceremony consists of a number of elements that traditionally occur in a certain order, but when you’re planning your own wedding, it really helps to know what those elements are, where they belong in the ceremony, and what they’re there for. This can help you clarify which components you want to use in your own wedding, and where they will best fit to give your wedding the “flow” you would like it to have.

Listed below are the most popular ceremony components in the order they usually occur. However, there is no reason you can’t move some (or all) elements around in your own ceremony…or even leave some of them out entirely! Remember, it’s your wedding and it should be about you. Do whatever feels best and whatever makes you happy, in the order that makes the most sense to you!

The Processional (aka, the Walk In or Wedding March)

This is the walk down the aisle of the wedding party to the altar, and symbolically represents two things: the couple’s transition from individual lives to the union of marriage, and the support of the wedding attendants by taking part in the same walk.

The Officiant and the Groom traditionally wait at the altar for the wedding party to walk down the aisle. First, the Groomsmen paired with the Bridesmaids, then by the Maid/Matron of Honor, the Ring Bearer, and the Flower Girl. Lastly come the Bride and her escort (traditionally, her father).

Facing the altar, the women are on the left and the men on the right. Music played for the Processional can be a single selection or, more often, multiple selections (e.g., one for the wedding party and a different one for the Bride)

The Welcome (aka, the Convocation)

The Welcome calls together all in attendance to begin the ceremony. The words spoken at this time welcome and thank the guests as well as introduce the purpose of this gathering. This is also the traditional time to remember and honor friends and relatives who have passed away, along with anyone else who cannot, physically, attend the wedding.

Declaration of Intent (one of two legally required elements)

This element is the “I Do” section of the ceremony. The couple declares their intention to marry, with each answering “I do” or “I will” when asked by the Officiant if it is their desire to make this commitment.

Consent (aka, the “Give Away”)

Here, the Officiant asks others to give their approval or blessing on the ceremony that is about to take place. Traditionally, the father or the parents of the Bride answer “I do,” “We do,” or “Her family,” when asked by the Officiant who is presenting the Bride to be married.


Readings consist of one or more selections (poems, lyrics, stories, etc.), either religious or non-religious, read aloud during carefully selected moments throughout the ceremony. They are meant to convey a message that resonates with the couple and guides them into marriage. Additional readings may be read by friends and family members to add variety to the ceremony.

This element often shares with the guests, thoughts on the meaning of marriage, and is designed to encourage reflection upon the significance of the commitment. They may also include a historical reflection on the couple’s relationship or the story of how they met and fell in love.

The Wedding Vows

This is the exchange between the couple that expresses the sincere promises they are making to each other regarding their intentions for the marriage. The words spoken at this time should normally not be memorized (the couple will already have more than enough on their mind to remember), but rather, should be read from a card or piece of paper, or repeated after the Officiant.

The Explanation of the Rings

The words spoken at this time describe the history and purpose of exchanging rings and the sentiment the couple wishes to be reminded of as they wear them.

The Ring Exchange

This is the physical exchange of rings, along with a verbal exchange between the couple expressing the significance of this offering. The Ring Vows are normally repeated after the Officiant, but can also be read from a card.

Pronouncement (the second legally required element of the ceremony)

This is the pronouncement that the couple is officially married.

The Kiss

The Kiss symbolically represents the sealing of the promises made during the ceremony.

Closing Blessing (aka, the Benediction)

This optional prayer, or non-religious blessing, is meant to send the couple off into their new future together, and to communicate the hopes and wishes that go with them to that future.

The Presentation

This is the first official introduction of the newly married couple as husband and wife.

The Recessional (aka, the Walk Out)

This is the choreographed walk down the aisle by the wedding party away from the altar after the couple has been presented. It signifies the completion of the ceremony and the beginning of the celebration. Traditionally, the wedding party leaves in reverse order in which they entered, with the Bride and Groom exiting first.

Additional Elements – Wedding Traditions

Additional wedding elements will make your wedding more interesting, more inclusive and (usually) a lot more fun. They can include popular and time-tested traditions such as the Blending of the Sands (Unity Sand Ceremony) and the Unity Candle, along with cultural traditions that incorporate the Bride or Groom’s heritage, such as the Handfasting (Celtic), a Tea Ceremony (Chinese), Jumping the Broom (African), the Coins, Cord and Veil (Hispanic) and the Breaking of the Glass (Jewish).

As Seattle Wedding Officiants, Forever, Together – Where Weddings are a Celebration! is pleased to offer all of these elegant wedding elements, along with many others, at no additional cost to our couples.

Reprinted with kind permission of Judith Johnson: Author, Speaker, Life Coach and Interfaith Minister

“If you think a professional is expensive, wait ’til you try an amateur.” – Paul “Red” Adair

There is a popular trend these days to have a friend or family member go online to receive an ordination certificate in a matter of minutes so they can “legally” officiate at your wedding. While on the surface this might sound like a fun idea, a look below the surface reveals some really good reasons why this is NOT a good idea. As an interfaith minister who has been officiating at weddings for over twenty years now and as author of the bestselling book on wedding ceremony design, here are Judith’s three really good reasons why you should hire a seasoned professional to officiate at your ceremony.

Some states do not recognize some online ordination credentials. The last thing you want to find out after your wedding is that you are not legally married. So, tread with caution. It is the state where your ceremony takes place, not the state where you live that has jurisdiction. Just as state laws about who can get married are changing, so are the laws regarding who can officiate at weddings. Not all online ordinations are equally acceptable, so be very specific in researching what sites are and are not acceptable in your state. Keep yourself informed about any changes that occur in these laws during the course of your wedding preparations.

There are a thousand little details that add up to a great ceremony. Which ones are you willing to have overlooked? Why put someone you love in the position of being responsible for something they know nothing about? Why not let your friend or family member enjoy being a guest at your wedding instead of bearing the burden of doing something so important that they know nothing about? Unless your friend or family member happens to already be a member of the clergy, why put this responsibility on them? Most couples and the friends and/or family member they choose to officiate are clueless about what goes into designing a ceremony, running a wedding rehearsal, or officiating at the ceremony. Think about it – would you hire a band for your reception that had never played together before? Would you want your wedding to be their first gig?

There are better, safer options. A seasoned officiant knows the in’s and out’s of advising you on the logistics of your rehearsal and ceremony as well as the design of the text and the ritual itself. They can be a wealth of information and ideas to help you create the ceremony that is perfect for you. They know what works, and what doesn’t.

If you are worried about not belonging to a religious community, not wanting a stranger to officiate at your ceremony, or wanting to have control over what is said at your ceremony – no problem. There are three fabulous resources for finding the right officiant.

The first is to ask your wedding vendors. Typically, your first wedding decision is going to be your wedding date and location. Ask the wedding coordinator at your venue to share their impressions of the officiants on their preferred vendor list and to recommend the ones they think are a good match for you. Call these recommended officiants and/or make appointments to meet. Trust your instincts about who you are comfortable with, how resourceful and flexible they seem to be, and how they react to your story and wishes for your ceremony.

The second resource is to ask around among your friends. Ask your married friends who they had officiate at their ceremony? Were they pleased or not? Why? Ask friends and family if they attended any weddings where the officiant did a really good job.

Third, use regional wedding websites and major wedding websites that have regional vendor listings. Read the listings and reviews on officiants there. One of the most popular sites is

Your wedding ceremony is what your wedding day is all about. Give it the respect and attention it deserves as an expression of what crossing this threshold together really means to you. The person who officiates at your ceremony will have a lot of influence on what will hopefully become a beautiful memory for you. So, be thoughtful and careful in selecting the officiant who is right for you. Be as honest as possible about who you are and who you aren’t. If someone rejects you because they don’t share your beliefs, be glad you didn’t hire them! Just keep looking for the right match. Find someone who is happy for you, is on your wavelength, and gives you confidence that they will help you create a wedding ceremony that exceeds your biggest dreams. You deserve that!

Every Officiant hears this question occasionally: “What’s the secret to a successful marriage?”  Even after eight years of helping couples get married, I’ve yet to have a satisfactory answer to give. If we ever did find the answer, then we could probably retire to our private island in the Pacific and live out the rest of our lives walking our personal beach, looking for for sand dollars!

A successful marriage is a continuous work in progress, beginning on the first day. No matter what you think you know about your spouse, you’re in for all sorts of surprises along the way. Marriage takes work, time, a sense of humor, and above all, perseverance. There’s no single element that guarantees success, which makes sense. There’s nothing absolute when you’re talking about something as relative as human love.

That said, there are some “best practices” that, if followed, tend to maximize the chances a marriage will be successful.

First, listen to each other. Try to hear what your mate is really saying. The Bible says: “Be quick- to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” What you say and how you say it is the foundation upon which to build your marriage. Say things that will encourage and support your partner. Take those words you hear from each other into your heart and let them become building blocks for a solid marriage, stepping stones to happiness. Communication is very important in marriage. Take the time to talk with each other, but more importantly, take the time to listen, for in listening, you communicate that you value your partner’s thoughts and feelings.

Second, learn from each other. Both of you are different in many ways. You each bring certain abilities and specific gifts into this relationship. Learn what those talents are, then accept each other’s strengths and combine them with yours. Every day will be an adventure as you learn and understand something new about your mate. If you learn from each other, not only will you be better individuals, but also a better couple. Your marriage will grow stronger because of your desire to understand your partner. So take time to learn all you can about each other.

Thirdly, be willing to work on your relationship. Someone once said, “Anything worth having in this life is worth working for.” Make every effort to make this the very best marriage on earth. You don’t find precious gems lying around above ground. You have to dig and work hard to get to them, but once you find them, they are worth the effort. If you work on your relationship, it will be like finding precious gems, and you’ll “strike it rich” from your labor.

Fourth, learn to laugh. Laugh at yourself and laugh at each other. It’s often been said that “laughter is the best medicine.” Getting married is a serious step, and you should take it seriously. However, having fun and being able to laugh at our mistakes and shortcomings goes a long way toward solidifying the mortar that holds together the institution of marriage. Studies show that laughter has a profound and positive effect on the body. Laughter really is the best medicine for a long and happy life. It can be said that he who laughs… lasts, and the best way to make your marriage work is to make it play.

Finally, of course, is love. Countless songs have been sung about it.  Countless poems have been written to describe it. Books as numerous as the stars in the sky have been authored by both men and women trying to help us understand it. The Bible simply defines love this way:

“Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way nor is it irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly ever notice when others do it wrong. It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. ‘This kind of love knows no boundaries to its tolerance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope, no limit to its endurance. It can outlast anything. Love is, in fact, the one thing that still stands when all else has failed.”

Edmund O’Neill may have come as close to the “secret” of a successful marriage as anyone, when he wrote that “Marriage deepens and enriches every facet of life. Happiness is fuller; memories are fresher; commitment is stronger; even anger is felt more strongly, and passes away more quickly. Marriage understands and forgives the mistakes life is unable to avoid. It encourages and nurtures new life, new experiences, and new ways of expressing love through the seasons of life. When two people pledge to love and care for each other in marriage, they create a spirit unique to themselves, which binds them closer than any spoken or written words. Marriage is a promise, a potential, made in the hearts of two people who love, which takes a lifetime to fulfill.”

Nothing evokes a festive mood like triple-digit temps and man-eating mosquitoes!

Your wedding planning may have you worrying about the elements, but there are lots of strategies for surviving warm weather weddings without feeling like you’re stuck in the Sahara.

What to Wear

In hot and humid temperatures, walking the line between overheating and looking inappropriate is tricky. Your best bet is to err on the side of caution, says the author of over thirty wedding books.

“Even at an outdoor wedding, guests should try to adhere to the wedding formality dress rules,” she says.

This means women should wear formal or semi-formal dresses, but can opt for lightweight fabrics, like linen or silk chiffon, and breezier cuts, like Grecian-style “goddess” silhouettes. At minimum, men should wear a button-down shirt and tie with suit pants, but can remove the jacket and tie for comfort.

Plus, it never hurts to check with the newlyweds-to-be. “Guests can absolutely call or e-mail the bride and groom to ask about the dress code,” she adds.

If you’re like one gentleman, who served as best man in a beach side summer wedding a few years ago, just take a cue from the couple. “I was in a full tux, but everyone in the wedding party — including the bride and groom — was barefoot, so I went sans socks and shoes and wore the legs of my trousers rolled,” he says.

In theory, an outdoor wedding on the lake sounds like a romantic moment. In reality, the guests can be eaten alive by insects long before the cake is cut.

Outdoor Obstacles

Luckily, there’s a more subtle way to take care of the problem than lugging along an economy-size citronella candle. Take preventative measures by covering exposed skin with a bug deterrent that contains eucalyptus oil or lemongrass oil, which are natural bug repellents.

Also, make sure to wear sunscreen, as having red, burned skin at the reception is sure to make you even more miserable!

Airborne allergens pose another potential pitfall. If your allergies are severe, check with your doctor. To deal with runny noses, take along a handkerchief or a pack of travel tissues.

Beating the Heat

Tissues and handkerchiefs also can combat the inevitable perspiring that comes with high temperatures. One best man was fighting to stay on his two feet in the 95-degree heat of a stiflingly hot church that lacked air conditioning.

“It wasn’t so bad when we were sitting in the back before the service, but once we were standing up front, it was like a Swedish sauna — without the jump in the snow afterwards,” he remembers. “We had no programs, no fans, and we couldn’t take off our jackets or ties.”

This savvy participant was wise enough to grab a paper towel from the bathroom before the ceremony, but when that no longer worked it was all he could do to stay conscious. “Luckily, one of the bridesmaids went down before I did,” he laughs. “Kind of took the pressure off.”

After the ceremony, drink iced liquids, drench your face with cold water and change out of dampened clothes if you can. Hopefully, and most likely, the reception will be more casual and you can take off your jacket and tie. You might even get to enjoy some air-conditioning!

Researchers in Australia may have figured out what it takes to keep a couple together…and it’s a lot more than just being in love.

A couple’s age, previous relationships, even whether they smoke or not, all have an influence on whether or not their marriage will last, according to a recent Australian study on marriage longevity.

The study, called “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” followed over 2,000 couples who were either married or living together, for six years from 2001 to 2007, to identify factors associated with those who stayed together, compared with those who divorced or separated.

Among the things they discovered: a husband who is nine or more years older than his wife is twice as likely to get a divorce. This also applies to husbands who marry before age 25.

Children definitely influence the longevity of a marriage. One-fifth of couples who have kids before marriage — either from a previous relationship, or in the same relationship — end up separating, compared to just 9% of those couples who have no children until after they marry.

Women who want children significantly more than their partners are also more likely to divorce.

The in-laws also have a role to play in a couple’s relationship. The study showed that 16% of men and women whose parents separated or divorced experienced marital difficulties themselves, compared to just 10% for couples whose parents stayed together, happily or not.

Couples in which one or both spouses are on their second or third marriage are 90% more likely to separate than couples who are both in their first marriage.

Not surprisingly, money also has an effect. Up to 16% of those who indicated they were poor, or that the husband (but not the wife) was unemployed, separated, compared with only 9% of couples in relatively good financial shape.

Surprisingly, couples in which only one partner is a smoker are also more likely to have the relationship end in failure.

The factors that the study found do not significantly increase separation risk included: the number and age of children born to a married couple, the wife’s employment status and the number of years the couple had been employed.

The study was jointly written by researchers from The Australian National University, and the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.

It’s no surprise that many couples want to include their pets in their weddings. What’s cuter than a dog in a tuxedo (even if that is considered animal cruelty by some :-)

“A pet plays an important role in a couple’s life and for many pet parents, family festivities would not be complete without their pet’s involvement,” said John D’Ariano, President of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS). “As a result, it’s becoming more common for couples to customize their wedding parties to include family, friends, and furry companions.”

If you’ve decided to include your pet, you should take a few precautions. Here are some tips on how to keep both you and your pet safe and happy during the wedding festivities.

Consider Your Pet’s Personality

A pet can be a guest of honor and simply stand with the wedding party during the ceremony, or your pet can have a specific role (ring bearer or flower girl are common roles) in the ceremony. But before giving your pet a starring role, think about whether this will be an enjoyable experience for him. Will your pet feel comfortable around your guests? Is he obedient and well behaved? There’s no guarantee that your pet will behave exactly how you want him to on the day of the wedding. Even the most outgoing and friendly pet can be overwhelmed by a crowd of guests, according to NAPPS.

To make sure that your pet has enough time to develop a level of comfort around your guests, consider hiring a pet sitter, who will act as your pet’s guide. And if your pet is especially skittish, consider having someone carry him or letting him ride in a wagon. And if he’s overly affectionate or easily distracted, be sure to use a short leash.

Make Sure Pets are Allowed

You don’t want to show up on the day of your wedding, doggy ring-bearer in tow, only to be told that he needs to get off the property right now! Can’t bring your pet? You can still include her in the wedding (see below)!

Include Daisy in the After-Wedding Photos

Or in your engagement photos! At the reception, include photos of your pet on your table number cards, or make your wedding favors in tribute to your beloved pooch.

Don’t Sacrifice Safety for Style

Planning on dressing your pooch in a tux? Make sure it fits properly and doesn’t create any discomfort for your pet. Keep the accessories simple—a bowtie or flower attached to the collar is a fun way to deck out your pet. Ensure that any accessories can’t come loose and pose a choking hazard to your pet. Be sure none of the flowers or plants at your wedding are toxic to your pet.

Let the Guests Know

This is important! Include this information on your wedding website (and even in your invitations) so anyone with allergies (or animal phobias) can plan accordingly.

Inform Your Photographer

This will help your photographer prepare for those unplanned moments, like when Tiger leaps up to kiss you in the middle of reciting your vows. Your photographer can also help you compose some fun photo ideas with your pets for after the ceremony.

Designate (or Delegate) a Pet Sitter

Don’t add to your worries on the day of your wedding. Hire a pet sitter (or shanghai an idle friend or relative) to be responsible for getting your pet to the ceremony, getting her home afterwards, and watching her during the reception. You don’t need to worry about who’s feeding the dog (or keeping him away from the chocolate).

Cats and Dogs Aren’t the Only Pets You Can Include!

Love your horse? Ride into the ceremony on her, or, head over to the stables after the ceremony for some photos. Bring your bunny for some pretty bridal portraits. Have a pet owl? How about training him to fly in with the rings tied to his leg?

Couples may choose to add a Rose Ceremony to honor their mothers, and thank them for raising the couple and bringing them to this joyous occasion. The Rose Ceremony can also be incorporated as a Remembrance.  Brides may place a rose on a chair for their mother (or the groom’s mother) if either have passed away. Even though this may be difficult, it is an elegant and dignified way to honor a beloved family member, now departed.

Version 1

The Ceremony of the Rose symbolizes the merging of the Bride’s and Groom’s families. When the Bride enters, she has in her possession two roses, usually red. As she approaches the altar, the Bride will stop and offer a rose and a kiss to her mother or significant mother figure. In doing this, she is expressing her gratitude for preparing her for this moment and for receiving the man she is about to marry into her family.

When the wedding ceremony has ended and she and the Groom exit, the Bride will stop and offer a rose and a kiss to the Groom’s mother or significant maternal figure. In doing this, she is expressing her gratitude for preparing her new husband for this moment and for receiving her into the Groom’s family. A variation you may consider is to present both roses either upon the entrance or upon the exit.

Version 2

(The Officiant says): Groom and Bride have chosen to give each other a rose which is their first gift as husband and wife.

(At this time, the Officiant will give both the Bride and the Groom a rose, and they, in turn, will present their rose to each other.)

This rose was born of the tiniest of seeds and has blossomed into the beautiful flower that it is today. And so it is with your relationship. It began as a small feeling that grew and eventually blossomed into something beautiful.

And now you stand before us today to make a commitment to each other as husband and wife. Since you know that love must be shared, it is your desire to share these first gifts with two very special people, two people who helped to prepare you for this moment and molded you into the individuals that you are today.

The Bride and Groom turn and present their roses to their mothers or significant mother figures and offer a hug or a kiss.

Version 3

(The Officiant says): Today you will receive the most honorable titles that exist between a man and a woman—the titles of husband and wife. You have chosen to give each other a rose as your first gift. In the language of flowers, the rose was considered a symbol of love, and a single rose meant only one thing: “I love you.” So it is appropriate that your first gift to each other as husband and wife will be a single rose. Please exchange your gifts.

(The Bride and Groom present each other with a rose.)

Groom and Bride, because you both have given and received this symbol of love, I would encourage you to choose one very special place in your home for roses. Then on each anniversary, you both may take a rose to that special place as a recommitment to your marriage, and express with this symbol that your marriage is a marriage based on love.

In every marriage, there are times when it is difficult to verbalize certain feelings. Sometimes, we hurt those whom we love most, then find it difficult to say, “I’m sorry,” “Please forgive me,” or “I need you.”

When you simply cannot find these words, leave a rose at your specially chosen place, and let that rose say what matters most—”I still love you.” The other should accept this rose for the words that cannot be found, and remember that the unspoken love is the hope you share and the faith you have in your future together as husband and wife.

The Rose Ceremony is simple yet profoundly moving. The bride and groom exchange two red roses, symbolizing the giving and receiving of their love for each other throughout their entire married life. The Rose Ceremony also conveys how to use the rose and its symbolism in difficult times in order to forgive each other

The Bible, Coins, and Cord (La Biblia, las Arras, y el Lazo) are Hispanic traditions most often associated with Mexican weddings, although Spain, the Philippines and other Latin American countries use variations of these, as well. They are symbolic of the spiritual, physical, and emotional elements in a marriage

The Bible symbolizes the religious guidance and wise counsel for life’s decisions—the spiritual element. The thirteen coins represent the financial support and blessings for their home—the physical element. The cord signifies the union of their lives and hearts as one common destiny—the emotional element.

Bible (la Biblia)—Spiritual

After the Bride and Groom exchange their vows and rings, Sponsors, or Padrinos, bring forth a white Bible and a Rosary and place it in the hands of the Bride and Groom.

While they are holding it, the Officiant will bless the Bible, after which the Sponsors take the Bible and Rosary and sit back down.

Coins (las Arras)—Physical

The Coin Sponsors bring forth the box of coins and empty it into the Groom’s hands.

The thirteen coins are a symbol of the care that the Bride and Groom will give in order for their home to have everything it needs. The coins also are a sign of the blessings of God and all the good things they will share together.

The Officiant blesses the coins. The Groom drops the coins into the Bride’s hands and says a short vow promising to provide for the family’s needs.

The Bride responds, accepting the Groom’s gift of dedication, and promising that everything provided will be used with care for the benefit of their home and family. The Sponsors then take the coins and sit down.

Cord and Veil Ceremony – Emotional

In Filipino wedding tradition, the Cord and Veil ceremony is usually done at the end of the wedding, after the couple has been pronounced husband and wife.

The veil symbolizes living under God’s protection and being clothed as one. The Veil Sponsors, usually a male and female from each side of the family, place a white veil over the shoulders of the couple, who are traditionally kneeling.

The Officiant explains the significance of the veil, after which it is removed by the Veil Sponsors.

Finally, the Cord Sponsors place the cord in a figure eight around the shoulders of the kneeling Bride and Groom. The Officiant blesses their union, after which the Cord Sponsors remove the cord and sit down.

Forever, Together is pleased to offer this elegant wedding tradition, in both English and Spanish, at no additional cost.

The ritual of the Blessing Stones, or Wishing Stones, as they sometimes are called, is a wonderful way to include everyone in the wedding by way of offering blessings and good wishes to the newlyweds. It also is a good way to ensure that everyone will make contact with the Bride and Groom at some point during the day. This ritual may be performed at the actual ceremony itself (before the blessing), or at the conclusion of the service (in a receiving line manner), or later at the reception.

When the guests arrive at the ceremony, they are given a Stone along with a note card with words printed on it such as: `”My wish for you is…”, “May you be blessed with..” or “May God bless you with…”

During the ceremony, the Officiant explains the significance of the Blessing Stones.

(The Officiant says): Today is a very blessed occasion in the lives of (Groom) and (Bride). You have been invited here today because of your special relationship with them. When you arrived, you received a stone along with a note card. These are called “Blessing Stones.”

Since we all desire nothing but the best that life has to offer this couple, I ask each of you to complete the sentence on the card and sign your name, so your best wishes and your blessings for (Groom) and (Bride) always may be a reminder of your love for them on this day of celebration.

At some point (either during or after the service), the guests will share their blessing or wish with the newlyweds and toss the Blessing Stone into a Blessing Bowl, a Wishing Well, a Fountain, or whatever is chosen to hold the water. They then may place their “love note” into a basket or box for the couple to reflect on at a later time. Many couples keep their Blessing Stones in a special place in their home (a vase of flowers, around a candle, in an aquarium, etc.) to remind them of all the love, good wishes, and blessings they share because of their family and friends.

A variation of this ritual would be at an outdoor wedding near a body of water (lake, pond, ocean, etc.). Stones either are gathered at the site or provided for the guests. After the ceremony, everyone follows the Bride and Groom’s recessional to the water, makes a wish or blessing for them and casts their stone into the water.

(The Officiant says): The ripples that are made in the water represent the love and good wishes not only for this couple, but for all the world. For as our ripples cross and recross one another’s, so our love and good wishes touch and retouch all those around us and all those with whom we come into contact throughout our lives. (This also may be said at the indoor ceremony).

You can be as creative as you want with this ritual. Here are some ideas:

  • Stones—you may use decorative stones, rose quartz stones, which symbolize love, or other pebbles from a special place.
  • Container for water—you will need a Blessing Bowl (any decorative basin, bowl, or bucket will work), or a table top fountain, or a Wishing Well (as large and elaborate or as small and simple as you wish).
  • Love Notes—buy decorative, ready-made note cards from a stationery or craft store and print your opening blessing phrase on them, or, for an even more personal touch, design and print your own note cards at home on your computer. Remember to begin your blessing phrase with: `My wish for you is…” or `May you be blessed with…” or `May God bless you with…”

Most couples in the process of planning their wedding ceremonies become familiar with the “Big Three” wedding traditions: The Unity Candle, the Handfasting, and the Blending of the Sands. Each of these is a unique, elegant wedding ritual that can make your ceremony more colorful, more inclusive and a lot more fun. There’s absolutely no down-side to using any (or all!) of these beautiful traditions in your wedding, and Forever, Together is proud, and pleased to offer these wonderful wedding traditions (as well as the ones below) at no extra charge!

However, the world is full of different countries and different cultures, each with their own special version of the marriage ceremony. Over the next couple of posts, I’d like to describe some of the lesser known (in the United States, at least), but no less exotic and interesting marriage rituals you might consider adding to your wedding ceremony.

The Marriage Vessel and the Rose

The Marriage Vessel and the Rose ceremony may be used as an alternative to the Unity Candle, especially for outdoor weddings. You will need a table for the vessel and the rose. Filling the vessel with water is only necessary if you use the second version. The Officiant begins by explaining the significance of the ceremony.

(The Officiant says): (Groom) and (Bride) have chosen to share two gifts, the Marriage Vessel and the Rose, to symbolize their ever-growing life-long commitment to each other.

The spiritual roots of the Marriage Vessel and the Rose grow out of an understanding of God as the Potter, or Creator of life (holding up the vessel), and God as the Gardener, or Sustainer of life (holding up the rose).

The vessel of clay, lovingly shaped by the Potter, is a symbol of love’s strength and endurance. The miracle of the vessel is that it not only protects, but is enriched by that which it holds, the rose. Like-wise, the rose, born of the tiniest of seeds, symbolizes the beauty and potential of growing in love throughout life together. Both the vessel and the rose are individually unique, yet when combined, they create an object of even greater beauty.

(The Groom presents the rose to the Bride and says): (Bride), this rose represents the beauty I see in you. / I thank you for the person you are / and the person I am becoming / because of your love for me.

(The Bride presents the vessel to the Groom and says): (Groom), this vessel represents the strength I see in you. / I thank you for the love and care you have given me, / and for all we will share together in this life.

(The Bride then places the rose in the vessel; they hold it together and the Bride and Groom say): As our gifts bring beauty and purpose to each other, / may our lives continue to enrich and strengthen one another.

(The Officiant says): (Groom) and (Bride), as you share each passing day, and as your days become years, remember this tradition you have created. On each wedding anniversary, place one additional rose in the marriage vessel to symbolize your ever-growing love for one another. May The Marriage Vessel and the Rose always be a symbol of the beauty and strength you bring to each other’s lives.

(The Officiant says): Just as (Groom) and (Bride) gave each other rings as symbols of their love and commitment to one another, they also would like to present [each of] you with a gift as a symbol of their love and commitment to you. The Family Medallion is made up of three intertwining circles, two of which symbolize the union of this man and woman in marriage. The third circle represents the joining of children to this union, making it complete as we celebrate the new family created here today.

(The Bride and Groom present the children with the Family Medallion, and give each child a hug and a kiss.)

The Unity Cup

Two separate goblets are filled with wine. Before the couple is pronounced husband and wife, the Officiant pours one-half of the wine from each goblet into a separate cup, the Unity Cup, from which each sips.

(The Officiant says): This glass of wine is known as the Unity Cup, or Kiddush Cup, and is symbolic of the Cup of Life. As you share this cup of wine, you share all that the future may bring. The half-filled goblets are a reminder of your individuality; the single cup marks your new life together. As you share the wine from a single cup, so may you, under God’s guidance, share contentment, peace, and fulfillment from your own Cup of Life.

May you find life’s joys heightened, its bitterness sweetened, and each of its moments hallowed by true companionship and love.

(The Officiant holds up the Unity Cup and may then say this prayer): Blessed are Thou, 0 Lord our God, Creator of the fruit of the vine.

(The Groom takes a sip of wine first, then offers the cup to the Bride.)

Breaking of the Glass

The Breaking of the Glass is a Jewish tradition, but lately appearing in more and more non-Jewish and Interfaith ceremonies. It has many meanings. One is as a symbol of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, a representation of the fragility of relationships, and a reminder that marriage changes the lives of individuals forever.

After the couple is pronounced husband and wife, the glass, or light bulb, which usually is wrapped in a cloth and placed in a silk bag, is then laid by the groom’s foot.

(The Officiant says): We conclude this ceremony with the Breaking of the Glass. Traditionally, the Breaking of the Glass at a wedding is a symbolic prayer and hope that your love for one another will remain until the pieces of the glass come together again, or in other words, that your love will last forever.

The fragile nature of the glass also suggests the frailty of human relationships. Even the strongest of relationships is subject to disintegration. The glass then, is broken to “protect” the marriage with this implied prayer: May your bond of love be as difficult to break as it would be to put together again the pieces of this glass.

The groom then breaks the glass with his foot and everyone shouts “Mazel Tov!” which means “Good luck and congratulations!”