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Planning Your Wedding Ceremony - Type

First of all, you will have to decide on what type of wedding you want to have. This will depend on the amount of money you want to spend, the number of guests you want to invite, where and when your ceremony and reception will be held, and the degree of formality you want your wedding to express.

A Formal wedding means that you basically want to conform to strict traditional rites both of the church and of secular society. Generally, a formal wedding is larger both in size of wedding party and number of guests invited, and features more elaborate decorations, attire, invitations, and reception arrangements, than a semiformal or informal wedding.

Semiformal weddings basically stay with tradition, but everything is slightly less elaborate and more flexible than a formal wedding. Semiformal weddings may take place in a church, a club, or a hotel.

An Informal wedding can be either a simple ceremony or you can let your imagination go to work. Informal weddings normally have a smaller wedding party and fewer guests than formal or semiformal weddings.

If you plan on a church wedding, you should make an appointment to meet with your clergy-person as soon as possible after you set your wedding date. He/she will be able to advise you on any premarital requirements, such as counseling, that the church may require. He/she can also answer any questions you may have concerning the ceremony itself (see below). He/she can guide you in the selection of music, any church wedding customs, and help you with special vows or other liturgical elements you would like to have in your wedding service. He will also be able to tell you if there are any restrictions concerning church flowers, photography, fire laws, church capacity, availability of kneelers and other equipment, and dressing facilities for attendants.

If you do not belong to a house of worship, give yourself plenty of time to fine the right place and the right officiant. Some congregations won't allow a guest officiant to perform the ceremony or won't marry non members. Be sure you allow yourself enough time to fulfill an premarital requirements, such as premarital counseling or class, etc.

Here are some aspects of a few religious ceremonies:

Catholic

In Catholicism, marriage is one of the seven holy sacraments. Before getting married, the couple must attend marriage counseling, called 'precana programs.' The Catholic ceremony begins with the priest greeting the couple and the guests and saying an opening prayer. The Liturgy of the Word is then read by a person of your choosing, explaining the importance of marriage, followed by a homily about marriage delivered by the priest. There is always at least three readings. The priest then asks the couple to declare their consent to marry. Finally, there is the blessing and exchange of the rings, as well as vows. A Catholic marriage is not valid unless it is performed by a priest in the presence of two witnesses. Some Catholic weddings include Mass and Holy Communion. This is to take place at the bride's parish.

Protestant

"Protestant" suggests a number of denominations, but there are certain aspects of a wedding that you can expect at any Protestant ceremony. This the most typically seen ceremony in America as in the movies, etc.

After the wedding party walks up the aisle, a Prayer of Blessing is said, and passages are read from Scriptures. The parents give their affirmation through the Giving in Marriage. Vows and rings are exchanged. The celebration of the Lord's Supper often takes place, the unity candle is lit, and the Benediction is given. The Recessional then takes place.

Jewish

Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform weddings have their specific rituals, but here are some aspects of the Jewish wedding which remain constant:

The marriage ceremony cannot be held on the Sabbath day or on major holidays. It can take place outside of the synagogue, but it must take place under a Chuppah, an ornamented canopy (optional in a Reform ceremony). This symbolizes a husband bringing his wife into their home. The ketubah, or wedding contract, is presented and signed by the groom and witnesses. The ketubah delineates the groom's responsibilities to his wife. The seven Blessings are recited. The highlight of the ceremony is the exchange of the rings. The bride and groom drink blessed wine; the groom then smashes a glass - wrapped in a napkin - by stomping on it with his foot. The guests celebrate by yelling "Mazel tov!" ("Good luck") to the couple.

Muslim

The ceremony is really just the signing of the wedding contract. It lasts only for about five minutes. The public celebration can last for days afterwards.The celebration begins with a Walima, which is a feast where chicken, fish and rice are served. Toward the end of the festivities, the bride is often lifted like royalty and 'displayed' for the crowd to see. Afterwards, she is given to the groom and the public celebration is considered over.

Buddhist

Ceremonies are usually designed by the couple and are quite simple. An O jujo, a 21-bead strand, is used to offer prayers and incense to Buddha.

Interfaith Wedding

More and more interfaith weddings take place these days. An interfaith marriage can be a beautiful celebration of diversity and unity. Some religions allow officiants from other faiths to perform ceremonies in their houses of worship. Many people have two ceremonies of different faiths back to back. Consult with your house of worship to see what their policies and requirements are. For example, the Catholic Church will marry a Catholic and a non-Catholic. The non-Catholic does not need to convert in order to marry a Catholic. A Catholic and a Protestant can marry in the church with one officiant from each denomination performing the ceremony. Non-Christian clergy are not allowed to perform ceremonies in the Catholic Church, however.

Civil Wedding

If you are not strongly affiliated with a religious, and are planning to have a civil ceremony, you should talk to the justice of the peace, notary public, or judge who will marry you to set a date, time, and place for the ceremony. (You might want to check with your county's marriage-license bureau or municipal clerk's office to find out who can legally marry you in your county). Usually, only the immediate family and a few guests attend.
You may decide to have your wedding ceremony in a hotel or club, with either a civil or religious person officiating. Keep in mind that many of the items you will need may not be supplied, so you will have to rent them. Check with the hotel to see which items are available. The wedding attire is much more simple ' usually a floor length dress rather than a wedding gown. It's up to you of course.

Military Wedding

Military ceremonies can be held only if either the bride or groom is an active or retired member of the military. You can't use the chapel of an army base just because one of your parents is in the service. If the groom is a member of the military, he will wear his military dress. If the bride is in the service, she can opt for a wedding gown or her military dress. Other members of the wedding party who are in the military can also wear their military dress. The groom may or may not wear a sword. If he does, the bride stands to his right; if he does not, she stands to his left.

Seating at a military wedding poses an extra challenge. Any high-ranking officials must be seated in places of honor. The rest of the guests are seated according to rank. The end of a military ceremony offers a special treat; the bride and groom walk through an arch created by soldiers holding their swords high.

Home Wedding

A home wedding can be formal or informal. Keep in mind the number of guests that your home can comfortably accommodate. Don't move all the furniture out just to make more room or you will lose the "homey" atmosphere you wanted in the first place.
If you plan an outdoor ceremony, keep in mind that the weather may not always cooperate and have an alternate location readily available. Try to pick a quiet spot without much traffic, general outdoor noise, etc.

If you plan to have your wedding ceremony take place in a location other than a church, keep in mind the preparations you will have to make. Things to consider are how accessible the site is, what facilities exist for guest parking and seating, and what equipment is available.

Alternatives

Double wedding
If your relative or good friend is planning on marrying around the same time you are, a double ceremony can be fun. It can also be double the headaches. Don't jump into a double wedding lightly. If it seems like too much trouble, it probably is. You may find that your tastes in many things may just be too different for you all to be happy with it.

Candlelight ceremony
The entire site is lit by candles, creating a beautiful atmosphere. Sometimes each guest is given a candle and the couple start the ceremony by walking down the aisle together and stopping at each row to light the candle of the person seated on the aisle, who then lights the next person's candle, and so on, until every guest's candle is lit. This creates a wonderful sense of unity in the hall.

Many couples will write their own vows, thus ensuring that there is a space in the ceremony for their feelings for their partner. You can write your own vows and still retain the traditional readings and rituals of your faith in the ceremony.

People will sometimes have special guests of honor stand at the altar during the ceremony. Another thing you can do is present the two mothers with roses. Some couples arrange the altar so that they will be facing the guests during the ceremony.


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