Since everyone has different religious beliefs and cultural backgrounds, it is impractical to use the same type of ceremony for everyone. Another issue that often complicates matters is that the bride and groom each often have their own beliefs and customs, making it difficult to find a wedding officiant who will provide a ceremony to meet their different, individual needs.

I will not complicate things further by forcing my personal beliefs into your wedding. I can help you design a ceremony that reflects your individual backgrounds and your common interests into a symbolic ceremony that represents who you are as a couple. Some issues we'll consider besides your religious preferences or cultural backgrounds are if you would like to include a symbolic ceremony, if you wish to have other family members participate (such as children from bride or groom), or if you wish to honor the memory of loved ones in the ceremony.  I can also perform the ceremony in English, Spanish, or a combination of both to accommodate the needs of your guests.

Some of the common ceremony categories are:
Civil Wedding Ceremonies
Religious Wedding Ceremonies
Nondenominational Wedding Ceremonies
Interfaith Wedding Ceremonies
Multicultural Wedding Ceremonies
Custom-tailored Wedding Ceremonies

Unity Candle Ceremony 

Please remember that we are not limited to the list from above. We can mix and match, or even borrow elements from other cultures that you may like. We are celebrating one of the most important days of your lives, so I will work with you in creating a memorable ceremony that will reflect your individuality as well as your union as partners in life. 

White Dove Release Ceremony
It helps to begin by considering the following elements of a traditional ceremony.
01. Prelude
02. Processional
03. Welcome
04. Prayer (for religious ceremonies)
05. Remembrances / Acknowledgments
06. Commitment of Couple
07. Declaration of Support
08. Readings 
09. Marriage Address 
10. Exchange of Wedding Vows
11. Prelude to Ring Exchange
12. Exchange of Rings
13. Closing Remarks (with optional prayer)
14. Declaration of Marriage
15. Kiss
16. Introduction of Couple
17. Recessional

It's up to you to decide if you wish to include all the elements listed above, move things around, add or delete some elements, or ignore it all together and create something completely unique. You may also insert a symbolic ceremony (see below) into your wedding ceremony to give it a more personal touch.  You may also choose to write your own vows, or you may wish to use prewritten vows. I can provide some guidance if you wish to write your own.  Also, although I am a Northern California wedding minister, I may perform ceremonies outside of California if needed.

If you wish to add a symbolic touch to your ceremony, you may consider adding some of the following symbolic ceremonies to your wedding:

Bell-Ringers Announcing the Ceremony: Bell-ringers are boys or girls of any age who ring crystal or brass bells as they walk up and down the aisles of the ceremony venue. This bell-ringing takes place immediately prior to the beginning of the ceremony. Silver bells are available from Top Knotch.

Honor Your Mother: This ceremony adds a short, but beautiful touch guaranteed to make your mothers cry with emotion. However, since I know mothers are often involved with the planning of the wedding, I won't spoil the surprise by giving it away here. If interested, ask me personally about this one.

Hands:  A very touching and poetic ceremony that involves no props other than your own hands.  The officiant asks the couple to face each other and take each other's hands so they may see the gift that they are, for these are the hands of your best friend.  These are the hands that will support and encourage you, that will hold you tight through difficult times, that will wipe the tears of sorrow and joy from your eyes, that will tenderly hold your children, etc.

Batts Photography

Lasso / Cord: (Unity Ceremony) (Hispanic and Filipino tradition) This ceremony involves a lasso with two loops (tied into a figure eight- the symbol of infinity).  The officiant (or one or two guests of honor) drape each loop over the couples shoulders, followed by a short prayer. The lasso is then removed by the same people who placed it on them.  This signifies that the bride and groom are now united not just with themselves, but with God as well.  Lassos are available from JMcKinley. Cord and Veil sets are available at My Spiritual Wedding.

Casanova Photography

Cord of Three Strands: (Unity Ceremony) The bride and groom braid a cord with three strands together, symbolizing the joining of one man, one woman, and God into a marriage relationship.  this ceremony was inspired by the passage from Ecclesiastes that states that "Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."
Cords are available from God's Knot.

Unity Candle: (Unity Ceremony) The bride and groom take two candles representing each of them as individuals before the marriage, and use them to light one central candle that represents the two of them united as one. This ceremony can be modified to involve the parents or children from the bride or groom.  I don't recommend doing this ceremony outdoors because the wind can blow out the candles.  See also the Unity Sand and Cord of Three Strands ceremonies. Unity Candles are available from Top Knotch.
Unity Sand: (Unity Ceremony) The bride and groom each take a glass container with a different color of sand representing their previous separate paths and take turns pouring it into a central container representing their union in marriage.  Once they finish pouring the sand, the central container will have different-colored layers of sand.  When sand is blended, it is impossible to separate each grain of sand and return it to its original container.  Once blended, it is blended forever, as is your marriage.  See also the Unity Candle and the Cord of Three Strands ceremonies.  Unity Sand supplies are available from Top Knotch.

Love Letter: Days or weeks before your wedding, you write a love letter to each other and seal it.  During the ceremony, you drop the letters into a box, not to be opened again until your 5th anniversary, when you will open the box together and read the letters you wrote each other shortly before your wedding. Boxes ideal for this ceremony are available at Top Knotch and the Unique Box Shop.

Rose: After the couple is pronounced husband and wife, they exchange a single red rose bud as their first gift to each other as husband and wife.  A single red rose means "I love you."  The roses are just buds, like the beginning of the marriage, but if given the proper care, they can mature beautifully.

Jumping the Broom: (African Tradition): At the end of the ceremony or during the reception, the couple jumps over a decorated broom with a ribbon to symbolize the sweeping away of the old and the welcoming of the new. They sweep away all the negative energy and begin their life together with a clean sweep. The straws of the broom represent the family, the handle represents the Almighty, and the ribbon represents the tie that binds the couple together. 
Brooms are available from African American Roots.

Handfasting: (Unity Ceremony) (Celtic Tradition) This involves the loose binding together of the hands of the couple with a cord. The term "to tie the knot" originated from this ceremony. This was portrayed in the beginning of the movie Braveheart.

Divine Order Photgraphy

Breaking of the Glass: (Jewish Tradition) After the bride and groom are declared husband and wife and they seal their promises with a kiss, the officiant places the glass (usually a light bulb inside a white pouch) on the ground and the groom breaks the glass with his right foot. This symbolizes the permanence of the marriage because once the glass is shattered, it can never return to its former condition. Glass pouches are available Top Knotch

Butterfly Release: Perfect for garden weddings surrounded by flowers on sunny days.  The release of butterflies at the end of a ceremony is a spectacular sight and creates beautiful photo opportunities.  Special care must be taken to ensure that only native butterflies are used. See also White Doves Release ceremony.

White Doves Release:  The dove is the symbol of love.  Releasing two white doves at the end of the ceremony is a great way to add romantic elegance to your wedding. See also Butterfly Release ceremony.
To request white doves for your ceremony, contact Bay Area Doves. 

Casanova Photography

Arras (13 Gold Coins): (Hispanic tradition) Thirteen gold coins (arras) representing Chirst and his twelve apostles, are given to the bride by the groom signifying his willingness to support her. This represents the bride's dowry and holds good wishes for prosperity. These coins become part of the family heirloom. Arras are available from JMcKinley.

Loving Cup: (Ancient tradition - Celtic, Scottish, Irish, Jewish) The bride and groom share their first drink together as wife and husband and show the coming together of the two families.

Casanova Photography

Memorial tributes have become very popular. These tributes may also be explained in the ceremony program.

Here are four examples of tributes that may be included in a wedding ceremony:
  1. A small floral wreath or a framed picture may be displayed on a stand beside the altar.
  2. The couple may light a memorial candle in memory of a loved one.
  3. The bride or groom may carry or wear a memento that belonged to a loved one.
  4. The bride or groom may include a written tribute in the ceremony program.

Once all the different elements of the wedding have been decided, I will put them all together and give it to you for approval.

Family Vows
: When the bride or groom have children, couples often wish to incorporate the children into the ceremony to help them feel included in the ceremony that is joining them as a family.  This is often done with vows exchanged with the children immediately after the bride and groom exchange their own vows.

Family Medallion: A medallion, jewelry, flowers, hugs, or anything that seems appropriate is presented to the child to make them feel like they are part of the festivities.

Other Family Ceremonies: Children can also participate in the Unity Candle, Unity Sand, Lasso, and Loving Cup ceremonies.  Also, the Honor Your Mother ceremony can be focused on the children instead of the mothers.

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Batts Photography