This information could be given to couples in your church as a handout before they finalize plans for their wedding.
Ceremony Decorations: A wedding is a time for simplicity and good taste. Do not use extreme decoration in the sanctuary. Sometimes the use of arches, bells, and trees can take away from the beauty of the ceremony. You do not want to give the impression that you want your wedding to outdo all others. The basic principle for church weddings is the simpler the decorations, the better. The sanctuary should reflect the beauty and the love of God and the Spirit of Christ.
Flowers needed: Bride, Maid of Honor, Bridesmaids, Groom, Best Man, Ushers, Mothers, Grandmothers, Fathers, Musicians, Pastor, Bride’s going away corsage, flowers for ceremony area, and flowers for reception tables.
Photographer: Wedding pictures are important, but the wedding is not just for pictures. A photographer can be a joy or a nuisance.
Special Notes about Taking Pictures: Some pastors prefer that photographers do not take picture during actual ceremony. They prefer that photographers take pictures during the processional and the recessional, and then the wedding party returns after the recessional for pictures. Set a limit of 20 to 30 minutes for taking pictures. You do not want to be rude to your guests in reception room while the photographer dominates the wedding party,
Infants and children: Some couples insist on having children in the wedding party such as flower girls or ring bearers, but they are taking a great risk. Some children are not old enough to comprehend the meaning of the service, but they are expected to behave as adults.
Even though some guests bring infants and children to weddings, these children can be uncontrollable and unpredictable. They may even disrupt the tenderest moments of a ceremony for the couple and their guests. If possible, the Bride should make arrangements for nursery care.
Transportation: Make transportation arrangements to the wedding location and reception for the wedding party, relatives, and special out of town guests. Usually three or four cars are necessary.
Wedding Rehearsal: The minister should be in charge of rehearsal instructions. Discuss the final details of the wedding with the pastor prior to the rehearsal so that he can direct the rehearsal with decisiveness. Alternating ideas during the rehearsal will confuse everyone.
Prelude music: (Fifteen minutes prior to announced time of wedding)
Seating of guests: Friends of Bride sit on left; Friends of Groom sit on right.
Here are a few ideas and thoughts the couple can review.
Idea—Lighting of Candelabras: Do you want to use candelabras? It you choose to do this, do you want the candles lit before Ushers seat your guests, or do you prefer to have Ushers light candles after they have seated the guests.
Special Note: Ushers begin lighting candles from outside of the candelabra, lighting the candles one by one, in unison. After the Ushers light the candles, they meet at the center to extinguish the lighters.
Idea—Special Readings: Decide if you want readings. What readings and who will read?
Idea—Unity Candle: Do you want to use the Unity Candle? Where will it be located? Does someone have to move it, or will it be located directly behind the Pastor.
Special Note: There should be room enough for Bride and Groom to go behind the table to light the candle so that the guests can see them. If parents are to light the side candles, they should go to the side or behind the table also so that guest can see them.
Idea—Presentation of Flowers to Special People: Sometimes a couple may like to recognize their respective mothers or grandmothers. Usually the Presentation of Flowers takes place right after lighting of the Unity Candle. Grandmothers should sit in the front or second row. The couple moves to the special people they wish to recognize. They can give that person a hug and kiss and the flower or gift. They then return to their original place where the Pastor will make his final remarks and say the final prayer.
Special Note: The time of lighting the Unity Candle and the Presenting of Gifts is a good time for background music to be played or a solo to be sung.
Be sure to designate where these flowers and gifts will be located. Will the Best Man hand the flowers to the Bride and Groom? Will the flowers be in a vase?
Idea—Exchange of Roses: Do you want to incorporate the Exchange of Roses in your Ceremony? It is a simple yet moving part of a ceremony.
The bride and groom exchange two red roses, symbolizing the giving and receiving of their love to each other throughout their entire married life. The Rose Ceremony also conveys how to use the rose and its symbolism during difficult times in their marriage.
Pastor’s Words for Exchanging of Roses: “Your gift to each other for this day has been your wedding rings. These rings shall always be an outward demonstration of your vows of love, commitment, and respect for each other. You now hold the titles of “husband” and “wife.” As you present each other this single rose as your first gift as husband and wife, may you always remember that the rose is symbol of love and the words, “I love you”. How appropriate it is that for this rose to be your first gift as husband and wife. Please exchange your first gift as husband and wife.
In every marriage, there will be times when it will be difficult for both of you to find the right words to say “I am sorry” or “I forgive you”. If this should happen, I am asking to leave a rose at a predetermined spot in your home. By leaving that rose, one of you will be saying, “I’m sorry” or “Please forgive me.” By accepting that rose, the other person will be saying, “I forgive you, and I still love you.”
Idea—Aisle cloth unrolled: Do you want an aisle cloth unrolled? Not every Bride wants this. This can be done just before processional begins. Two ushers go forward, each usher takes a corner of the canvas, and together they pull it the length of the aisle. Someone can sing a solo or play an instrumental piece during this time.
Idea—Sand Ceremony: The Sand Ceremony is a trend in today’s weddings. The Sand Ceremony is particularly good for outside weddings. The couple can personalize the containers that hold the sand. Like the Unity Candle, the sand symbolizes the uniting of the Bride and Groom into one. The Bride’s vase contains white sand, and the Groom’s vase contains black sand. After the couple exchanges their vows, the Pastor explains the meaning of the Unity Ceremony. The Bride and Groom then come together, and pour individual sands intermittingly into one vial. This flowing of sand together symbolizes the couple blending their lives together in unity as husband and wife. The vase of blended sand is symbol of the couple’s unity, and the couple can keep it as a keepsake of their wedding day.
The Groom and Groomsmen: Do you want the Best man and Groomsmen to come from the side door, or would you want them to walk down the aisle with Maid of Honor and Bridesmaids and separate at the front? This should be decided before rehearsal.
Special note about men coming from side room: Men follow Pastor from the side room. When they reach their position, they face toward the center aisle with left hand over right and pleasant smiles on their faces as they watch the attendants and bride process to the altar.
The Bridesmaids: The first bridesmaid enters the sanctuary from the rear of the church at the conclusion of the Wedding March call, followed by the other bridal attendants. They should walk naturally and leisurely and be spaced about 12 to 20 feet apart. It is helpful to have a starter to space the girls apart.
The Ring Bearer: The Ring Bearer walks in front of the Flower Girl. He carries a small white pillow with false rings attached to it by a light thread. (It is better for the Best Man to carry the real rings).
The Flower Girl: The Flower Girl stands in front the Bride and her Father.
The Bride and her Father: They hesitate at the center aisle for Starter to straighten Bride’s train. The organist can then begin playing with a joyous crescendo. The Bride and her Father (Bride is on Father’s left side), begin walking with their left feet and keep in step. When they reach the front and the Father presents his daughter to the Groom. The Father must remember to remain to the side of the aisle so that he will be in a more convenient position to reach his seat without tripping over Bride’s train.
Wedding Ceremony: Sermon, Vows, Rings, Unity Candle, Blessing, Pronouncement, Kiss, Announcement
Wedding Recessional: After the Wedding party walks out, Usher Bride’s parents out (Since the father is seated next to the aisle, the Usher hesitates when approaching him, so that the Bride’s Father can get out and take one step backward while the Mother steps out and takes the Usher’s arm. If the Bride’s Grandmother is present, the Bride’s Father may escort her out. Use this same procedure for Groom’s Mother, Father, and Grandmother.
(You could use the following as a handout for the Ushers)
Tips for Ushers at Weddings
Much of the smooth orderliness of the wedding depends upon the usher’s finesse and alertness.
Ushers should not be flippant or loud talking. They should be cordial with each guest, yet not use the occasion for visiting with the guests or joking with one another.
Select one usher to be the Head Usher. He will be in charge, and he should be responsible for seeing that the other ushers arrive one hour before wedding time. He should take notes at rehearsal. He will take the groom, best man, and groomsmen’s boutonnieres to their dressing room. He pins boutonnieres on other ushers. He opens the proper doors gives the signal for other ushers to light the candles. He seats grandparents, mothers, pulls back canvas, and close doors after the recessional.
To eliminate lingering and visiting in the foyer, ushers should seat guests as they arrive.
If a guest fails to inform the usher on which side he or she is to sit, the usher may ask in a quiet voice, “Are you family or friend of the bride or groom?” Seat relatives and honored friends of the bride on the left side in the front of the church. Reserve front pew for Bride’s mother. She will sit there until her husband joins her.
Seat relatives and honored friends of the groom on the right side, in the front of the church. The front row or pew is for the groom’s parents only.
If after seating, many guests and the arrangement seem unbalanced, seat guests arriving late on both sides to help equalize both sides of the sanctuary. The usher might say, “Would you mind sitting on the _____ side?” There are better seats there.”
Lady with Male Escort: The usher offers his right arm to the woman guest. Her escort follows a few steps behind. If several couples arrive simultaneously or together and time is running out or there is a shortage of ushers, an usher may offer his right arm to the oldest woman and the other couples follow, women walking first. They sit together as couples.
Lady without Male Escort: An usher escorts each woman unless there is a shortage of ushers and time; in that event, he escorts the oldest woman and the others in the party follow a few steps behind and seat in the same pew. An usher may escort young women, or the young women may follow their parents.
Men Arriving Alone: Unless the man is aged or feeble, the usher does not offer his arm. He leads or walks beside the male guest, showing him a seat.
Small Children: an usher does not escort small children. They follow their mother when she is ushered to her seat.
Seating the Bride’s and Groom’s Mothers: When it is time to begin the wedding, an usher escorts the groom’s mother to the first or second pew on the right side. Her husband follows behind them. Next, an usher escorts the bride’s mother to the first or second pew on the left side.
If guests arrive after the ushers have already seated the mothers, they should seat late arriving guests on back pew.
The Recessional: If the attendance is large, the congregation should be ushered out two rows at a time. After the ushers escort parents out, they come back to the front and dismiss one row on each side simultaneously.
If the attendance is small, the Pastor remains at the front until the ushers have escorted the parents out. He then dismisses the entire congregation.