Your friends or family are making the commitment of a lifetime and have chosen YOU to guide them through the ceremony. What in the world do you do now?

There is no perfect formula to officiate a wedding every couple is different. Every family is different. Every ceremony is different. Often times ­ YOU are the special sauce that makes it unique. So while the Church of the Open Road does not have a defined timeline, here is the order in which we suggest you approach the big day.

You said YES! Now time to start planning...

Pre-­wedding Festivities

  1. Get Ordained. Not only do you make this wedding legit, you also get to join the elite group of us who can legally bind people. For life.
  2. Get In Line. Confirm you can comply with the marriage laws of whichever state in which the couple will actually be married. Click here to get an idea of what you are in for.
  3. Get a Plan. Meet with the couple to make a game plan. 
    • DO schedule time specifically for this. Do NOT casually throw a ceremony together on the back of a cocktail napkin. The couple may think this is NBD (no big deal) and that the real magic will happen at the reception, or on their honeymoon. That’s just not so! While the couple may black out during the nuptials, the friends and family will remember the journey you took them on. Taking the time to ensure everyone is on the same page for the ceremony will ensure that. 
    • What vibe are they looking for?
    • How long do they want the ceremony to be? There is a big difference between 10 and 30 minutes?
    • Do they want to write their own vows? If so, give them a timeline to deliver those to you. Do they want to surprise each other with their vows, or will they share with each other ahead of time?
    • Are they comfortable with you penning the ceremony and then getting input from them once drafted?
    • Are there special components to the ceremony beyond the usual they would like to include? Special cultural or religious traditions? Readings? Honoring a loved one?
  4. Get In Their Heads. Send each member of the couple a questionnaire to better learn their respective perceptions their story, relationship, and future together. [COUPLES QUESTIONNAIRE]
  5. Write It. Start writing the ceremony. Do NOT put this off, it takes much longer than you think. This is by far the hardest and most thoughtful part of officiating a wedding. [SAMPLE CEREMONIES]
  6. Your Look. What will you wear? Check with the bride and groom on this one, ensure that you don't roll flip-flops when they expect wingtips.
  7. Props. What will you use as your ceremony crutch? [ipad, index cards, printed sheet of paper, leather portfolio]
  8. Practice. Practice, practice, practice...enough said.

The Ceremony

Ceremonies can take on many forms, remember ALL ceremony components are optional based on the couple's preferences. [CEREMONY RESOURCES]

  1. Pre­wedding Speech. This is an optional number one and is only relevant if you take your place before the processional begins. This is your first chance to really gather everyone’s attention. Look up, speak clearly, smile and deliver your message.
    • Introduce yourself and how you know the couple.
    • Communicate anything the couple wishes the audience to know before the ceremony.
  2. Procession. There is nothing for you say here, just stand up straight, smile and make eye contact with the guests and important family members.
    • The procession order varies by personal preference and religious faith. There are good number of variations that this can take on, but here are some general rules:
      • Mother of the bride
      • Officiant, groom and [optional best man] enter and stand to the right of the altar.
      • Bridesmaids enter either alone or with groomsmen
      • Maid/Matron of honor enter with best man [or alone]
      • Ring bearer [if applicable]
      • Flower girl/boy/dog [if applicable]
      • Bride walks in with escort [typically father if applicable]
  3. Giving away the bride or groom. This is an opportunity to honor the parents. It can be a traditional father moment or can include both mother and father. This section also include the parents of both couples. Traditionally, this takes the form a question asked to the father of bride, but can be posed to anyone that holds a place of honor in the family.
  4. Words of Welcome. This is our chance to set the tone for the day and introduce the significance of the day and this moment.
  5. The Story. This section is optional, but is an amazing opportunity to become a storyteller and bring all the guests with you on the couple's journey to get to this day. Not everyone has had a front row seat to their lives, this is a privilege you can share.
  6. Exchange vows. These are the promises that the couple makes to each other. It is common for the couple to write these themselves.
  7. Declaration of Consent and Blessing/Exchange of Rings. The declaration of consent (these are your "I dos") and the exchange of rings can be presented separately or combined. 
  8. Blessing of Marriage. This is the conclusion of the ceremony. Wish them well and offer any advice that will be relevant and inspirational. 
  9. Pronouncement of Marriage. "......on this day.....I now pronounce you..."
  10. The Kiss. "You may now kiss the........"
  11. Introduction of Couple. For the first time ever you get introduce the new couple to the world.
  12. Recession. The happy couple walks, followed by the bridal party.

Additional ceremony add-ons for consideration: music interlude, readings by loved ones, historical tradition from one or both of their faiths/cultures

Delivery Tips

  • Look Up. Be sure to make eye contact with the couple and the guests. It is easy to get lost in your cue cards. Don't be a reader, be a storyteller. How does this happen? Make a personal connection with the audience, eye contact is key. You will want to memorize portions of the ceremony. Practice, practice, practice.
  • Body Language. Your friends/family are counting on you to be the authority and leader of the festivities. Today you are figure of authority, stand like it. Stand up straight with open and welcoming and open posture. What will you do with your hands? This is where your props come in? Most of us are more comfortable holding something in our hands or behind an altar. If you have no altar, this is where you index cards, ipad or folio come in handy. 
  • Speaking. You may or may not be mic'd up. Be sure you are speaking at the right volume and watch your tempo. Guests often have a hard time hearing the ceremony, speak clearly and slowly. Remember to be yourself, this is also a conversation with lucky couple. Be sure to address the couple when appropriate and address the audience when appropriate. Most of this will come naturally, if your friends/family asked you to do this, it is likely you are a natural showman ;-)....shine on, you've got this.
  • Your Look. The happy couple should have a say in what you wear, but you must be comfortable. If you are wearing something that makes you feel powerful and lovely, your delivery will reflect that beauty and authority. Depending on the couple, ceremony/wedding style your outfit choice should vary. Be sure to reflect the vibe of day and be as true to yourself as you can. You have enough to worry about, your clothes should not be one of them.

During the Reception

Mic Drop. The good news is you are off stage and its time to have some fun. However, you will be surprised by the number of family members and friends that will come to talk to you about your ministerhood/reverendship [call it what you will]. They will be full of thanks and a million questions about your Church of the Open Road clergy status: how long have you been with the church? have you done many weddings? what is your religious affiliation? You become somewhat of a minor celebrity for the day and you will be immediately welcomed into the family. This can be flattering, funny and overwhelming. If your biggest problem on the big day that means you killed the ceremony and you now have more people to add to your tribe. Well done!

After the Party’s Over

Send It. Send the couple a copy of their ceremony (with vows if you have them). This can make a great wedding gift or one  year anniversary gift if framed and well presented.