What to Say at a Wedding Ceremony

Bride and groom wave goodbye

As a bride or groom-to-be, or as a novice officiate, you may wonder what to say at a wedding ceremony. After all, the ceremony represents the union of your perfect love, and you want every part of your wedding to reflect that perfection. Many couples have nightmares that the wrong words will be said, or that phrases will not convey how they truly feel. A little planning and guidance will have you well on your way to saying the perfect words that lead to "I do."

What you say at your wedding ceremony will be a reflection of you both as a couple. Your needs, wants, and desires should set the tone, even if that means sticking to traditional verse. No matter what you decide, your ceremony will be perfect for you, because you are expressing words of love. How much is said or omitted is totally up to the two of you. Understanding the different elements that make up a wedding ceremony will help you choose the right words and convey your love for each other.

Wedding Processional

Each wedding ceremony begins with a wedding processional. This is where the bride, groom and wedding party make their entrance. Here you have the creative freedom to choose music that will set the tone for the rest of the wedding. If you don't have a particular piece in mind to make your debut, a guide to wedding ceremony music can help you with that decision.

Opening Words: What to Say at a Wedding Ceremony

Once the wedding party has made its entrance, it's traditional to have a reading or religious verses spoken. You can choose to omit this portion or have the officiate speak on your behalf. Traditionally this portion begins with "Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today. . ."

If you decide to have someone read a marriage poem or read Bible verses, there are many popular ones to choose from. If you have trouble deciding on a special reading, consider choosing something that speaks of your heritage. Wedding poems of Comanche or Cherokee origin, a Celtic prayer, or a 13th century sonnet are all beautiful ways to convey what is on your heart.

After the opening, the officiate may ask "Who gives this woman into marriage?" You can choose any variation of those words or omit them completely from the ceremony.

Opening Prayer

Knowing what to pray can be the most challenging part of knowing what to say at a wedding ceremony--or whether to pray, in the case of a secular ceremony. If you are the officiate or guest speaker, you would be wise to consult the bride and groom before choosing your prayer.

Traditionally, the officiate will pray over the bride and groom or read a short religious passage. More modern approaches to this portion of the ceremony include the bride and groom singing songs to each other, reading special stories, or sharing other meaningful words that reflect on the bride and groom's unique love for each other.

You can choose to say anything that you wish, whether it be something sentimental or high spirited, a joke between lovers, or a moment shared with friends.

Officiate Address

Directly following the bride and groom's introductory words, if any, the officiate will give the definition of marriage. The words spoken here establish the seriousness of the vows that you are about to make, and the eternal bond that you will share with your new spouse. Even if the officiate does not define marriage, he or she usually chooses to address the couple and their guests by offering thoughts on marriage.

In some weddings, especially Christian ones, the officiate is asked to give a very short sermon known as a homily. In the homily, the pastor will expand upon the definition of marriage, offer advice and interpret scripture regarding religious marriages.

Wedding Vows

Traditional wedding vows are vows that the officiate speaks and that the bride and groom then repeat. Typically these vows start with "I, Mary Anne Baker, take you, Jordan Daniel Whitney, to be my lawfully wedded husband." Choosing to follow in the footsteps of tradition gets you off the creative hook. Many couples choose to first say what is on their hearts, and then to repeat the more traditional vows, and that is a great compromise. If you can't come up with a set of wedding vows appropriate for your ceremony, or if you need a bit of creative help this guide for modern wedding vows will help.

Exchange of Rings

After you have said your vows, you may choose to have a second reading or a song. Some people skip this portion of the ceremony or include it after the ring exchange. The ring exchange portion of the ceremony traditionally begins with "I give you this ring as a token of my love." If you follow a written and rehearsed wedding ceremony script, it may help calm your nerves during this portion of the wedding.

Pronouncement of Marriage

After the rings are exchanged, the officiate will pronounce you husband and wife, and the big moment your guests have been waiting for arrives. You may now kiss your new husband/wife and live happily ever after.

What to Say at a Wedding Ceremony