The very best ending to a wedding ceremony is a grand finale. Everyone is on their feet. The officiant presents the couple. The music starts. The couple head up the aisle to a symphony of overjoyed laughter and raucous cheers from their guests!
But that’s not just going to happen on its own. There’s a perfect formula for lining up the moving parts to ensure the wedding ceremony ends with a grand finale. The officiant needs to order things in a specific way to make it happen.
And if you don’t make it happen? Well, it’s gonna be… awkward. And I’ve seen it in way too many scripts from inexperienced and first-time officiants.
See, a lot of officiants think the ceremony ends when the couple kiss.
That looks good on paper, but it won’t give your couple the big finish! And you only realize that when you really stop and think through the details.
Like: okay, when they kiss and the guests applaud, what happens next? The couple are going to eventually stop kissing (“um… they are, aren’t they?”), and the guests will eventually stop clapping. And if the officiant has stepped away like they should, then there’s this… lull.
You may even hear a cricket or two.
Then the best case scenario is that the DJ or musician starts the recessional song. But as the song kicks on, then the couple has to turn and head up the aisle. But – wait! If there’s a bride, they need to grab their bouquet from someone. And then… do the guests just start spontaneously start clapping again? Probably not. It’ll be a staggered smattering at best. Some nervous laughter. And lots of cringey pauses.
In short: a less-than-best ending.
When it’s done this way, there’s way too much left to chance and assumption.
As wedding officiants, we need to claim our directive role for the very best outcomes.
So here’s how to end the wedding ceremony with a rousing grand finale.
The Grand Finale Formula will finish the ceremony with a bang and leave everyone with huge smiles on their faces heading into cocktail hour.
1. Pronounce Your Couple As Married
After the processional, your officiant speech, the vows, the ring exchange, and anything else your couple want to add to the ceremony, it’s the beginning of the end. It’s time to deploy the Grand Finale Formula.
The very first step in getting the grand finale is to pause for dramatic effect. Smile. Look at your couple. And then officially pronounce them as married.
Traditionally, this is the line where you hear the officiant say, “…By the power vested in me….” In some states and provinces, you may need to say this or some other very specific phrase to make it legal. A lot of my course clients are friends and family and get wham-bam online ordinations. If they’re “online ordained,” sometimes they jokingly say here, “By the power vested in me by the ULC….”
If you’re legalizing the marriage, I think it’s best to invoke the power of the state or province. If it’s not a legal ceremony, then you can say whatever the heck you want here.
This is an example of what I pretty much always say at this part:
“Well, Morgan and Pat, with great joy in front of your friends and family, and by the authority given me by the Province of New Brunswick, I pronounce you married!”
Whatever you choose or are obligated to say here, your sentence ends ends with The Pronouncement: declaring to everyone that your couple are now married.
Step One is done! On to Step Two, and it’s literally just a breath away.
2. Invite Your Couple to Kiss
As soon as the pronouncement is out of your mouth, you want your couple to seal it with a kiss!
So without skipping a beat (but stepping back and out of the way at the same time), get ’em kissing! You’ll want to make sure that the wording you use is the wording you all agreed on during your wedding planning session.
The traditional wording is, “Alex you may kiss your bride!” But contemporary options include, “You may share your first married kiss!” or “Bailey you may kiss your groom!” for a twist. Of course, they may have asked that you not say anything at all; you just step back and they have at it.
Whatever the choice of words, when they kiss, the guests will clap and cheer.
And this is where the very important next step happens for the grand finale.
3. Make Your Wedding Ceremony Closing Remarks
I know, I know. You’re thinking, “Make closing remarks? Now? Is this really the time for pedantic housekeeping announcements?”
And that’s why a lot of officiants just skip this part! They try to stuff this in after the recessional when the couple and the wedding party are gone. And the ceremony ends like a deflating balloon.
But we’re not gonna do that. We know better.
To answer your question: No! It’s not at all time for pedantic housekeeping announcements! What it is time for: building the energy in the room while giving our couple a moment to head up the aisle for the grand finale.
Which means: when we properly orchestrate this moment in the ceremony, two things are happening at the same time here. One: our closing remarks will be fun and get all the guests ramped up for their biggest cheer yet. And Two: our couple will be chomping at the bit to charge outta here – the recessional!
So when when the couple stop kissing and the guests stop cheering, you’ll feel the energy ebb. It’s like a tide going out. Now, it’s nothing to worry about – when you’re expecting it. It just means it’s time to step back in and step it up.
In that moment, we want to step back into frame (I keep to the right or left of the couple), and deliver our quick, high-energy closing remarks.
First, we want to tell the guests where they couple are going next – whether to the bar or out for photos. They’re the stars of the show, and people should know where they are and when to expect them to rejoin us.
Second, we want to tell the guests what they’re doing next. Is it cocktail hour? Group photo time? Lawn games back at the barn? Guest-book signing? Check in to their hotel rooms? What time do they need to be back for the reception?
In twenty seconds or less, give the guests an idea of what’s in store for them over the next hour or so.
Third, thank everyone for coming – on behalf of the couple and their family. (And if you’re wondering whether you’ve already thanked everyone for coming at the start of the ceremony: no, you haven’t. We avoid platitides as much as possible at the start of the ceremony. But that’s another article for another time. Thank the guests now, not before.)
Finally, I like to end the closing remarks with a question that will get everyone cheering. Like, “Are you ready to celebrate with these two tonight?” in your best outdoor voice. That will get the guests smiling and laughing and shouting, “Yeah!”
Which is the perfect setup for the next part of the Grand Finale Formula.
They Face Out
But wait! Before we get to that, we need to talk about what the couple were doing while you were making those closing remarks. They’re not just standing there! Our couple need to get ready for the big recessional. It’s Face-Out time!
And this is something you want to practice at the rehearsal so they know exactly what to do.
While you’re speaking, your couple need to do two things.
First, they need to turn themselves outward to face the aisle. The guests and the photographer love this part! Your couple has been facing each other the whole time up to now. But at this point, they get to look at their guests straight-on, and the guests get to see them. There are loads of smiles and great photos here.
Second, it’s time to get the flowers back! If your couple has a bride (or two!), she likely doffed that off to a Maid of Honour or parent in the front row. For the recessional, we want the bride to have her bouquet in her hand. So whoever has that bouquet steps over and gives her flowers back.
With our closing remarks done, our couple facing the aisle, and our bride holding her flowers, it’s time for the last two steps of the Grand Finale Formula.
4. Get The Wedding Guests On Their Feet
In case you’ve forgotten: you were at the part where you thanked everyone for coming and asked if everyone was ready to celebrate. They all shouted back, “Yeah!”
For the recessional, you want all the guests standing.
So when everyone answers you with that “Yeah!”, you say, “Well. friends and family, please stand with us now….”
5. Present Your Couple As Married
And without skipping a beat, “…because it’s my honour to officially present to you for the very first time….”
Let’s hit pause there like we’re in a Marvel movie.
There you are, standing off centre, gesturing towards the couple. And your couple? They’re facing their guests, just beaming. The DJ or band are at attention, fingers hovering to start the recessional song the moment you finish your sentence. They’re just waiting for their cue word.
And the cue word is whatever your couple decided you’d say to present them.
It might be “Alex and Bailey as wife and wife!” It might be “Mrs. and Mrs. Burns!” Whether first names or a last name, when you say that cue word….
The music comes in with a bang.
The guests clap and cheer.
The couple bounce into the aisle.
The wedding party follows, arms in the air.
The family in the front row follow them, and then the guests eagerly head out to whatever’s waiting for them.
And you? Well, you’re standing front and centre. Smiling at the guests. Drinking it all in. Knowing you just punctuated a terrific ceremony with the biggest possible ending: a Grand Finale.