There are plenty of ways you can involve your family and friends in your wedding ceremony so they feel part of your special celebration. Here’s a snap shot of some new ideas and those which are steeped in history but with a modern twist…
Having your Dad ‘give you away’ may seem like a thing of the past but many Dads still like the idea of walking their daughter up the aisle – and you might like Dad’s supporting arm too! Dad can give a commitment, rather than giving you away, like bestowing his love and warmth on to you as a couple and wishing you every happiness in your journey through life together
Couples often have divided opinions on including songs during wedding ceremonies for all your guests to join in, but this can be a real winner. Arrange it karaoke style so you have the song playing for everyone to sing a long to, with song sheets provided, pick an easy song that everyone will know and prime those guests beforehand who you know will enjoy getting involved
Ceremonial fires are fab for woodland/festival vibe weddings and can provide a special closing feature to your ceremony. You and your partner are passed flaming torches and you walk around your prepared unlit fire, words from your celebrant are optional here. Then you light the fire and invite your guests to add a wooden disc with your initials stamped on to the flames, making a wish for the two of you as they do so. Thanks to Tash and Laurence for the inspiration for this one!
A ring warming ceremony is a great way of involving all your guests, assuming you are exchanging wedding rings. At the start of your ceremony your celebrant will introduce the concept of the ring warming ceremony and ask for the rings to be passed amongst all guests. Each guest takes the rings in their hand and privately bestows a wish or their love onto the rings. Once they have been around all guests the rings are warmed ready for your ring exchange
Readings and poems can create real poignant moments in your ceremony, or add a bit of fun, depending on the reading selected. Asking the person giving the reading to select something of their choice works well as they will read something they are comfortable with and they have chosen for you. Two or three readings incorporated into your ceremony is just right
I like to ask guests to make a declaration as part of the ceremonies I deliver. This will come towards the end of the ceremony and guests can either respond ‘We do’ to a question asked, or read together a short declaration from a printed sheet. They are giving their commitment to support you both as active friends and families in your future lives
If you would like to involve a small number of close family members in your wedding ceremony, maybe children or your siblings, you might want to consider hand fasting or sand blending. These symbolic gestures, which can involve you making promises to each other and your family, have great visual impact and provide keepsakes of your day. Find out more about these in my symbolic gestures blog
A candle ceremony can be a gorgeous way to involve everyone towards the end of your wedding ceremony. Everyone is given a small candle when they take their seats for the ceremony and when the time comes, the celebrant lights the candle of the first guest, they in turn light the candle of the next guest and so on. Once all of the guest candles have been lit the last person comes up to light a single unity candle for the happy couple. Guests then form a lighted walk way for the couple to pass through. Fab for evening weddings
Exchanging personal wedding vows to each other is a truly special moment in your big day. But how do you set about writing your own wedding vows?
This might seem like a daunting prospect among everything else that’s on your long to do list in the build up to your wedding, but following these simple steps will help guide you through writing wedding vows that work for you.
Agree at least an hour of uninterrupted time for the two of you and get comfy
Get Googling to see what already exists for some inspiration! There are plenty of suggestions out there and you can take ideas from different vows to create your own
With your recent Google finds in mind, think about the most important commitments that you want to make to each other for your future together. Don’t worry about the specific words for now just jot down ideas such as ‘to always be honest and open’ or ‘to make decisions together’ or ‘support each other to follow your dreams’
Next think about any individual words do you want to include in your vows? Maybe ‘sharing’ is important to you, ‘supporting’ each other or remaining ‘independent’
You can now start planning the structure for your vows. There are several ways you can start your vows such as:
I Joe take you Helen to be my lifelong partner and lover
Helen, I will always love and respect you
Then follow on with the commitments you have already agreed, in the form of promises such as:
I promise to support you and to help you follow your dreams
I will share my life with you, giving only the best of me to you
To finish off add a closing line such as:
I make these promises to you with all my heart
I promise to do this throughout our lives whatever our future may hold
Aim for 6 or 8 lines in total for your vows. Simple and sincere is the key
Once you have created your draft vows share these with your celebrant who can help you refine them if needed
Remember you don’t have to make the same promises to each other, choose what works best for you
Example wedding vows:
Helen, I will always love and respect you
I invite you to share my life as I hope to share yours
I promise to support you and help you to follow your dreams
I will try to bring you happiness and laughter
I will seek to achieve with you the life we have envisioned
Throughout our lives whatever our future may hold
Joe, you are my best friend and livelong partner
I promise to laugh with you, cry with you, and grow with you
I promise listen to you and to learn from you
I will love you when we are together and when we are apart
I will have faith in your love for me
Through all our years and all that life may bring us
Symbolic gestures add an extra dimension to any wedding ceremony making it more personal and memorable for you as a couple and your guests. There are plenty to choose from that work really well with humanist wedding ceremonies, here’s just a few of my current favourites…
Hand fasting ceremony
This is the best known symbolic gesture for weddings and involves tying ribbons around the hands of the couple whilst a hand blessing is read out, or the couple making promises to each other with the ribbons being tied by a friend or family member for each promise. The ribbons are then pulled by the couple to create a Celtic love knot or a chain of promises. In each case it has real visual impact and provides keepsake from your ceremony. And it is steeped in tradition, this is where the phrases ‘tying the knot’ and ‘binding agreement’ originate.
Ring warming ceremony
Ring warming is a great way of getting all of your guests involved in your wedding ceremony. Each guest is asked to take hold of the rings, which are tied with ribbon to a ring dish or wooden disc, and to privately bless the rings with their love and wishes for your future life together. This takes place during the ceremony and once the rings have been passed around all your guests they will be warmed with everyone’s blessings for you to then place on each other’s fingers. A really inclusive symbolic gesture for your wedding.
Sand blending ceremony
Particularly good for weddings by the sea, but sand blending ceremonies and work well anywhere and are a brilliant way of visually representing two families coming together. If you have children, either together or from previous relationships, this is a good way to help them feel part of your wedding too. Different coloured sands represent your families and are poured into a glass jar by each person, initially separately, and then together so the sand begins to blend in the jar. Promises can be made as the sand is poured by each family. The jar is then sealed as a keepsake of your special day.
Tree planting ceremony
If you are having your wedding ceremony in your own home or that of a relative then incorporating a tree planting ceremony as part of your celebrations leaves you with a daily visual reminder that will blossom and grow for many years. Close family and friends can be invited to add soil during the planting ceremony whilst making a blessing for your future together. You could also ask guests to write messages and tie these to the tree before the planting and then save these in a memories book afterwards.
There are plenty of other symbolic gestures that you can include such as lighting unity candles to bring your two families together; walking through a ceremonial arch at the end of your ceremony to represent your path together which guests then follow you through; lighting a ceremonial fire for guests to throw wooden discs into whilst making a wish; and really anything you think would work well for you. Humanist wedding ceremonies are all about making your day suit your personality as a couple.