What to Include in Your Wedding Ceremony

norman and gloriaA wedding ceremony is the official start of your life together, a first ritual, a time of transformation. This is the ceremony that sets the foundation for your life together. Many couples may have attended a worship service together, or a family holiday ritual. If you come from different faiths, or the same background, this will be your first ceremony together – a ceremony about your unification and a ceremony that unites your lives. Your wedding ceremony is the first ritual that represents who you are as a couple, and speaks about you and the life you are creating together.

Your wedding ceremony is a time set aside for solidifying your relationship and giving your marriage a meaningful send off. The wedding ceremony creates the foundation for the new family being birthed by this marriage. Whether it’s a religious or humanistic ritual, weddings are a sacred rite of passage. As I say in many of my ceremonies, “Through the power of the spoken word, something amazing is going to happen.” It is up to your officiate/minister to craft the sacred words, to hallow the time, and add the spark. Your officiant is the voice and the reflection of your love  and the love of the family and friends.

Elements of a Wedding Ceremony

Like all rituals, wedding ceremonies contain many elements. As I tell couples, the law requires just three things:

1.    Couples make a promise to one another of their own free will.

2.    The couple is pronounced husband and wife by someone legally sanctioned to do so.

3.    The couple presents a valid license and it is properly signed and returned to the county clerk.

The rest of the ceremony is filler. But the filler is the stuff that makes the ceremony special, unique to the couple, and creates sacred space.

img001A good ceremony will help you set the tone for your lives together. The words that are said are the public statement about the lives you intend to lead together. It is a ritual that truly transforms you and your lives. And it is quite amazing that a few words from you, the minister, are the catalyst that makes this all happen!

Below is the basic order of a ceremony. This is not etched in stone, but is offered here as a guideline. As a wedding celebrant, I create for you. The ceremonies I write for each couple  do not come straight from an ancient text or a book of prayer. These ceremonies are based on the couples I serve. Your ceremony will represent you accurately on your special day and to give you a ceremony that is authentic to you  and your beliefs.

Order of a Wedding Ceremony

Below is the basic order of a wedding ceremony. Know that this is not set in stone. Each ceremony has its own flow, and I adjust the order as needed, particularly moving around readings and rituals as they make the most sense. I will sometimes combine elements such as personal vows with ring exchange or candle lighting with vows, etc.

Welcome – Welcome the bride and groom and acknowledgment to those


Invocation – Calling in a higher presence. Create sacred space.

Remembering Loved Ones Passed – Spiritually inviting those who have passed to the ceremony, and/or mentioning those who could not attend, but are very special to the bride and groom.

Reading or Sharing – Friend or family member shares a reflection on the couple, a reading on marriage or love.

Minister’s Address –A short sermon about marriage, love and/or a personal story about the couple.


*The Intent – “I do.”

Personal Vows – Promises made to each other.

Blessing and Exchange of Rings

RitualsWine ceremony, candle lighting, Satapadi, incense, rose ceremony.



 Benediction – Blessing the couple.




*required by law

A Small Intimate Wedding – Lisa and Dave’s Fabulous Wedding at Ici, Brooklyn, NY

Slide Show Lisa SizeRender-4 copyOn a warm summer evening in August, 2015 two amazing people joined their lives in a small celebration at ICI in Brooklyn NY.  Parents were deservidly highly honored in their ceremony for the love and the role models that they have been.  Three adorable nieces served as flower girls in their white dresses with sparkling shoes, forgetting to throw the flower petals as the walked down the aisle.  But all was perfect for Lisa and Dave and wishing them great blessings for their life together.

A small restaurant like ICI can be a great choice for an intimate wedding.  The garden was the perfect place for the ceremony.  The fresh summer air enhanced the experience for bride, groom and everyone in attendance.  And the love that was present for these two was palpable.  This is a good reason to have a wedding, rather than elope,  Something amazing happens when you gather together everyone that you love.  A sacred space is formed from that love and it permeates the wedding ritual.  This is usually a once-in -a-life-time gathering and you can feel the excitement when family and friends unite to wish a couple well.

Interfaith Wedding with Modern Jewish Elements

candlesThis Saturday past was a glorious time for Michael and Emily from San Francisco as they gathered together their closest family and friends for a wedding celebration at the The Gramercy Park Hotel.

The evening was a lovely 64 degrees allowing the roof to be opened to the autumn breezes that filled the room.

I officiated their simple, interfaith, personalized ceremony along with the lovely voice of Cantor Irene Fallenborgen. Some customs from the Jewish tradition were included; sharing wine , breaking a glass and a modern version of the seven blessings.  Guests commented on the beauty of the ceremony and were excited that Michael had finally taken the marriage plunge.

Modern Seven Blessings:

  1. May your marriage enrich your lives and the lives of everyone around you.
  2. May you work together to build a relationship of substance and quality.
  3. May the honesty of your communication build a foundation of understanding, connection, and trust.
  4. May you respect each other’s individual personality and philosophy, and give each other room to grow and fulfill each other’s dreams.
  5. May your sense of humor and playful spirit continue to enliven your relationship.
  6. May you understand that neither of you is perfect: you are both subject to human frailties: and may your love strengthen when you fall short of each other’s expectations.
  7. May you be “best friends”, better together than either of you are apart.

 Here are some of the ways we incorporated the ancient  and made it modern. 

Silent Blessings

At this time I invite everyone to take a moment and to send your own silent blessings to the bride and groom, this sweet new family who stand before you. Each praying in the way that is right for you.

And together we say Amen.

Sharing wine

There is a saying – “without wine there is no blessing” .

Wine is an essential part of celebrating life’s most joyous moments and therefore is a part of this joyous moment.

And so  you have asked to share in the ritual of wine as a symbol of this occasion – to remind you as long as you live, may you

never be too busy to celebrate whatever great occasions come to your lives.

Modern version of the prayer over the wine

We praise you God, Creator of all we see, Creator of the fruit of the vine. This wine is a symbol of the co-creation between humans and the Divine.  God makes the grapes grow, provides the sun shine, rain and fertile soil.  Humans harvest the grapes and create the wine. Bless you Beloved and bless all we see.  Bless this bride and groom as they work together to co-create their marriage.  And together we say Amen.

As you share the wine from a single cup, so may you share contentment, peace and fulfillment from the cup of life.

May you find life’s joys heightened, any bitterness sweetened and each of life’s moments enhanced by true companionship and love.  (Groom offers the bride a drink and then drinks himself).