Tuesday, April 8, 2014

planning our wedding: the ceremony

it wouldn’t be far fetched to say that the wedding ceremony is one of the most neglected elements of a wedding day.

i don’t mean the decorations involved in the ceremony space or what your bridal party is wearing. i mean the actual ceremony that proclaims two to be committed for life as one, the act of committing to put someone else above you for the rest of your life. yeah, that. 

sometimes wedding ceremonies are generic and predictable, and it’s clear that it’s just a gateway formality to get to the cake and dancing. we’ve been handed a cookie-cutter idea of what a ceremony is supposed to look like and oddly enough, we have nodded our heads and said, “yeah ok, i accept.” then we go right back to tending to our soon-to-be disposable centerpieces. i find that extraordinarily disturbing.

when samuel and i were planning our wedding, i said to him that the ceremony is the most important part of the wedding day. "i really want to create a thoughtful ceremony that's meaningful to us!," i would proclaim. but in action, i was often swept up with all the things that felt more urgent (but less important) like booking rentals, looking at pinterest (a whole blog post coming on this topic!), thinking about my rehearsal dress, or....thinking through my soon-to-be disposable centerpiece. i remember it was far too easy to get sucked into a vortex of things i didn't truly care about (like super cute straws and matching string! omg!). that behavior had part to do with me losing focus of what was important to me, and part to do with the culture of the wedding industry.

the wedding industry is supreme at stealing your attention with the "sparkly" stuff (the stuff that doesn't matter a whole bunch in the grand scheme of things). to be clear, i'm not condemning those sparkly things (dresses, napkins, decor, cake, aisle runners, entertainment...), i just hold a belief that in our present wedding culture, things of a decorative nature reigns on high. and when the Queen of Decor points her scepter at you, it is hard to break free from her hypnotizing spell.

and it is a spell. 

there's nothing wrong with throwing a fabulous & beautiful celebration! but what i am saying is this: before jumping into the million details, i believe it's extremely important to click up a few notches and get clear with yourself and your fiancé what exactly your wedding day even means to you. it is important to be consciously making decisions about planning your wedding, not just to get swept up with emotion and the sparklies. 

even though we only gave ourselves about six weeks to plan our wedding, we spent a significant chunk of time in the beginning to talk through the big picture questions. we asked ourselves:
  1. what are the three most important aspects of our wedding? 
  2. what of our values do we want this wedding to reflect? 
  3. how do we want to start the first day of our lifelong marriage? 
  4. what assumptions do we hold about our wedding ceremony and celebration?
  5. putting aside that this is our wedding, how comfortable would we feel about spending $____ on a one day event?
  6. what process do we want to have about making decisions about our wedding? 
through lots of iterating, we were able to get on the same page about the values we wanted to guide our decision making process. and although our ceremony didn't end up being hugely different from a traditional wedding ceremony flow, we were glad we consciously chose every aspect of it. our ceremony took about one hour and this is how ours flowed:

musical prelude: to indicate that the wedding was starting

family processional: we had three clusters here (liz's sister 1 & family, liz's sister 2 & family, samuel's sister and dad)

entrance of dean (pastor) and samuel

entrance of liz and parents

greeting: we asked our pastor to specifically start with a specific phrase to welcome everyone because we considered everyone there "dearly beloved..."

note: liz & samuel did not stand with our backs to the guests. we sat on stools off center, facing our guests the entire time. it was important for us to see everyone and have everyone see us. we realized through conversation that we don't want people to just stare at our backsides! 

message to couple:
we asked a few of our closest friends to share for five minutes on specific topics. this was our longest portion of the ceremony. and samuel and i introduced each of the people we chose before they came up. 
(0) a moment of silence for brigitte mandell (samuel's mom) who would've spoken on our wedding day, but had passed away earlier that year.
(1) mary carrera: community in marriage 
(2) alice mandell: friendship in marriage
(3) don mandell: adoration of your spouse
(4) heather fosth: spiritual life in marriage
(5) pastor dean

reading of poem: my oldest sister read one of my favorite poems. the printed poem and an old key was on everyone's seat when they arrived. it was the one thing i wanted to make sure we sent everyone home with.

the small man
builds cages for everyone
he knows.
while the sage,
who has to duck his head
when the moon is low,
keeps dropping keys all night long
for the beautiful

wedding vows: we wrote our own vows, and i'll share them on a separate post. :) 

rings from sage & norah: my nieces sat near the front, and when it was time, my sister prompted them to come up and bring us the rings. they were perfect for the job!  

exchange of rings: side story: i made the wonderful mistake of saying, "just get it in there!" next to the mic while samuel was trying to get my ring on. samuel covered the mic and made a face or something. my bro-in-law told me later that everyone behind him gasped (he was sitting in the front row). we all got a good laugh out of it. ;-) 

pronouncement of marriage

introduction of couple

final blessing from group: we had everyone hold hands with the people next to them while dean prayed a prayer over us. it was really important for me to have a sense of unity from all of our beloved guests. (in my original idea, we were going to have everyone sit in a circle around us for the ceremony, but establishing and executing that chair arrangement was going to be a pain in the butt. we opted for go the route of simplicity. but regardless, i still wanted to have a moment where everyone - strangers and friends - connected as one, for even just a few moments.)

the first kiss! oh yeah! we were not going to leave this tradition out. ; ) 

the bride & groom take a look at guests (my FAVORITE moments): i experienced this at my friend's wedding and was moved by this pause moment. they took a minute to look at everyone gathered in the space, and we just got to look at them in return. i absolutely knew i wanted to incorporate this, so we did. we had "just say yes" playing in the background (b/c of it's awesome climactic nature), and i got to look at each person, and make contact. my eyes swelled up with tears immediately, so i could barely see everyone clearly, but it was one of the most memorable times during the entire day. i would highly recommend having a chance to PAUSE, and soak it all in. take as much time as you want; it's your day. by the time i was barely half way through, samuel asked me if i was done. i told him, "no" and kept going. hahaha.....he let me take the lead, so when i finished looking at everyone, i looked at him and we ran down the aisle and everyone cheered!

we loved every moment of our ceremony and wouldn't change a thing!

if you are planning, or will one day plan, your wedding: what do you want to remember during your wedding ceremony? 

if you are already married: what do you remember about your ceremony? 

all photos by oh happy dawn photography


  1. hi liz! you looked stunning and your dress was very simple yet elegant! I love the personal touches you made in your ceremony! Every little detail you put in sounds like it should be a tradition. Congratulations again and love your ideas!

    1. hi violet! aw, thanks for your note! :) i imagine you're thick into your wedding planning. hope it's going well!


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