Wedding Reception Styling in Cornwall and Devon

Make Ceremony Magic

Make Ceremony Magic

Top tips for a personalised ceremony

Ensure your ceremony is the personality-packed pinnacle of your day with this expert advice

Hannah May
Hannah May - Chief Features Writer

It’s time to get personal. Though love is a universal phenomenon, there’s nothing conventional about any relationship, so make sure your wedding is as individual as your couplehood with a unique and personalised ceremony.

An immersive and participant-led event not only expresses who the couple are as people, but also presents a fun, energy-filled and entertaining interlude as memorable and magical as every other part of your wedding.

It's the perfect oppourtunity to surprise your guests with a bespoke and heartfelt first act that leads seamlessly into the celebrations and whets their appetite for what is yet to come with a so-you ceremony replete with the wow factor.

Alan Law

“Weddings are a celebration of love and unity. But why settle for a cookie-cutter ceremony when you can sprinkle it with personalised symbolic gestures?” asks Sabine Smith from Perfect Day Ceremonies (, who works closely with couples to add “some oomph to your nuptials with gestures as unique as your relationship itself!”

“As you plan your wedding, consider incorporating unique and meaningful gestures that reflect you and your love story,” she continues. “With an independent celebrant by your side, you can make sure your ceremony is as personal and unique as you both are!”

“The ceremony is the reason for the whole day of celebration and it needs to be a reflection of you as a couple,” agrees Denise Whitehair from Cornish Celebrants ( “There is no right or wrong: it’s your day, so have the ceremony you want!” she implores.

Here, Sabine and Denise share their expert tips for personalising your ceremony to perfection...

Barney Walters

Location location location
Plan every element of your ceremony, including the day, time of day and venue. You might fancy a sunrise ceremony as the light emerges in the woods, a sunset ceremony as the sun sinks below the waves or a midsummer’s midday vow exchange atop an ancient Celtic hill fort. 

Of course, there are certain limitations should you choose a religious ceremony and building, but with the law recently relaxing to grant licensed venues in England to host civil ceremonies outdoors, legally tying the knot has never afforded couples so much choice when it comes to the ‘where?’ of weddings. Meanwhile, the endless scope and freedoms of a (non-legally-binding) celebrant-led wedding means that you can stage a ceremony (practically) anywhere.
“Why not surprise guests with a non-traditional ceremony location that holds a special meaning in your relationship?” suggests Sabine. This might be on the beach where you became engaged, the park that you love to walk the dog, or even in your own back garden. Your favourite tearoom/theatre/bar/gallery could all be potential ceremony venues – so think about the size, type and season of the event to create your shortlist. Just remember to first check who owns/operates the land/building, and to seek permission or officially hire it if required, and to think about the practicalities such as access, amenities and distance to the reception venue.

Claire Rivers

Once you’ve landed upon your perfect location, deliberate the logistics of the layout and space. “Thinking of entering together?” asks Denise. “Why not have two aisles and join at the top? Have the seating in a horseshoe arrangement – it feels like your guests are wrapping you in love.” Circular ceremonies are all the rage, while more unusual layouts such as squares, spirals and meandering aisles all up the bespoke factor of your ceremony. 

Consider every element of the guest experience too: what will they see/hear/smell/eat and drink during the ceremony? This could take the form of pre-ceremony drinks, scented flowers/candles – or a naturally fragranced venue (an orangery, a vineyard, an allotment), live music (or the soundtrack of the ocean or birdsong) and informal nibbles, drinks stations or waiters weaving with trays throughout. Spoil yours and your guests’ senses and don’t be afraid to playfully prioritise your whims over standard practice and traditions.

appleB Images

Style to suit
Dress your day to dazzlingly idiosyncratic effect. Pick a theme and go wild, or use the natural surrounds to style your space. Add areas of interest and comfort, such as an outdoor lounge area, a play tent for children or mobile drinks van along with entertainment such as a live artist, mixologist, vocalist or musician who can serve/perform at the beginning and during intervals in proceedings. Think about the ceremony as an instrumental part of the celebrations and your styling rather than a separate, more formal part – and let your personalities and preferences shine through. 

“Colour your ceremony, from the flowers to the flags, and add an arch for a focal point,” advises Denise. “Are you going rustic and outdoors? Have coloured blankets on your hay-bales or, for a more formal approach, coloured sashes on the chairs.” By selecting a unique colour scheme and using it in creative ways throughout your ceremony venue, you’ll add another dimension and element of character to ensure a personalised scene.

With the addition of props, furniture, signage and décor all in your preferred aesthetic (festival style, vintage, colour-pop brights, monochrome, pared-back...), the ceremony space will look and feel like ‘you’ for maximum individual impact and memorability.

Grace Elizabeth

Content is key
When it comes to content, wedding ceremonies offer up a surprising amount of flexibility for couples keen to exercise some extra creativity. Religious ceremonies and civil ceremonies (not civil partnerships) legally require an exchange of vows, along with the signing of the marriage schedule or document. Civil ceremonies can’t feature any religious content, while celebrant-led ceremonies can essentially contain whatever the couple want – so discuss all the various options with your officiant. 

Nowadays, more couples are opting to write their own vows, which is the easiest way to make the ceremony unique. “Keep them secret from each other until the day,” suggests Denise. “Take inspiration from favourite poems or song lyrics, adapting them to suit. Keep to three-four vows and remember that your audience is listening too! A little humour is a nice touch, but don’t overdo it. Try and look at each other as you say your vows or wow everyone by singing your vows!”

Jessica Apps

Readings can follow the same individualistic suit. “Don’t stick with the tried and tested!” implores Denise. “Find readings that relate to you as a couple, such as about your joint activities or places that you love. They don’t have to be recognised as a reading; sometimes a paragraph from a favourite novel or song lyrics works well. Choose someone to read them who is confident and willing to do this for you.”

There’s a host of other ways in which extra personality and originality can be infused into your ceremony. “Symbolic gestures during a wedding ceremony carry immense significance, adding a certain depth and meaning to the overall celebration of love,” says Sabine. “One such practice your celebrant might suggest is the lighting of unity candles, where the couple each takes a separate candle and together creates a single flame symbolising their union. This act serves as a metaphor for their commitment to support and uplift one another throughout their journey and to make the light of the marriage shine.”

“Some couples might want to opt for more unique gestures like handfasting ceremonies or sand-blending rituals, each embracing its own symbolism to represent the joining of two souls,” she adds. “Your celebrant will be delighted to help you choose the colours of your special ribbons or the sand to match the colour of your birth month, for example.”

“These creative touches will not only make your guests swoon with delight, but will also weave an irresistibly witty tapestry into the fabric of your big day,” she says.

Olivia Rossi

Otherwise, think about tailoring every element to your own fancies, from the timings to the traditions. For example, you might wish to start with a song or a reading as guests arrive or launch into one as soon as the vows have been spoken. “Don’t be afraid to update conventions,” says Denise. “Do you want the traditional ‘giving away’? Why not update it to a welcome from both families welcoming their son or daughter’s partner? Dad still wants his moment with his daughter? Change the question from ‘giving away’ to ‘presenting’. Add a reflection moment for family members unable to attend or who have passed away.”

“Consider having some ritual to enhance the meaning of the ceremony and add joy and laughter to the proceedings,” says Denise. “Some favourite ones are hand-tying with ribbons for your vows, ring blessing – where all the guests have a chance to hold your wedding rings before they are placed on your fingers – a sand ceremony symbolising the togetherness of a new family, a Quaiche ceremony (Scottish loving cup) or a tying the knot to finish the ceremony. Talk with whoever is leading the ceremony to develop a completely unique approach for a ritual of your own, possibly including faiths, beliefs and working with religious leaders.”

Louise Eleanor

People and pets
Though your wedding is a tribute to you – it’s also a celebration of the plethora of loves in your lives, from your favourite food, flowers and music to the people. Find a way to incorporate those – as well as the things – that you adore for the ultimate in personalised ceremonies. 

Rolling Pictures

“Involve everyone,” says Denise. “From joining in with voicing support for the couple, participation in a ring blessing, singing, chosen guests or family members acting as ring-bearers, bringing and placing ribbons over the couple’s hands in a hand-tying, repeating a well wishing to the couple, writing messages of love and support for the couple’s future and placing them on a wishing tree – the choices are endless.” By finding different ways to include a range of guests, you can create a personality-packed, meaningful and wonderfully sentimental ceremony filled with love.

Tap into the talents of your friends and family, such as with a musical performance, circus tricks, a post-ceremony speech or dance performance; and think about the roles for any children that might be present too, from flower girls and poetry recitals to guest book attendants, candle lighters and sign-bearers.

And don’t forget your fur babies! “Pets at weddings have become a popular trend over the years, and it's easy to see why,” observes Sabine. “From dogs dressed as ring-bearers to cats lounging around the venue, pets add an element of joy and light-heartedness to the occasion. Not only do they bring smiles to everyone’s faces, but they also make for adorable photo opportunities.”

Katie Goff

“However, having pets at weddings requires careful planning and consideration,” she warns. “It is essential to ensure that all guests are comfortable with animals and that there are no allergies or phobias involved. Moreover, pet owners must take care of their companions’ well-being throughout the event, providing them with enough food, water and breaks outside if necessary.” Ask a trusted friend or engage the services of a professional dog nanny for a stress-free and unforgettably sweet experience for all.

Rolling Pictures

Main image Olivia Rossi

words Hannah May



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