As the first true act of marriage, the ceremony is the soul of your wedding. Whether you prefer a service that is steeped in tradition or completely outside the box, it will have more significance to you and your fiancé (not to mention your guests) if you give it your own personal touch. Even choosing a wedding site will have an immense effect on the ambience and environment of the most beautiful occasion in your life.

You can personalize your wedding - or not - to any degree you’d like. You can choose to use the traditional ceremony, vows and readings, taking deep satisfaction in those traditions, or you can personalize readings, hymns or musical selections. Just make sure you’ve discussed any desired personalization with your officiant well beforehand, so there is no misunderstanding as to what you can or cannot change.

You’ll want to think carefully about the music selections that will play during the ceremony. Do select songs that are meaningful to you and your fiancé, as well as to your families? You might even consider using music that reflects your ethnic heritage, songs that friends have written or those that remind you of significant moments in your courtship. Even a humorous tune, such as Frank Sinatra’s “Love and Marriage,” can be poignant and special.

Choosing the right readings will help the ceremony stand out. Why not use an excerpt from a favorite children’s book or a song lyric that speaks to your heart? Ask friends for their favorite quotes, or consider poetry, movie dialog or quotes from literature. Almost anything can be used if it means something to you.

If it’s not necessary to use a particular officiant, you may wish to ask a friend or family member to preside over the ceremony. A friend or relative who happens to be a clergyperson is ideal, of course, but if you’re not particularly religious, others can fill the role of officiant.

Find unique ways to include special people in your life in your ceremony. This is a wonderful way to incorporate those who aren’t in the wedding party. Friends and family members can present special objects for the ceremony, such as candles, a guest book, toasting glasses, the rings and flowers. They can read a poem or letter, or even sing a song (if they have a good voice!).

There are many other creative ways to personalize the service. Here are a few more:

• Rather than have your backs to the guests, change places with the officiant and face your guests.
• At a small, intimate ceremony, have the guests join you at the altar or have them join hands encircling you.
• Consider including both sets of parents in the processional.
• Have the groom meet you halfway down the aisle.
• Part from your father by kissing him on the cheek when you reach his seat, then walk alone to meet the groom.
• At the ceremony, after the officiant asks, “Who blesses this union?” or “Who blesses this marriage?” have both sets of parents or all the guests join in saying, “We do.”
• Involve children from previous marriages by acknowledging them in the ceremony through special readings, prayers or lighting a candle.
• Have a favorite piece of music played or sung during the ceremony, or as you leave. (Check first with your church or synagogue as to any music restrictions that might be in place.)

However you decide to personalize your ceremony, remember to be yourself and not worry about what other people think — this is your day! As long as what you do is genuine and heartfelt, and falls within the guidelines of your wedding location, that’s all that matters.

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