Wedding ceremonies can be performed by both religious and civil officials, and generally follow a similar format as set out below:
- Entrance of the bride, introduction and welcome by the official
- Music, literature, poetry or readings from the Bible
- Wedding Vows are spoken aloud and agreed by both the bride and groom
- Exchange of rings
- The official sanctions the marriage and offers a blessing or expressing of good wishes
- The first kiss as a married couple
- Witnesses sign the wedding certificate or marriage license.
- All guests stand whilst the newly married couple exit the ceremony
Although the main format of weddings is standard, many couples like to change some aspects to personalise the ceremony, and the presiding official should be able to give you some guidance on this matter. Some people like to write their own vows, but remember that there may be some words or sentences you cannot deviate from, so check with the official before attempting this. You can make your wedding vows romantic or even humorous, as long as you both agree!
A good way of personalising your wedding is to ask some guests to read out special passages for you. These may be personal poems or writings, specially created for the day, or quotes from existing literature that have some special meaning. If you are having a religious wedding, passages from appropriate text such as the Bible are popular. Some of your guests may be musically gifted and would be willing to perform a small piece of music, either vocals or instrumental. Remember to ask about the duration of the ceremony before you plan any readings, as some officials perform more than one ceremony a day and may be only able to allocate you a certain amount of time.
It might be a nice idea to do some research into different types of wedding ceremonies around the world. There are many touching traditions that you could incorporate into your own wedding ceremony such as a candle blessing. This is a lovely way to involve all of the guests in the ceremony. In a candle blessing, each guest is given a small, unlit candle as they enter the room.
Once the rings have been exchanged and the official has sanctioned the marriage the bride and groom light their own candle, and then turn and lit the next candle with their own. This passes round the room, and then the person with the last candle to be lit walks to the front and lights a central candle to complete the circle. If this is not practical with the venue you have chosen because of safety issues, then you could incorporate the ‘exchange of love and peace’ tradition instead. This involves each guest turning to the person sitting next to them, shaking hands and saying “Peace and love”, or something along those lines.
Other nice touches to your ceremony include giving a rose to everyone as they enter the room, which could be in the form of a button hole/corsage, or a Hawaiian tradition of giving everyone a garland of flowers, called a leis, which they can then exchange with the person next to them to symbolize love, unity and giving.
And if you are getting married in Gauteng, remember to get the best wedding photographer in Johannesburg.