Planning A Meaningful Wedding Ceremony

Event planners share their tips for putting together a memorable wedding ceremony, whether you get married in a church, outside, or at the courthouse.

Décor and Flowers

Before selecting the Flowers for a church wedding, be sure to check the church’s preferences, says Mary Beth Halpin of Events by MB in Tivoli, NY. “Many churches have their own guidelines as to where flowers can be placed, how early the church is available for set up and if flowers should be left there or must be removed,” says Halpin. “Make sure to check about outside the church as well. Some churches don’t want rice, birdseed, or paper hearts fluttering.”

For a courthouse wedding, Halpin says to keep flowers simple—just a bouquet will do. But Laura Chavis of Laura Chavis Events in Scarsdale says to make it a moment to remember. She recommends that brides and grooms going the courthouse route still dress up, get beautiful flowers and bring a photographer and videographer. 

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An outdoor ceremony affords the most flexibility with regard to decor, but weather is a factor. “Heat or rain can ruin flowers,” says Halpin. Scenery must also be controlled. “For an outdoor wedding, try to create a backdrop for the officiant and the bride and groom,” says Halpin. “Make sure that the background won’t detract [in photos].”

To create great ambience during an evening wedding without spending a fortune on flowers, Chavis suggests adding candles along the aisle, with two large candelabras as the focal point, marking the ceremony spot. If candles are restricted, “tiny white lights also have an enchanting effect,” says Chavis. “Lights are also great for an outdoor ceremony with a tree as the backdrop.” 

Vows/The Ceremony

Let the officiant be your guide for developing appropriate vows, says Halpin. “Many church weddings will be more strict, while an outdoor wedding or civic service may be more flexible.”

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If you’re allowed a little more freedom, tell your story during your vows and ceremony, says Chavis. “The ceremony is a reminder of why you two should be together,” she explains. “When was the moment that you knew your bride or groom was the one? Where were you? Tell us your story.” 


Music is a great way to personalize your ceremony. However, some churches are stricter about the use of secular music. “Ask your individual officiant, to find out what rules you need to follow,” says Halpin. 

And after you get all of the rules, think outside the box: You don’t always have to stick with classical music. “Start with what you like,” says Chavis. “[Think of] your favorite musicians and songs from growing up, your favorite songs that you play at home in your living room or in your car. Make sure the song after you are declared ‘husband and wife’ is upbeat!”

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For an outdoor wedding, Chavis suggests a banjo, accordion, and vocals, which will give your ceremony a down-home, country vibe. This feeling also makes sense in a small country church.

 And for a civil ceremony, Chavis says a single violinist to play the “Wedding March” when you’re announced as husband and wife is a must.

Little Added Touches

Worried about the chill factor at an outdoor wedding? Melisa Imberman of The Event of a Lifetime Inc. recommends offering a box or basket of pashminas—in your wedding colors, of course. Guests can cover themselves to stay warm, plus they get a gift they can take home to remember the day by. 

The Fanfare Factor

Whether you decide to have live musicians or a recording playing, it’s definitely a big part of your ceremony, and you should plan for it based on the experience you want to create. For the ultimate fairytale-themed wedding, the bride and groom might arrive in a horse-drawn carriage or have trumpeters to announce the couple and their attendants, says Imberman. 


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