Tradition? Create your own!

Some brides and grooms like tradition. Besides pleasing themselves by following traditions, it pleases parents and grandparents with whom a younger couple has a bond. If tradition is what you want, then tradition is certainly what you should have in your wedding ceremony, if only something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. Many couples, however, want their wedding to incorporate innovations that symbolize a different idea of unity or tradition, or to create something yet unheard of to “make it (their wedding) their own.” This is what I’m talking about here.

Serious parts of a wedding lend themselves less handily to non-traditional approaches, but there are still opportunities to innovate in the Welcome, Exchange, Commitment, Standard Vows, Personal Vows, Rings, Personal Choice Ceremony, Pronouncement, and the Kiss. I left out named religious parts because the various sects prescribe them and they’re generally not subject to change. In the Welcome, I like to mention loved ones who cannot be with us today for any reason, so they are remembered and, if living, may read a copy of the ceremony to know they were with the bride and groom in spirit. In The Exchange, where the officiant asks the question Who presents bride to be married to groom and the groom traditionally takes the bride’s father’s place, anyone can do the honors—mother and father, mother alone, grandparent, children, even a best friend. This person presents the bride for marriage; modern brides generally do not care to be given away. You can ask the officiant to skip the question altogether and the bride’s escort just joins the couple’s hands and sits down. Brides also can walk down the aisle alone.

The Commitment is when the officiant asks the bride and groom each the same question, Do you…? and the response is I do. Skip this to avoid redundancy with the vows and go straight to the vows. Add your own personal thoughts in a clever way, as one couple did when he noted your good housekeeping and my good cooking and she noted your good cooking and my good housekeeping. A delightful chuckle rippled through the audience, some knowing the truth of it and others reacting pleasantly to the unique commitment.

Do you wish to skip the standard repeat after me vows? Create your own standard and have your officiant lead you each through them, or simply discard standard vows and go straight to your own personal vows. Nothing dictates what you must say. I advise you, however, to hear the counsel of your officiant as s/he notes that vows are the most serious part of the ceremony, and whatever you vow, it should be serious, permanent and from the depth of your hearts. You may come back many times after your wedding to review the vows you solemnly pledge. Personal Vows, if said after you speak Standard Vows, present an empty canvas upon which you can colorfully express the full range of emotions your love for one another evokes. You have plenty of room to paint your love in rich hues, underline the seriousness with which you hold your marriage, and unveil something you find humorous about your partner, if only the s/he can always make you smile. Personally, I would never fool with the ring ceremony except to note the beauty in meaning and the pleasing aesthetics of the rings, which the officiant should be speaking in the words s/he writes for you.

Less serious aspects of a wedding offer the greatest opportunities to innovate: Personal Choice Ceremony, Pronouncement, and the Kiss. The Personal Choice Ceremony (Unity Candles, Unity Sand, Wishing Stones, Celtic Bell of Truce, readings by family or friends, etc.) can range from freestyle and carefree to elaborate and acted out carefully with friends. A pirate theme may invoke pirate language and customs (Avast, me hearties! I’ll cut the tongue from the lips of any who objects to this here conjugation. Arrrggghhhhh!) Use a cell phone to call a friend and to depict thoughtful hesitation for the bride pressed to answer Do you take this man…? Plant a tree of life instead of pouring sand as the basis of your marriage. Let your imagination run wild, but not amok. And last, the Kiss. You may kiss the bride is so traditional compared to your officiant saying, Please begin your celebration with a memorable kiss. I’ve ended so many weddings with this invitation that it has become a tradition with me. But it is not unchangeable. Use your own best judgment and enlist your officiant’s help. Make it

Your day, your way!