How To Plan a Non-Religious Wedding Ceremony

Outdoor, Destination and Other Wedding Ideas

Newlyweds kissing

Not everyone is interested in having a traditional, religious wedding ceremony. The good news is, you don't have to! There are many different things you can do in a ceremony to become legally married without having a church presence or clergy on hand. Use these unique wedding ideas to discover how to plan a wedding that's not religious. 

  1. Decide what you want. It is imperative that you both agree to have a non-religious ceremony. You also need to decide what type of atmosphere you want to achieve and to make sure your guests are comfortable in the setting.
  2. Outdoor ceremony. This is becoming an increasingly popular option. Many sites have outdoor wedding ceremony sites and reception areas in the same location. It makes it easy for the couple to get married and then immediately step into their reception. You can get married in a mountain setting, on the beach or at a site specified for weddings and receptions.
  3. Destination weddings. Maybe your honey and you want to get away to a luxurious beach resort for your wedding in Hawaii or Mexico. You can go alone and have a private, intimate ceremony or invite a few friends and family members to join you. Then you get a fun vacation with everyone and a honeymoon all in one.
  4. Officiant. The person performing a marriage ceremony does not have to be a clergy person, but does need to be licensed in most cases. Each state has different requirements for who can conduct ceremonies. Check with your state to make sure your marriage is legally valid. Ask the management at your reception location if they have a list of local officiants to interview or you can do an Internet search to find a non-religious officiant. If you opt to have a friend or family member conduct the ceremony, be sure to give him enough advance notice so that he can meet whatever certification requirements will make your ceremony legally valid.
  5. Creative ideas. What do you really love to do as a couple? Use your imagination in this consideration. If you both love to hike, you may want to get married on a mountaintop. Love to white-water raft? Maybe you can get married riverside after a class IV river trip. Don't forget to take your guests into account when considering these options. Grandpa may not be able to make the trip but could be devastated if he weren't involved.
  6. Keep it simple. Not only are alternative ceremonies more fitting for some couples, they are often much cheaper too. Saving money on the church and live music can save a bundle. Remember the wedding elements. These will not be ideal if you are getting married while bungee jumping off a bridge, but if you are having some type of formal ceremony, you can follow these typical wedding tips:
    • Processional. The processional is where the bridesmaids and bride enter the ceremony site.

    • The giving. Traditionally the officiant asks, with differing variations, 'Who gives this bride?' However in more modern times, this question may be skipped altogether or asked differently depending on the circumstances. Many couples pay for their own weddings now and may be older and established or on their second wedding. Therefore the father may not be giving her away.

    • An opening reading. This can be a poem or a saying from a favorite book. A friend or family member are good people to choose for the reading.
    • Words of marriage. Typically the officiant will say a few words on the meaning of marriage and can even discuss what marriage means to the couple.
    • Vows. The officiant can just ask if you take each other in marriage and you can reply with a simple 'I do' or you can expand on this area by saying your own vows you have written ahead of time.
    • Exchange of rings. This is the part of the ceremony where the bride and the groom give each other a ring to signify their unity.
    • Lighting of unity candle. This is an optional piece. You can also substitute lighting a candle with placing two roses in a single vase.
    • Declaration of marriage. The officiant will declare you man and wife.
    • Introduction of newlyweds. This is your first introduction to your guests as a married couple.

No matter how you decide to get married, use these tips when planning a wedding to make sure it is as unique as you are, but also make sure it's in good taste!


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