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Personalizing Your Ceremony    
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[excerpted from the article, "Honey, We Forgot the Ceremony!]
[ ©1996, 2007 by Paulann Sternberg, Artful Ceremonies ]

Personalizing your wedding ceremony is easier than you might think. It doesn't have to take a lot of time or money, nor do you need great writing skills (although most people are more creative than they realize). What is needed is a little imagination, a spirit of adventure, and, most importantly, the desire and willingness to express something of who you and your partner are to your family and friends. Here are some examples of things you can do drawn from my own experience as a ceremony officiant.

1. Incorporate poetry, quotations from your favorite authors, or other brief literary selections into your ceremony text. If none come readily to mind, consult with your officiant or check bookstores, web sites, and libraries. Several fine collections of readings for weddings have been published in recent years.

2. Consider writing your own vows. While there's a timeless simplicity to the traditional version--"for richer, for poorer, for better, for worse"-- you might want to have some alternatives to choose from. There are many wedding books and web sites that contain sample vows, as well as guides that help you write your own. One tip I offer clients to get them started is to write their vows in the form of a letter to their partner.

3. Include your guests in your ceremony . They can offer a reading, provide a musical interlude, or the whole group can sing your favorite song together (song sheets can be provided).

4. Invite family members and honored guests to each contribute a flower for the bridal bouquet or for placement in a special vase at the altar. Blessings and wishes can be recited with each flower.

5. Why limit yourselves to the exchange of ring s? Consider exchanging other special items as well, such as cherished family heirlooms (one couple exchanged an antique pocket watch and a locket), or garlands of flowers or other objects from nature.

6. Do you have a potentially touchy family situation to deal with ? Use your ceremony as a creative opportunity to transform it from touchy to touching . At one wedding, the groom had an adolescent daughter from a previous marriage. The wedding couple concluded their ceremony by having the daughter join them at the altar, and the three of them recited together a vow, which they had, composed affirming their union as a family.

7. Want to say something personal to your guests but are too shy to address a crowd? Include a personal message from you and your partner in a printed program of your wedding ceremony to be given to your guests as they arrive. (The program doesn't have to be elaborate or expensive --a home computer and a decent photocopy machine can do the job.)

8. Thank your families for their love and support by surprising each of them with a flower (or other special gift) at a designated time in the ceremony. This can be done silently or you may choose to say a few words to each family member.

9. Don't be afraid to use humor in your ceremony . One couple who were big fans of the Seinfeld show chose an excerpt from a Seinfeld monologue on marriage as one of their readings.

10. Your choice. By now, you should have some ideas of your own!