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  • Rochelle Fleming – NZ Wedding Celebrant

Ceremony Upgrade – Out with the Old School Rules

Although your wedding day is filled with significant moments, the ceremony is the crescendo of the entire celebration. It's the reason everyone has joined together, and it's more than just the formality of legally getting married. Your ceremony is your chance to express who you are as a couple or put your stamp on your wedding day. Even if you consider yourself a traditional bride, there is bound to be at least one wedding ceremony upgrade below that you would like to consider. Let’s look at a examples of some old school traditions around ceremonies and share some new ideas that couples have been adding to their ceremonies lately.

Old-School Rule: Your wedding dress has to be white.

The New Twist: Add a pop of color – a colorful sash, boldly colored shoes, a statement necklace or a cute bolero – are ways to introduce color. Have fun with it & add your personality to your day. Some brides might decide to wear a 1950’s style dress, an intricate lace dress, a bohemian style dress, a vintage or second hand dress. They may even decide to fashion an old dress into a new one. It could be that family dress is used and upgraded or a part of the dress or fabric is used. The options are endless.

Old-School Rule: You have to wear a long white veil.

The New Twist: Break away from the standard headpiece with a chic headband, a flower crown or a few sparkly hair clips. Or you could just leave your hair down with nothing in it at all. Flower garlands and vintage lace hairpieces, fascinators or clips with intricate embellishment are also becoming popular. Really think about the style or look you are wishing to capture.

Old-School Rule: Traditional ceremonies can't be personalised.

The New Twist: These days, it's all about updating traditional ceremony customs. You can personalise your readings, add rituals that have significance for you, or even inject your love story throughout the ceremony. You might opt to try lesser known traditions, like the wine box: Lock a bottle of wine and love letters in a box during the ceremony to be opened on a predetermined anniversary date. It might be important to include the crowd, remember those no longer with us or share some words about marriage written for the couple from guests / family who are married. There are many visual options you can add to your ceremony. Take a look at Pinterest regarding unity examples and other symbolic highlights. The key thing is to make sure the ceremony reflects the style of day that you are looking for and working collaboratively with your officiant and MC to achieve this. My pinterest page is a great resource for couples.

Old-School Rule: You should walk down the aisle to “Here Comes the Bride.”

The New Twist: Modern songs & modern versions of old songs, theme songs, songs that mean something to the couple utilising different modes of music – from Acoustic, string quartet, singers or bag pipes. There are so many options around music. Music sets the scene and tone of your day. Really think about what suits the setting, you as a couple and the style you are looking for.

Old-School Rule: The ceremony programme has to be formal.

The New Twist: Often couples are opting to not have a ceremony program or order of service however if you do decide to, programs are to include some important info but might also be an opportunity to add some fun to your day. A fun facts sheet about the couple, a crossword puzzle, a cluedo type exercise, treasure hunt, photo list – some tasks listed that the guests must complete, or instructions on some crowd participation during the ceremony. Guests will love the idea – and they'll appreciate having something to do while they wait for the ceremony to start.

Old-School Rule: You can't see each other before the ceremony.

The New Twist: The most common option these days is for couples to see each other before the ceremony in a first look photo session before hand so don’t feel like you have to have that first look see during the ceremony. It can calm the pre wedding nerves and means you get to spend more time with your guests post ceremony.

Old-School Rule: You should make your exit in a shower of rice.

The New Twist: The exit is a chance to celebrate. There are many options for the couple and guests – from blowing bubbles, petal toss, creating a guard of honour with flowers, guests throwing eco-friendly confetti or paper airplanes to waving ribbons wands or ringing bells. You can even create a "toss bar." Set out bowls of confetti, glitter, popcorn or herbs for guests to shower you with collect and shower you with their “love” as you exit the ceremony area.

Old-School Rule: Bridesmaids are female and groomsmen are male.

The New Twist: Don't confine your list to your female friends (and vice versa for grooms). If your best friend in the world happens to be a guy, make him your bridesman, or your groom can ask his good friend to be a grooms woman and don’t feel you have to have a certain number of bridesmaids or grooms man so that you are even on each side, the uniformity doesn’t matter. If you have a mix you can even get the bridesman to be escorted in with the bridesmaids on each arm.

Old-School Rule: Your bridesmaids should wear matching dresses.

The New Twist: Let your chosen attendants individual personalities shine by having each one pick a dress that suits their own taste and figure. The trick to pulling off the mismatched look is to have one cohesive element, like the same fabric, color or length. Or let them upcycle their look with their accessories, like funky jewelry, boleros or patterned tights.

Old-School Rule: Your father should walk you down the aisle.

The New Twist: Having your dad escort you can be a great moment for the two of you, but it is by no means the only option. If you have a closer relative or friend (like a brother or even your mum), it's perfectly acceptable to have that person walk with you. Don't have anyone in mind? You can even make the trip solo or with your soon-to-be spouse – it's a great symbol of starting your life together! There are so many variations to this in the ceremony. Some couples greet their guests and mingle with them before the ceremony. Mum and Dad might do the honors together. You may even decide to have your partner meet you halfway and come to the front of the ceremony area together.

Old-School Rule: Your guests must be seated on two sides.

The New Twist: There's more than one way to design a ceremony setup. If you have the option, consider banishing the idea of a bride and groom side with a nontraditional seating arrangement, like a circle or half circle or even a spiral around the altar. Everyone's there to celebrate the two of you together, so there's no reason it should matter where your guests sit. A lot of brides are opting to put a sign out suggesting to pick a seat not a side.

I have a sign like this and other useful ceremony props and signs you can utilise for hire.

Old-School Rule: You should exchange traditional vows.

The New Twist: There's nothing wrong with sticking with the same vows many couples have said before you, traditional vows. But adding your own language can make the ceremony more meaningful to you. If you're nervous about writing your own vows from scratch, work with your officiant to come up with something custom or just add a few tweaks to the traditional wording. Start with two or three things you most love about your partner and then two or three things you promise to do in the marriage. Again take a look at my pinterest page for inspiration.

Old-School Rule: Wedding ceremonies take place in religious institutions.

The New Twist: Pick a ceremony venue that is meaningful to the both of you. It can be anywhere, from a park or a backyard, a restaurant, or a hip city apartment downtown with a spectacular view, beach front, barns, or the family estate. The options are endless and it is often the fun part of the planning, discovering that hidden gem where you can hold your ceremony and reception.

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