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One of the biggest components in creating a wedding that guests still talk about years later is making it personal, creating emotional resonance and an environment that makes each and every guest, no matter how close they are to the couple, feel included. If a guest can leave your wedding feeling like they know you both a bit better, that’s a huge win given how HARD it can be to snag even the briefest moment with each guest.


Here are eight ways to create an intimate, personal atmosphere at your wedding, no matter the size:

1. Pick an officiant who knows you well, both as a couple and individually.    

-A ceremony in which it is obvious that the officiant has a deep love for the couple is so
much more moving and special. My grandfather officiated my wedding, and he was able
to add in sweet stories from my childhood, along with some rather embarrassing ones
from my teenage years. He could also speak with confidence about what a good fit my
husband and I are for each other, given that he knows me better than most people.

-Each area in the DMV has different rules, so it is important to know who can/can’t serve
as your officiant. For example, in DC you can self-officiate, most Maryland counties
allow your friends/family to officiate, given that they are ordained, however Virginia is a
bit trickier. As a commonwealth state, the rules are different. You must be a member of
the clergy or an officiant that is legally allowed to marry within that county. If you have
your heart set on having your BFF or uncle being your officiant, you can have a proxy
officiant that just handles your paperwork and a very brief ceremony before you walk
down the aisle. There are a lot of easy resources on this online, but here’s a step-by-step
list from the one and only Martha Stewart on how to get ordained in general:

2. Involve your friends.

-There are literally no rules that have to be followed when it comes to ceremony outline.
If you can think of a unique way to include a few close friends in the events of the
ceremony, go for it.

3. Read passages that are important to you both.

-This is an easy spot to involve friends—pick a few to read a passage for you, and it
doesn’t have to be from a religious text! If you love a certain author, pick a few special
lines that resonate on your wedding day. A movie quote, a paragraph from a book, a few
stanzas of a poem, lines from a song, and yes, the tried-and-true classic of some verses
from a religious text are all ways to show the guests what matters to you as a couple.

4. Turn to face your guests.

-At the start of the ceremony, have your officiant direct you to turn and face your guests.
This allows you a moment to smile at, make eye contact with, or giggle with the people
who traveled and gathered to watch you start this new, beautiful chapter. Take a minute
or so to connect with your most beloved friends and family before you turn to face your
fiancé and focus on them for the rest of the ceremony. I saw this at a friend’s wedding the
year before mine, and immediately made a note to copy this genius idea. As a guest, this
moment of intentional connection made me feel valued, and as the bride, it made me tear
up with the overwhelming love I could feel from my guests.



5. Incorporate special music.

-This probably seems like a no-brainer, but choosing meaningful songs for each moment
can easily show guests something about the couple they wouldn’t have known otherwise.
You can pick a meaningful song for the wedding party’s walk down the aisle
(processional), not just the bride. Pick something specifically with your moms, grandmas,
and the wedding party in mind. A string quartet or other acoustic musicians can easily cut
and weave songs together to make these entrances really memorable. Then be sure to
pick something fun and celebratory for your walk back down the aisle (recessional) as a
newly married couple! It can be really sweet to have an instrumental version of “your
song” or any meaningful song to you both.

6. Don’t worry about things being super formal.

-If you are calm, casual, and happy during your ceremony, that will translate to your
guests and allow for some fun memories to be made. If your old-as-the-hills grandma
yells out funny interjections a couple of times, laugh with her! If earth-shaking thunder
starts during your outdoor ceremony, you can giggle/grimace! Break that forth wall of
performativity and allow your guests to feel like you’re interacting naturally with what’s
happening around you.

7. Pick a fun way to involve your guests in the walk back down the aisle.
-We’ve all seen the popular (for good reason, it’s gorgeous!) sparkler exit from the
reception, but it can be really fun to also give the guests something to wave or throw
during the daytime ceremony exit. Not only does it add a fun pop to the photos, it also
gives them a role to help them feel involved in this special moment. Some fun ideas are
ribbon wands to wave, bubbles to blow, flower petals to throw, or even handheld confetti
canons! Just be sure to check your venue’s policies, as some will have limitations on
what they allow.

8. Have fun and let go of plans (it’s terrifying, I know)

-As Robert Burns famously wrote, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
One of the most important and hardest parts of making sure not only your guests, but also
YOU have the best day possible is to let go of control and keep calm as things inevitably
pan out differently than you planned. Always remember only a handful of people know
what the original plans were. More than that, everyone there is your biggest fan, which
means they are looking for the good in the day, not the bad.

I had a huge tornado touch down a couple of miles away from my venue during our
outdoor tented reception, but apart from making sure everyone was safe, all I could do
was keep dancing and drinking my French 75. The crazy weather is still what people talk
about today; how the rain waited for our ceremony to finish and every single guest get
under the tent, how everyone’s joyful attitudes even in the craziness showed that the
focus of the day was the people and the love, not the perfect decorations or execution of
carefully-made plans.

So, you may ask, what now?

If you liked any (or all!) of these ideas, start thinking about how they fit into your unique
wedding day. Or, better yet, start talking to your wedding planner about ways to implement and
alter these ideas for your needs. A lot of times, the ceremony outline is something you work on later in the planning process, but if there’s anything you need to buy for the recessional, that’s a good place to start.


Happy planning!

Photos by Kinsey Skye. Written by Ashley for Lissa Marie Weddings and Events