When planning weddings people get wrapped up in the details on the reception since it takes up a larger portion of the evening, and end up giving less thought and detail to the actually ceremony, which to me is the most important part.
You don't have to go overboard with the decor or florals, but this is the “tying the knot” part of a wedding and the reason you are here today.
Most planners and venues recognize this and are able to repurpose things from the ceremony into the reception space which helps the budget, but they won’t know what you’re looking for in the ceremony unless you tell them.
But that’s neither here nor there as we’re sharing how we added personality to our big day. That being said, there are several ways to make sure your wedding ceremony reflects you two as a couple, the locations, the theme, or your family heritage.
Here's how we personalized our wedding ceremony.
Ring Bearer Book
LeBraun and I are Potterheads. “Until the very end.”
So as an alternative to a ring bearer pillow we purchased a hardback copy of our favorite Harry Potter edition???—Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince—and used an X-Acto knife to cut out a small box deep enough to hold our rings. The box was cut into the chapter entitled “The Unbreakable Vow,” and we secured a ribbon to the inside back cover, looped it over the top (like a bookmark), and tied the rings onto it. The ribbon was long enough to have the rings sitting in the cut out area without too much tension.
Then my youngest brother/ring bearer/best friend carried the book opened to the page down the aisle.
Nowadays there are so many creative alternatives to the traditional pillow and switching it up can be a great way to reflect the personality of the couple or the theme of the wedding.
However, repurposing your parents’ ring bearer pillow is also a great way to incorporate something sentimental in your ceremony and check off your “something old” item.
Have Both Parents Walk You Down The Aisle
Precursor: Everyone’s family situation and dynamics are different so what did may not work for you, and that’s okay. Do whatever works best for you.
When LeBraun wanted to ask for my parents’ blessing, he sat down with both my parents. We’d been dating 12 years so he was more than comfortable with my family and already close to my parents. He knew how much both of them mean to me…to us.
In many cultures, it’s traditional to have both the mother and father walk their daughter down the aisle and I couldn’t picture myself walking down the aisle without both of them by my side. It was a beautiful, meaningful moment and way to honor both my parents, show them my appreciation for loving, feeding, sheltering, raising me, and to thank them for helping put together the most beautiful wedding ever.
We also felt that the mother of the bride gets the short end of the stick when it comes to weddings. The dad walks their daughter down the aisle and there’s a father/daughter dance; when we know that it was really mom doing the grunt work of raising us kids on the day-to-day. :)
Lei Exchange with In-Laws
Throughout Hawaiian history, lei (yes, the plural of lei is lei) have been worn on important occasions.
Each beautiful, fragrant lei, with all of it's hand picked flowers, are twined and carefully bonded together with Aloha. The beauty of each individual flower is not lost when it becomes a part of the lei, but is enhanced because of the strength of its bond.
Honoring someone with a lei is a way of extending the spirit of aloha, welcoming them, and showing them gratitude, respect and love.
A lei exchange is a common tradition in Hawaiian weddings and something we wanted to do to honor the customs of the destination we chose, but with a twist.
Instead of exchanging lei with each other, we exchanged lei with each other’s parents. Marriage is not only the joining together of two people but is also the joining of their families.
Blessing Of The Hands & Handfasting Ceremony
To conclude our ceremony we chose to have performed a blessing of the hands with a traditional hand fasting.
Handfasting is a marriage rite that began in the Middle Ages, a ritual of literally “tying the knot” and binding two lives together forever. Handfasting cords were tangible, physical proof that two people were married.
The handfasting was a heartfelt and lovely addition to our ceremony. We asked my brother Tyson to bind our hands while our officiant read a blessing of the hands, which went like this:
These are the hands of your best friend, young and strong and full of love for you, that are holding yours on your wedding day, as you promise to love each other today, tomorrow and forever.
These are the hands that will work alongside yours, as together you build your future.
These are the hands that will passionately love you and cherish you through the years, and with the slightest touch, will comfort you like no other.
These are the hands that will hold you when fear or grief fills your mind.
These are the hands that will countless times wipe the tears from your eyes, tears of sorrow and tears of joy.
These are the hands that will tenderly hold your children.
These are the hands that will help you to hold your family as one.
These are the hands that will give you strength when you need it.
And lastly, these are the hands that even when wrinkled and aged, will still be reaching for yours, still giving you the same unspoken tenderness with just a touch.
Once the officiant was done and the binding was made we were able to slip our hands out—leaving the knot intact—as a keepsake and reminder that “…a triple-braided cord is not easily broken,” as a testament to the strength of our love and now marriage.
You can purchase hand fasting cords online. There are several websites and Etsy stores dedicated to them, but being the DIY-ers we are we made our own. We worked together to braid together the ribbons that would soon bind our hands and capped the ends with a charms that symbolized our relationship. We included a passport for our love of travel, a guitar for Nashville where we met and started dating, an Eiffel Tower for where we got engaged, etc.
Although a hand fasting ceremony may not be right for you, there are several other traditions and rituals that can be performed during your wedding ceremony, including lighting a unity candle, a sand ceremony, a blanket ceremony, and more.
My brother- and sister-in-law (Cameron & Hunter Premo) put their vows and a special bottle of wine in a box during their ceremony, locking it to be opened on their first anniversary.
Guest Involvement in Ceremony
There are tons of way to involve people that mean the world to you in your ceremony other than asking them to be a part of the wedding party, especially if it’s an intimate wedding.
In our case our wedding party consisted of family members (that’s you too Ms. Admire), otherwise we wouldn’t have any guests in the audience. :) But we did ask people who are an important part of our lives to do readings during our ceremony—my godmother/aunt Monica and LeBraun’s and now-my sister-in-law Hunter. We’re so thankfully they did us the honor of sharing our favorite passages.
We wanted to involve everyone in our ceremony, but that would have made it an hour long event so we added in a guest blessing.
During the declaration of intent—you know, “do wish for [groom’s name] to be your lawfully wedded husband?” To which the bride responds “I do.”—we added a congregational question and response. Here’s the wording:
Everyone gathered here today was invited to this ceremony because you have played a special role in LeBraun and Shalan’s lives. Will all of you, gathered here to witness this union, do all in your power to love and support this couple now, and in the years ahead? If so please respond, “we will.”
It was a touching moment during our ceremony knowing that everyone we love fully supported our union.
Vows are arguably the most important aspect of your wedding day. There’s just something about saying the words so many others have said during their ceremonies that we wanted to include traditional vows, but felt like we also needed a way to speak to and of each other in a way that acknowledge our love story. So we elected to also write custom vows.
Since they are so important, it automatically makes them one of the most difficult aspects of wedding planning. How do you explain what your significant other truly means to you? How do you express your hopes for the future? How do you put it all in words, all on paper, and then speak them aloud in front of an audience?
That extra effort put into custom vows was 100% worth it!!! LeBraun’s words filled me with such joy…and hope…and love. Plus they paid tribute to our past, present, and future.
It was also interesting to find that our vows were similar. We both talked about growing up and in love together has shaped us, promised to be each other’s companions (Doctor Who reference), and ended them with “always” (Harry Potter reference). :)
Though if you’re terrified of public speaking, maybe just stick with the traditional vows and include more personal ones in notes to each other the morning-of.