As everyone arrives
The tradition: Guests are greeted by background music, a bit of light classical if supplied by the venue think Verdis Four Seasons or Lakme (the British Airways music) – or a couple-compilation.
The twist: Play your all-time favourite tunes while your guests take their seats (check the playlist with the registrar or minister first, though) and include fun explanations on your order of service, such as: Wouldnt It Be Nice by The Beach Boys – the first song we ever danced to together; Someone Like You by Van Morrison – because it came on the radio just after he proposed.
The aww factor: Friends will recognise your songs, and know from the get-go how much thought has gone into your day. Cue the rustle of tissue packets.
All photography by Constantinos Tsiliacos
The tradition: Bride arrives on the arm of her father/stepfather/male relative and her bridesmaids follow her down the aisle.
The twist: Build up to your big debut by sending flowergirls, pages or your own children down the aisle first. Or break with tradition and arrive with your groom. Whoever escorts you groom, dad, mum set a relaxed tone by holding hands rather than gripping their arm for dear life. Holding hands is a gesture guests will really notice and once your bridesmaid has your bouquet, theres nothing to stop you linking hands during the vows: your groom will be glad of the reassurance too.
The aww factor: So you have to recruit more youngsters than initially planned what price are a couple of floral circlets or teeny-tiny waistcoats compared to the gasps of delight as your little ones arrive looking super-sweet and slightly overawed?
The tradition: Religious and civil ceremonies both have statutory declarations that you have to repeat by law, although youre usually free to embellish (with permission no surprises on the day, please!).
The twist: Keep personal promises warm-hearted by talking about shared aspirations like the children youre going to have in your house with the big red door. Light a candle to remember loved ones, or learn a few words of each others language if you come from different backgrounds (hats off to the bride who learned her vows in Welsh). Be sentimental, but not schmaltzy: guests would rather blub than blush.
The aww factor: If you have children, include them in a circle as you make your vows and there wont be a dry eye in the house.
The tradition: The best man is asked to produce the rings (patting pockets madly to fake forgetfulness yes, people do still smile at that one!).
The twist: At a small wedding, ask your ushers to pass the ring boxes among your guests before you exchange them so that everyone can make a secret wish or give them a blessing before passing them on. Or ask an usher to carry the rings to both your parents and grandparents on a ring cushion.
The aww factor: Younger guests might giggle, for close family, this is a touching way to dedicate love or a prayer. A few lower lips might start to wobble.
The tradition: Close friends or family deliver short readings or poems (one of which is usually biblical for a church wedding).
The twist: Something you or the reader has penned themselves is deeply personal but, if inspiration hasnt struck, have little ones read a few lines about what love is instead super-cute. Dont be afraid to choose funny pieces, but if you choose song lyrics, be careful of Gavin & Stacey-style squirming (Dawn and Petes rendition of Ben, anyone?).
The aww factor: Ask the guests whove been together longest were thinking grandma and grandad to read something together and watch those emotions go through the roof.
The tradition: Ministers and registrars say a few words of introduction and give a short speech about the nature of marriage. Unless they know you personally, this can be pretty generic.
The twist: Decide together the top three things you love about each other or write a paragraph each about how you met and fell in love and ask the official to use this as the basis of their welcome. Most are only too happy to say something a bit different and grateful for the heads-up.
The aww factor: Broad smiles and a fuzzy warm feeling all round as the registrar recreates the tale of the first date/meeting the parents/proposal night.
The tradition: Just like they do in the films, the official has the option to say, you may now kiss the bride. Cue anything from a shy peck to a full-on clinch.
The twist: Surprise your groom with a burst of confetti as your lips meet. Have your MOH stand by to pull a confetti cracker.
The aww factor: Spontaneous delight and applause (giving everyone the chance to dab their eyes a little after the moving part of the ceremony).
Signing the register
The tradition: Usually a musical performance as you sign on the dotted line.
The twist: With gentle music, people tend to talk over it, glad for a gossip after sitting in silence, so if you want to raise the rafters with a choir male voice, gospel or Glee-style go for it. Give your groom a pen engraved with your married names, sign the register with it and bring it out for those milestones in your lives together: writing thank-you cards; Valentines cards; invitations to your childrens christenings. If theres space, include a note of thanks to guests or quote on the last page of the order of service we love the bride who chose the line A lifetime with you is like some heavenly day by Bob Dylan. Guests will have had time to read while youre busy sealing the deal.
The aww factor: If you have musical guests, an acoustic guitar performance from a cousin or an a cappella song from your BF should have you wiping away a tear, not to mention everyone else.
Your big exit
The tradition: Deed done, you walk back down the aisle to a piece of music, while guests elbow each other to get a great shot of your big moment.
The twist: Take your time and relish every second youve been planning this for months. Stop at as many pews or rows as you can, blow kisses and pose for pics. Ask if you can stash bubbles under each seat so guests can shower you as you go past, or arrange for a surprise song that your groom loves. It could be one with your own private meaning, or a fun one to make him laugh out loud. The best choice weve heard for ages? Morecambe & Wise, Bring Me Sunshine!
The aww factor: Anyone who hasnt shed a tear probably will at this moment, as the women dash off to repair their mascara and the men mutter about how they must have something in their eye!