Writing your wedding order of service may not be at the top of your wedding planning to do list – but it shouldn’t be at the very bottom either!
What is a wedding order of service?
The order of service sets out the different stages of the wedding ceremony. Some of these are legal requirements that you must comply with but others are optional - traditional things you could include to celebrate your love and make the occasion even more meaningful.
This is the part where the bride and bridal party make their grand entrance. There are many possible variations in terms of who is included and who enters in what order. The groom usually waits at the altar for the bride (escorted by the person “giving her away”) to join him but even this is optional. At a same-sex wedding, for instance, you may both choose to walk down the aisle together.
When planning your wedding, you’ll need to decide who is going to be part of the procession, how and where they’ll line up, the order they’ll follow and where they will stand once they reach the end of the aisle…then practice!
Welcome and introduction
Once everyone is settled the officiant will welcome them and set the scene using the words you’ve agreed between the three of you. If it’s a religious occasion you may have to follow a formula. If not, you will probably have more freedom. The celebrant customarily thanks guests for bearing witness to your union then adds some thoughts on marriage. They’ll also briefly recount your love story and what marriage means to the both of you.
Song or Reading
Traditionally the welcome is followed by a song or hymn but you can replace this with a reading if you’d prefer.
The marriage ceremony
This is the main part of the order of service and starts with the “charge to the couple”, a form of words that reminds you and your partner of your individual duties and roles in the marriage. It’s also the moment the officiant asks if there’s any reason in law why the two of you should not marry.
Next comes the exchange of vows. There are certain declarations that must be included in these before the marriage becomes legal. Beyond that you can word your vows as you wish. However, you must run these past the registrar or religious officiant before the wedding to be sure you’ve met the legal requirements and that you are not saying anything that breaks the strict rules governing the vows.
Exchanging of Rings
You are not legally required to exchange rings but it’s a traditional practice with much symbolism attached. The best man passes the rings to the officiant who then places them on the correct fingers whilst reciting a short dedication.
The celebrant will now officially declare that you are married and give you permission to kiss. Take your time - give everyone an opportunity to capture the moment with their cameras!
Drawing things to a close
The celebrant will usually round things off with a few words. This will probably be followed by a reading, hymn or song.
Signing of the Register
Legally this is a vital part of the wedding order of service - you are not fully wed until the register has been signed and witnessed by two others. You can choose whoever you like as your witnesses, but usually the maid of honour and the best man perform this role. You will need to decide on some music to keep your guests entertained while you complete this formality.
Once you’ve put pen to paper your celebrant will provide some appropriate closing remarks.
Recessional and Exit
Congratulations - you are now officially and legally a married couple! You proceed back up the aisle, followed by your wedding party, usually in pairs, and the celebrations can start.