January 17

How a Writer Crafts a Wedding Ceremony

ceremony-vows
Martha Manning via Southern Weddings

I’m a writer. I went to school for Journalism. I’ve been doing it for years. So, I think I’m pretty good at writing. If you need somebody to round up stocking stuffers under $10, or the best things to buy from IKEA, I’m your girl. But writing a wedding ceremony? That’s definitely a challenge.

I want Mr. Rooster and I to begin our marriage with words that are meaningful and powerful. I want everyone there to feel like the words we will speak on that day truly capture what we have together. It’s the kind of poignant writing that, if I’m being honest with myself, is outside of my abilities and worlds away from a roundup of office accessories.

Still, I know that I definitely want to get hands-on with our ceremony text. I just have to think of it as a new challenge. I’ll need to grow and learn new things. And the best way to learn new things is to study as much as you can and start imitating people who already know what they’re doing. I am faking my way into being a ceremony writer, and you can too!

Get Familiar

The first step to learning anything is to start looking up resources online, since I fully believe you can’t start any project with a Google search. I found lots of great information on the anatomy of a wedding ceremony (this post from Miss Cherry Pie helped a ton). I started to feel like I kind of understood what all goes into a ceremony. It turns out the bit where you do the “I do’s” is considered totally separate from your vows, and even still separated from the part where you exchange rings and kiss. Not that they have to be. Any ceremony breakdown or anatomy you find is truly just a guideline. A ceremony can be or say whatever you want it to be or say. The only thing you really need is the Question of Intent, or the “I do” part, to make it legally binding.

Collect Bits and Pieces

In the early stages of our engagement, I kept a running document in Evernote where I stockpiled bits of text I liked and could imagine as part of a ceremony. As I was reading wedding blogs or books or even a well-crafted Tweet, I copy and pasted anything I liked into one place. Every single thing went in there, one after another in no particular order. That includes full quotes and readings, of course. Plus anytime I read beautiful ceremony text from wedding blogs, I pasted it in as well. I also added to my ceremony sheet whenever I heard a new phrase or even a single word I liked. “In word and deed.” Paste. “Kin.” Paste. “There is little to say you haven’t already heard.” Paste.

Organize It

For a while, my Frankenstein Evernote document was enough. But when we booked a wedding officiant, it became clear that I would have to sort out all my virtual clippings so somebody else could try to make sense of them, too. I started a second document with headings corresponding to the parts of a ceremony, then started to move my bits of text from one to the other and placing them in the appropriate place. Through this process, I started to edit everything down. I found that some clippings could be merged and shaped into new passages, while other parts were redundant and could be left out completely.

I kept editing this new patchwork document. Reading and re-reading for parts that didn’t make sense, or stuck out with a different overall tone from what we wanted. It’s at this point that what you have is actually starting to look like a real ceremony! If you keep at the editing stage, eventually you’ll get to a finished product you can be proud of.

Polish it Off with Your Officiant

Your officiant will be an invaluable help in whittling down all your ideas into a cohesive ceremony that makes sense, flows well and (most importantly) is just as long to read as you want your ceremony to last. Now that we’ve hired our officiant, I’ve also added one more member to my ceremony writing team. A really valuable member. Officiants come in many different flavors (even beyond their religious affiliations) and may be more or less involved in the ceremony process depending on who you choose. Thankfully we hired Ed, a totally hands-on officiant that is open for anything when it comes to exchanging vows and comes equipped with dozens of sample ceremonies that he sends you via email. Jackpot!

I went through our officiant’s sample ceremonies the same way I went through everything else, pasting the bits I like into place into my patchwork master ceremony. Now all that’s left to do is polish it up together with our officiant and see our final ceremony come to life!

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