The ceremony:
Creating a unique celebration of unity

Story by Mara Severin

In Alaska, a legally binding marriage ceremony can last less than a minute. “The couple has to say, ‘I Do,’ and they must be pronounced man and wife,” explains Rev. Dorothy Torres of Castle Ministries. And that’s pretty much it. A lifetime promise of love, support and fidelity is sealed with just a line or two. For many couples that’s simply not enough. In reality, no two wedding ceremonies need be alike. The ceremony should be as unique as the couple it unites.

The basics: where to go, what to say, who to remember

Choosing a unique location is one of the first things that Rev. Torres suggests. Choose a spot that means something to you, she says. If you’re not being married in a church, then the sky is the limit – literally. “If you want to get married at the very top of Flattop,” she says, “we have a minister that will climb there with you.”

If you’re writing your own vows, don’t feel like it must be a list of promises. “Love means very different things to different people,” says Reverend Torres. Write a poem to your loved one, or simply read a favorite poem if you can’t find your inner Shakespeare. Read a passage from a book, read the lyrics from your favorite song, or even a speech from a movie if it means something to you.

Think of creative ways to include your friends and family. Ask them each to read a stanza from a favorite poem, suggests Rev. Torres. Heather Siegel of Beginning 2 End weddings recalls a bride who found a way to include and honor her deceased father on her wedding day. “The front left chair was draped in fabric and when she came down the aisle holding her bouquet, she stopped and placed a smaller bouquet on the chair,” she says. “She was able to make her father a part of the moment.”

A ceremony within a ceremony

Consider adding a special “ceremony” within the ceremony. A sand ceremony is an easily customized ritual wherein different colored sands representing the couple are added to a container and combined. This can be especially touching when children are a part of the new family and can add their colored sand to the mix. Rev. Torres recalls a couple who combined white sand from the groom’s home state of Florida with black sand from the bride’s home state of Hawaii. Connie Tracy & Andrea Engbretsen of Designing Divas Wedding and Event Planners recall a couple who combined glacier silt from his home of Fairbanks with soil from the farm where she grew up. The sand ceremony has the added charm of creating a lovely and personal keepsake of your day.

A “love letter” ceremony is another ritual gaining in popularity. Before the wedding, the bride and groom write a love letter to each other and seal it. During the ceremony the couple lock the letters into a box – sometimes with a bottle of wine and special goblets. They add additional letters to the box each year and on a pre-determined anniversary they open the box and read the letters together. Some couples might prefer to read the letters each year. Couples might add other things to the box – wine corks, plane tickets, or other souvenirs. “My romantic vision is of the couple reading those letters at their 50th anniversary,” says Rev. Torres. “Love evolves and now you have your own your love story told in 100 letters.” You can buy a kit or you can build your own box or use a cherished family heirloom to store your love story. The possibilities are endless. And endlessly romantic.

‘If music be the food of love, play on’ – Shakespeare

While no ceremony is complete without music, not every bride wants to walk own the aisle to Canon in D, says Rev. Torres. “I always recommend that they find a song that reminds them of their spouse.” Even, she says, if that song is by ZZ Top (as in one wedding she witnessed.)

Heather recalls one ceremony where the bride’s sister wrote and performed a song for the couple. “There wasn’t a dry eye in sight,” she recalls, though she cautions that the person singing has to be “mentally prepared” for the performance, because “it’s very emotional for everyone.”

Or you can hire live musicians to bring a special sound to the occasion. Troubadora is a unique duo featuring Mary LaFever on lute guitar and Linda Marsh-Ives on cello. “We play Irish ballads, traditional Hawaiian songs, music from the 50s, 60s and even the 40s,” says Mary. They once performed a Radiohead song by special request. “We pulled it off,” says Mary. “People were quite impressed.” Transforming a rock or pop song by giving it a classical sound is one way to marry your own personal taste with that of, say, your great grandmother’s. “We keep expanding our repertoire,” says Mary. “So there are thousands of songs to choose from. We can create a variety that will appeal to all tastes.”

Let some sparks fly!

And while marriage is serious, weddings are fun. And there’s no reason that your ceremony can’t include something that makes you and your guests smile or even laugh. Heather has an explosive suggestion: “If you’re having an outdoor ceremony, having fireworks go off for the kiss would be too cool!” she says. “And the guests could hold sparklers!”

Adding some personal touches to your wedding ceremony will make the day so much more special for you – one that truly reflects the two of you, and one you and your guests will remember forever.