Wedding Reception Styling in Cornwall and Devon

Make Ceremony Magic

Make Ceremony Magic

How to make your ceremony unforgettable

From rituals to readings, here's how to make your ceremony unforgettable

It’s all too easy to get caught up in planning the wedding reception, whether it’s choosing the cocktails, designing the cake or picking the playlist – but don’t overlook what should be the main event of the day: the ceremony.

While many guests traditionally used to look forward to the formalities being over so ties could be loosened and champagne swilled, the ceremony is increasingly emerging as the standout moment of the day, for guests as much as the newlywedded couple. This is thanks to a greater focus on celebrating the personalities and loves of the couple: rich in meaning and wrapped in the words, sounds and people that are dear to them, a modern wedding ceremony can be as engaging, inventive and unique to you as you wish it to be.

We’ve enlisted independent celebrant Sabine Smith of Perfect Day Ceremonies ( to offer some inspiration for planning a wow-worthy ceremony.

Hannah Wilde Photography Ceremonies WedHannah Wilde Photography

The venue
It’s easy to see why ceremonies officiated by independent celebrants are becoming so popular. “Your ceremony can take place anywhere you like if you work with an independent celebrant. We love to officiate ceremonies in unusual places as well as more traditional settings,” explains Sabine. From woodland glade or craggy clifftop to stately home, rustic barn or even your parents’ back garden, you can choose the location that stirs your heartstrings, but do bear in mind that the ceremony won’t be legally binding, so you will have to also arrange a civil ceremony at a licensed venue.

“As celebrants, we are happy to work with your choice of venue, wherever it may be and at what time of the day or day of the week you want to celebrate. The choice is yours and we love to go the extra mile for our couples,” continues Sabine.

Once you’ve decided on your dream ceremony setting, think about the mood you’d like to create and the experience from your guests’ perspective, whether it’s framing the view with a stunning floral display, positioning the seating to overlook the best vantage point or choosing the right tent to bring the outdoors in. Consider the mood you’d like to create and how you can bring a sense of ‘you’ to the setting.

The music
The soundtrack to your ceremony offers a key opportunity to bring a bespoke and brilliantly ambient dimension to proceedings. From acoustic guitar, a string quartet or a harpist to a gospel choir, male voice choir, performances from family and friends and even surprise musicians hidden in the congregation, there’s a plethora of options – just ensure they strike a personal chord.

“Walking into the ceremony to a piece of music that means a lot to you as a couple can be very powerful and can set the mood for what is to come,” says Sabine. “The lyrics of a song might resonate with you in a special way and can also be used in the ceremony script to reflect your feelings about the music you have chosen.”

Think about your favourite songs and arrange the performance to suit the atmosphere or venue; for example, you might ask a harpist to perform your favourite rock song or a guitarist to strum your favourite film soundtrack.

“Music can also be used to bring everyone in the congregation together at the beginning of the ceremony by performing a group song,” suggests Sabine. “This works really well after the declaration of commitment from the family and friends to support you during the years of marriage to come.” A collective performance is a fun and memorable way to celebrate your union – but don’t forget to provide lyrics.

Also remember to consider your exit music. “The music to walk out of the ceremony is equally important,” she says. “You walked in as individuals and you are walking out as a couple. The exit song can reflect your dreams and your expectations for your future as a couple.”

Lyra Moth Photography Ceremonies WedLyra & Moth

The love story
Relating the story of your love should be amongst the most heartfelt moments of the day. “This is the favourite part of the ceremony for every celebrant. This is the bit where we find out how you found each other and your journey so far,” says Sabine. “Everyone’s story of how they came to find love is unique and special and the celebrant will take great care to tell your story.” From the moment you met and that hilarious first date story to the challenges you’ve faced and adventures you’ve been on together, this is a wonderful opportunity for everyone to share in the joy of your togetherness and the lifelong promises you’re about to make.

“Your celebrant will make sure that you have full editorial control over the story,” says Sabine. “The story might reveal things the congregation did not know before and I hope it will make you smile and feel all warm inside to hear again how it all began.”

The readings
The readings offer another opportunity to sprinkle personality unto your ceremony and communicate something significant about your relationship. “Using readings which are personal to you can help to create a ceremony that reflects you as a couple and your journey,” says Sabine.

The most important thing is to select a reading you both love. “You do not have to be good at poetry or write your own to make this part personal. Your celebrant can help you to find poems or readings that reflect you as a couple and which will feel right for you,” she advises.

You might choose an excerpt from a poem or book, song lyrics or movie quotes; it might even be love letters or emails you’ve exchanged over the years. Whether you opt for something sweet, funny, profound or deeply romantic, just ensure it feels true to your relationship and your style of ceremony – and choose someone who is confident to read it.

BECKY GORDON Ceremonies WedNick Walker Photography

The traditions
While the wedding industry has seen huge change over recent years, many couples still like to weave some tradition into proceedings – and a ceremony conducted by an independent celebrant allows you to include the religious, spiritual or cultural elements you wish. “Using cultural or religious traditions is the part of the ceremony where you can be most creative. It is a lovely tradition for the father of the bride or a family member to walk the bride down the aisle and this is something a lot of couples like to use to start the ceremony,” explains Sabine. “Why not ask your celebrant to create family commitment statements that can be read out at the end or the beginning and the congregation can answer in unison to show their love and support for the couple? You do not have to be religious to add religious readings to make the ceremony extra special.”

The vows
From selecting your vows to choosing something modern to writing your own, there’s a series of options to ensure this hugely important moment is full of meaning, personality and emotion.

“Promises and vows have been part of traditional wedding ceremonies for hundreds of years, and you have to repeat the traditional vows during your registry office ceremony to make it a legal ceremony. However, during a celebrant-led ceremony you are encouraged to create your own personal vows to reflect your relationship and your journey so far,” says Sabine. “Your celebrant will be happy to assist you in the process of creating your own vows.”

Once you’ve decided on or penned the perfect vows for you, practise saying them aloud. And, on the day, try and look at each other as you make your lifelong promises.

The symbolic rituals
There are other elements you can add to your ceremony to make it your own, while enriching the experience with an extra layer of meaning and unity.

“I love nothing more than creating special memories for the couples and their families and friends, and this includes designing and using symbolic rituals which reflect them as a couple or a family,” says Sabine. “A symbolic ritual has a very personal meaning and can take centre stage. Couples can discuss how it could work for them with their celebrant.”

Popular rituals include a sand ceremony (the couple pours sand from separate vessels into a single one to symbolise the two people joining together in marriage), handfasting (the hands are tied together to symbolise the binding of two lives), ring warming (the rings are warmed with a wish, prayer or good thoughts for the couple by each guest) and the lighting of a unity candle (the lighting of one large candle from two smaller candles to represent the merging of two families).

Lizzie Ryan Ceremonies WedGrace Elizabeth Photography

The family and friends
Weddings are a celebration of togetherness – both as a couple and as a community of the dearest people in your lives. “Including your friends and family members in the ceremony will add something extra special to the day,” advises Sabine. “Children can take centre stage as a ring bearer or they could read a poem or an excerpt from a book. Some family members or friends could contribute to your day with a meaningful reading or a poem or even share an anecdote from your childhood or adulthood.” Perhaps you have a musical brother, a wordsmith sister or your dad sings in a male voice choir? Tap into your family and friends’ passions to add a stirring sense of togetherness and a celebration of all the loves in your lives.

From the rituals to the readings, whatever you decide on, remember to stay true to yourselves and look forward to a ceremony brimming with overwhelming happiness and love, which feel oh-so perfectly ‘you’.

words Rebecca Matthews

Main image Hannah Barnes Photography

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