So you need to write a wedding ceremony script and officiate a wedding. Instead of grabbing a canned pre-written sample from one of the 695,691 webpages out there, start with the traditional 10-part wedding ceremony script outline I use every weekend instead.
A canned script is restrictive right out of the gate. It says, “I’m not really sure what I’m doing.” When we use a wedding ceremony script outline, it communicates to our couple that we’re structured and flexible. The process ends up being way more collaborative, and the finished script ends up being way more personal to the couple.
It’s the difference between “Hey, here’s a cake. Now eat it,” and “Hey, let’s make a cake! What’s your favourite flavour?”
Let’s bake together.
Call up your couple, sit down with them for an hour over a drink, and brainstorm through this traditional 10-part wedding ceremony script outline. Talk over the personal elements they might want to add. Meeting with your couple to plan the ceremony is so important that I literally wrote a whole book about it.
I’ve included some of the most common variations when relevant so you can discuss some options. Here is the ceremony script outline I start with for 100% of the weddings I officiate.
1. Officiant Opening Remarks
We start with breaking the ice. This loosens up our nerves and signals to the guests that they can engage.
The wedding officiant takes the front with Marryer 1 and Marryer 1’s party (down the aisle or from the side), and then the officiant makes some brief opening remarks. Make ’em fun and engage the guests right out of the gate.
- Welcome the guests.
- Announce whether photos are allowed.
- Ask guests to please turn phones to silent.
- “With that, let’s begin!” That’s the cue for the processional.
- After the officiant and Marryer 1 and Marryer 1’s party enter, maybe some grandparents or other important family members enter and are seated in the front row before the officiant speaks. This is called formal or honourary seating and it happens right before the officiant’s opening remarks.
- If Marryer 1 and his/her party are part of the processional, the officiant enters alone and makes the opening remarks alone before anyone else enters.
2. The Processional
The music starts, and the wedding processional begins.
- Ring/flower kids and/or junior wedding attendants enter.
- Marryer 2’s party enters in single file.
- The officiant asks guests, “Please stand for the bride/groom as you’re able.”
- Marryer 2 enters with parent(s), walk the aisle, and stop at the front row.
- Marryer 1 steps forward to receive Marryer 2 at front row.
- Marryers and parents exchange handshakes, hugs, and kisses.
- Marryer 1 and Marryer 2 stand in front of the officiant, facing each other holding hands.
- The officiant invites guests to be seated.
- Sometimes when Marryer 2 and his/her escort arrive at the front row, the music fades and the officiant asks who gives Marryer 2 away or who supports this union. Marryer 2’s escort answers, “I do.”
- The ring/ flower kids and/or junior wedding attendants can enter either first in the processional or just before Marryer 2. It depends on their ages.
3. The Officiant’s Speech
What makes today so important in the life of this couple? It’s the promises they are making to always be there for each other (“vows”) in front of their closest friends and family. Here’s where the officiant says some things about that.
Some suggestions for what to say:
- tell the couple’s love story
- read a poem or excerpt from a book that is meaningful to the couple,
- say something about commitment and faithfulness,
- add some prayers or blessings from the couple’s faith tradition.
Be creative, respectful, and remember everyone there wants to have fun and be engaged! (Well, except the couple. They don’t wanna be engaged anymore. Heh. See what I did there…? Ohhhkay.)
We may be legally required to say a couple of things in the ceremony, and I like to add them to the end of the speech. A couple of those things might be:
- “If anyone knows of any legal reason why these two may not be married today, please speak now.”
- “[Marryer 1] and [Marryer 2], do you stand here today to give yourselves to each other in marriage?”
How do we know if we have to include specific words of phrases in the ceremony? Google up on the laws in your state or province.
4. The Exchange of Vows
This is when the couple makes promises to each other. It’s kinda the biggest part of the day. No pressure.
5. The Exchange of Rings
Partner 1’s Best Man/Woman is usually holding both rings. The officiant states that the couple will now exchange rings as a physical symbol of the promises they’re making today.
- The Best Man/Woman gives Marryer 2’s ring to Marryer 1 and returns to their place.
- Marryer 1 slides the ring on Marryer 2’s finger.
- The officiant asks Marryer 1 to repeat a few lines about giving this ring as a symbol and a reminder of his/her commitment (i.e. “I give you this ring/as a sign of my commitment to you.”).
- The Best Man gives Marryer 1’s ring to Marryer 2 and returns to his/her place.
- Marryer 2 slides the ring on Marryer 1’s finger.
- The officiant asks Marryer 2 to repeat a few lines about giving this ring as a symbol and a reminder of his/her commitment (i.e. “I give you this ring/as a sign of my commitment to you.”).
6. Pronouncing the Couple as Married
“Well now, in front of your closest friends and family (and by the authority given be by the province/state of _________ ), I pronounce you husband/wife and husband/wife [or married]! [Marryer 1], you may kiss [Marryer 2]!”
- Some officiants put this element after the signing, but I like to put it before. That way, everyone has clapped and cheered and the signing is more relaxed with a party-like atmosphere, rather than stiffer and more ceremonial.
7. Signing the Legal Documents
Is this a legal ceremony? The officiant tells the guests that the couple is going to sign some papers and we will all be back in just a few minutes.
- Fun and upbeat music starts.
- If the officiant is legalizing the ceremony (or someone else in attendance is doing that), head over to the table and sign with the required number of witnesses (usually the Best Man/Woman and Maid/Man of Honour).
- When finished, everyone comes back to the centre as before and the officiant gets ready to make some closing remarks.
- Sometimes the couple opts to do this in private with the witnesses before or after the ceremony.
- Some countries do this before or after the ceremony, so you can leave this out if it’s not customary where you’re from. But you may also want to try it because it’s so fun when there’s a great song playing and it gets the energy up for the presentation of the couple to come!
8. Officiant Closing Remarks
This is mostly practical, next-steps stuff. But it’s not pedantic! It builds the energy and gets everyone ready for the biggest possible finish to the ceremony. We want to send everyone out with a bang!
The couple face the aisle and their guests now, and the officiant tells the guests 1) what the couple are doing next, 2) what the guests need to do next, and 3) thank you for coming. For example:
- “[Marryer 1] and [Marryer 2] are heading out briefly for photos and will rejoin us shortly,”
- “In the meantime, we are all invited out to the terrace where drinks and refreshments will be served, with the reception to follow shortly after.”
- “On behalf of the happy couple, thanks for coming and have a wonderful evening! Are you ready to celebrate?”
9. Presentation of the Couple
Here’s where the couple gets officially presented to everyone for the first time. This is what I typically say:
- “Finally, stand with us now; it is my distinct honour to present to you for the first time: _______ and _______ as husband and wife/married!” or an alternative (i.e. “Mr. and Mrs. _______!”).
10. The Recessional
- The recessional music starts immediately.
- The couple heads up the aisle.
- When the couple has cleared the aisle completely (no photo-bombing and traffic jams!), the two wedding parties follow in pairs, typically linking arms and starting with Best Man/Woman and Maid/Man of Honour.
- The officiant goes to Marryer 2’s family, offers congratulations, and motions them to exit up the aisle.
- The officiant goes to Marryer 1’s family, offers congratulations, and motions them to exit up the aisle.
- Finally, the officiant stands and motions the subsequent second rows to exit.
One thing to note here at the end: this is a traditional(ish) 10-part wedding ceremony outline. Our couple may expand it out to 22 parts or 648 parts by adding readings or rituals involving multiple family members, fire, sand, doves, F-18 flyovers, clowns, alcohol, etc. Just go with it!
Remember: it’s not our job to coordinate all the minute details like bringing all the candles and birdcages! Our role as Officiant is to facilitate and accommodate what they want their ceremony to look like and make the space for it to happen. Use my traditional 10-part ceremony script outline as a starting point, and craft any style of perfect wedding ceremony from there.
If you want to work with me directly and personally, let’s do it! check out my full wedding script + 1-on-1 coaching service here, or my full wedding officiating course called Unboring!Wedding Academy.
Now get out there with your script and deliver the Best. Ceremony. Ever.
Grab this post as an instant cheat sheet!