We speak to a lot of brides and grooms about their weddings, and more often than not they say their wedding ceremony is the most memorable part of their day. However, with so much time going into planning the reception (from table names to creating your table plan), the ceremony can get a little forgotten about.
1. Time capsule
Write secret love letters to each other, then place these in a box with a special bottle of wine. During the ceremony, nail the box shut – the idea being that you’ll open it together on your 10th anniversary. For extra aww-factor, ask both sets of parents to help you hammer in a couple of nails.
2. Tie the knot
After the legal bit, why not hold a commitment ceremony? Handfasting involves a celebrant joining your hands together with cord or ribbon, tied to symbolise infinity. Don’t worry, they’ll untie you in time for the drinks reception!
Pass the rings around; your family and friends can hold them briefly and silently share their good wishes, to bring you luck.
4. Human league
Humanist celebrations (humanism.org.uk) are non-religious ceremonies that are totally bespoke to each couple. They’re legally binding in Scotland; elsewhere in the UK, you’ll need to have a separate civil ceremony.
6. On the beach
You and your partner take it in turns to pour sand in various colours into a glass bottle to symbolise your union. Bonus: you get a pretty keepsake.
7. Sign of the times
Make your ring bearer the cutest child of your acquaintance, and give them a “here comes the bride” sign to hold. Sign, £38, The Wedding Of My Dreams at Notonthehighstreet.com.
8. Dry your eyes
Place a basket of hankies at the entrance of your venue – for happy tears!
9. Style the aisle
Roll out the white carpet! Line your aisle with decorative trees, stakes or balloons; scatter petals or source an eye-catching aisle runner.
10. Light up, light up
Use a unity candle to highlight the joining of your families. During the ceremony, ask your mums to each light a taper candle. The two of you then use these to light a pillar candle.
11. Please be seated
Venue allowing, there’s nothing to say you have to go with the traditional seating set-up. Having your guests in a circle around you means everyone gets a good view.
12. Say cheers!
Why wait until after the vows to serve some celebratory cocktails? Throw a pre-ceremony party – just make sure you, your h2b and your two witnesses stay sober; the registrar won’t marry you otherwise.
13. DIY “I do”
There are a couple of standard legal statements you need to say, but you’re usually able to add some personalised vows to make clear how much you mean to each other. Just remember to leave plenty of time to write these in the run-up to the big day.
14. On display
Consider a cute twist on the classic ring cushion: have your rings suspended on a ribbon in a clear box, or nestled on a bed of moss and daisies.
Use fragrance to set the mood, whether through flowers, dried herbs, scented candles or incense. As a bonus, include a line on your order of service explaining which scent you’ve chosen and why.
16. Order, order
Not just for religious ceremonies, orders of service add a lovely personal touch, particularly if you include fun biographies of members of the wedding party, plus some amazing-but-true facts about the two of you.
17. Yay for relay
Can’t decide who you want to walk you down the aisle? If space allows, ask a different family member to accompany you for part of the way, before handing over to someone else.
18. Blooming lovely
Add a photo charm or a piece of family heirloom jewellery to your bouquet to commemorate an absent loved one.
19. Bubble up
Give guests bubbles to blow as you make your exit - the cutest alternative to confetti we've ever seen!
20. Name that tune
Think carefully about your ceremony soundtrack, taking into account the mood you want to create. If there’s enough in the budget, hire a band to greet guests, ideally with an unexpected vibe; we’ve had brides who had Beatles classics played on steel drums, and one who organised a New Orleans-style jazz band parade to the reception venue.
21. Pets win prizes
If your furriest loved one is particularly well behaved, give him or her a starring role as your ring bearer. Your dog + a bow-tie collar = a great photo op.
22. Word up
Asking your nearest and dearest to perform readings and poems is the perfect way to include those you can’t fit in the main wedding party.
23. All together now…
You can’t have hymns at a non-religious ceremony, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a sing-a-long. Choose one of your favourite songs, print the words in the order of service and you’ve got yourself an instant choir.
24. Great escape
Take your first ride as newlyweds in style. Hire some cool transport to get you to the reception, such as a funky tuk-tuk or a vintage camper van.
25. Petal power
Set up a confetti bar with dried petals or paper in all different hues.
26. Box of delights
To keep guests busy while you’re signing the register, ask them to write down their wishes for your future together, which they can pop in a mini postbox.
27. Audience participation
Give your guests something to wave when you’re pronounced husband and wife – “you’re married!” flags, ribbon wands or little bells.
28. Just the two of us
We’ve seen couples start their journey together quite literally, by making a united entrance.
29. Grand designs
Personalise your decor: add single stems or ribbons to chairs or set up a pretty backdrop in lieu of an altar.
30. Language of love
Choose a special quote that can become your big-day motto and have it printed on your order of service and invites.