A lot of thought and planning goes into preparing for your wedding day. You want your celebration to be fun, memorable and as stress-free as possible, so that you can truly enjoy what is undoubtedly one of the best days of your life.

You and your wedding professionals have probably created a timeline for the big day, to make sure that everything runs smoothly: the arrival of the flowers and the cake, DJ set-up, hair and make-up, getting dressed, pre-ceremony photos, etc. You’ve probably even included time to eat and take a potty break (if you haven’t, make sure that you do)!

Your ceremony should also be well planned, to ensure a sense of smooth continuity. If you’ve chosen to have a ceremony program, it might look something like this:



Opening Prayer

Love Story

Marriage Address

Reading(s) and/or Musical Interludes

Vows and Exchange of Rings

Unity Candle Ceremony

Concluding Blessing

Pronouncement of Marriage and Kiss

Presentation of Newlyweds


Whether you’re creating your own ceremony, or working with an officiant, your ceremony should flow like a beautiful story—with a beginning, middle and an end.

The “beginning” serves to gather everyone’s attention and set the tone for the ceremony. This is done by the processional, the welcome and, if you like, a prayer or blessing. Whether your ceremony has a traditional opening (“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here…”) or is more contemporary (“Welcome, everyone, to this day of celebration…”), the opening words act as a greeting and express appreciation that your family and dear friends have come to join you in this celebration.

After welcoming everyone, it’s time to get to the “middle” of the ceremony. This is where the officiant can share a little of your love story, and then speak about the importance of marriage and the commitment that you’re making. If you’re having any readings or musical interludes, this is a good place to include them.

Next comes the most important part of the ceremony: saying the vows and exchanging rings. Whether you opt to repeat traditional vows (“…to have and to hold, in sickness and in health…”) or read personal ones, this is certainly the ceremony’s heart. If you’re going to include a unity candle, sand blending, or another ritual to symbolize your union, this could be done right after the vows and exchange of rings.

Finally, the ceremony ends with a blessing, the pronouncement of marriage and a kiss to “seal the deal!” Your guests applaud, and with huge smiles upon your faces you and your beloved walk back down the aisle as newlyweds, ready to begin the next chapter of your happily ever after story!

—Rev. Jeri Murphy

About Rev. Jeri Murphy: Jeri is a non-denominational minister who has been performing weddings in the Sacramento area for more than a decade. She works with each couple to create a unique wedding ceremony that celebrates their love and sets the stage for their long and happy life together as a married couple.