Planning Your Wedding Ceremony - Make it Personal & Fun!


Tips For Planning Your Wedding Ceremony

Following on from the first post {Wedding Morning Timeline & Tips} in my wedding planning guide, we’re going to take a little walkthrough how the actual wedding ceremony usually goes.

Okay, so lets go back on track with where we are in our timeline. You’ve just finished your morning prep, you’re ready to get hitched & I’m hightailing it to the ceremony location.

If you’re going the traditional route than you’ve probably gotten ready separately & one of you will be arriving early & waiting at the ceremony location {usually the Groom} & the other {usually the Bride} will be arriving later and walking down the aisle.

So, just before the ceremony kicks-off  I’ll hopefully fit in some shots of the church/venue, any details, the guests arriving & some nice portraits of the Groom & Groomsmen looking just a little nervous.

Just to say though that while this is the usual approach there are other options. More & more I’m shooting weddings where the couple get ready together {or are in the same hotel/venue and aren’t overly precious about not seeing each other}, or where they do a first look and then walk down the aisle together. Both options work equally well and it really just depends on your preference. The reveal on the aisle can be really lovely but if you’re a bag of nerves then a first look can be great to take away some of that anxiety. I go into this more in my post on First Looks so give that a read if you’re undecided on what you want to do.


The Red Tin Chapel at Mount Druid

Wedding Ceremony locations at Rock Farm, Lisnavagh House, Kippure Estate & the Law Society

The Maritime Museum in Dun Laoighre

{Venues in images: Mount Druid, Rock Farm, Law Society, Lisnavagh House, Kippure Estate & The Maritime Museum in Dun Laoighre}


So, just to backtrack to before the big day.  Planning wise the most important part is deciding the type of ceremony you’d like and then logistics wise I think the next most important bit is carefully picking your ceremony time so that you can make the most of your day.

I’ve done a little breakdown of these below.

Picking What Kind of Wedding Ceremony You’d Like 


Generally speaking there are two types of ceremony. There are religious ceremonies which are in a church or place of worship & there are non-religious ceremonies which can be held in pretty much any venue/location.

So of course this one is a no brainer if you’re religious, you go with whatever religion you practice. If not though there are lots of other options. There’s Civil weddings {they’re done by the HSE registrar}, Humanist weddings, Spiritualist and also the option to legally married beforehand & to have a friend host your ceremony.

If you’re going the non-religious route you should familiarise yourself with all the options and then take the time to research & pick a celebrant you love. Here’s a list of some really brilliant ones I’ve worked with {Recommended Irish Celebrants}. A great celebrant will listen & really take on board what you want to do & curate it to your taste.

Just to add, one thing that I’ve noticed is that Irish people often feel like they have to have a religious ceremony because their family {maybe even just their parents or grandparents} are religious. However I can’t stress enough that you should pick a ceremony for you & not to please other people.

It’s such a huge & important part of your day {I mean it’s kind of the whole point of the day} so why the hell would you dedicate an hour of it to something you don’t usually practice. I’m in no way bashing religious ceremonies {I love shooting them & churches usually have really cool light} but if generally speaking you run a mile when you’re home for holidays & your parents ask you to join them for Christmas or Easter Mass, then it’s probably a sign it’s not for you.

Finally, I really don’t know the ins & outs or the nitty gritty of ceremony planning so I’ve thrown together a few links that might help. To start here’s a really good general post from One Fab Day – How to get Married in Ireland.  For Catholic Weddings here’s a really informative post from One Fab Day and a link to Accord.  For non-religious here’s some links to the HSE website for planning a Civil Ceremony and also to the Citizens Information website. Finally here are the links to the Humanist Association’s site & the Spiritualist Union of Ireland.


Chalkboard welcome sign for the wedding ceremony


Picking Your Ceremony Start Time 

You really need to choose your ceremony time carefully as this dictates how much time you have after to enjoy your reception & fit in photos. Lots of factors can help you decide this. The season & time of year are a good starting place. For example in winter the sun sets at 4pm, so a late 3pm ceremony means you won’t get any couple or family photos with natural daylight. The time will also change depending on whether you need to factor in much travel time between locations {which is why I LOVE all in one venues}.

A good way to look at it is to find out what time you’d like to be seated for dinner {your venue might push a certain time} & then work backwards. While working backwards just minus off all the things you want/need to include, e.g. 30 minutes travel, 45 minutes greeting line, 20 minutes family photos, 40 minutes couple photos {the best part 😉 } 1 hour speeches at reception etc etc.

Once you get doing the math you realise how scare the time is!

So work out your priorities for the day, liaise with your venue & photographer for realistic timelines and then plan accordingly.


Cute details, flowers & signage at a humanist wedding ceremony


Here’s a few extra tips to kick this stage of the day off on the right foot!

Things to Consider when Planning Your Wedding Ceremony 

  • Factor in extra travel time. If you’re getting married at a different location to your prep make sure to be realistic with your travel times. Even if Google Maps say 40 minutes there can always be extra mean traffic or a pesky tractor that slows you right down. Also getting everyone {you, parents, wedding party} ready, packed up and out of the house on time can be a bit of an ordeal,  so building in spare time is super helpful.
  • A little note on start times. Irish guests are so chill about when they arrive. If you want your wedding ceremony to start on time you can try saying for example  ‘Start Time, 1pm Sharp’ on your wedding invite {not sure if this will actually work on people 😀 but it’s the only polite way of saying ‘don’t be late motherfuckers’}. Another options is to build in the buffer time for the slow-moes – aka say 2.30 on the invite but you have 3pm in your head for when things will kick off.
  • It’s really rare {it’s only happened to me once} but not all priests/churches are happy with photographers & will have some limitations. Just make sure to check there aren’t any issues & let your photographer know in advance if there are.
  • Consider having an ‘Unplugged Ceremony’ . This is where you politely ask people to refrain from taking photos for the duration of the ceremony.  This is a fairly popular request and there’s a couple reasons for it. The first is that you’d like people to be able to relax, enjoy and immerse themselves in the ceremony without any distractions. The second is that you don’t want all the official photos to be of your loved ones & guests with cameras & iPads blocking their faces.  You can ask your celebrant to mention it in their intro or you can make a friendly sign that’s placed at the entrance.
  • Confetti! If you want to do a big confetti exit you need to have lots of confetti & some helpers {groomsmen, ushers etc} to distribute it & also to give your guests clear instructions {so they don’t jump the gun & chuck it at the wrong time & place …. that happens a lot! >.<}  you also need to give your photographer a heads-up so they can be ready for the shot & also to help you plan it.  Firstly though you need to get permission {bummer, I know} as not all venues & churches allow it as it causes a big mess. If that’s the case you can always do it a bit later in the day somewhere you do have permission.
  • This one sounds a bit random but have a think about where you’d like to sit during your ceremony. In churches you usually sit in the centre with your back to your guests but for a non-religious ceremony you can sit whatever way you like. I really like when the couple sits to one side & angles back to face their guests. I think it’s just a bit friendlier & it allows you to see all your lovely family & friends who are there smiling back.


The conservatory at the Cliff at Lyons



Wedding Ceremony Styling 

Another important element to consider is the styling of you’re ceremony {florals, signage etc}. You can be as extra or as minimal as you like.

Bear in mind that lot of time when you see your venue online or in a featured blog post, you’re seeing pictures of it fully jazzed up at some awesome stylish wedding. Make sure you see it empty and find out how much of the decorations, chairs etc you’re in charge of.

Some venues & churches are so rustic & cool that they barely need a thing done to them & they look incredible. On the other hand some venues can look extremely sparse & bare and really need that extra bit of styling & thought put in.

I’ve made up a really cool inspiration board on Pinterest for your to check out {Serious Ceremony Style Inspo} but if going down the DIY & Pinterest route for styling just isn’t your jam then talk to your venue & florist for some help.

If you really want to take it to the next level & add a cohesive style and wow factor to your day then it is well worth considering hiring a stylist.


Style Tips To Consider 

  • If you want to be really EXTRA the sky’s the limit! You can go to town on the decor & have an epic centrepiece like a floral arch or background installation at the top of the aisle. Seriously, check out the Pinterest board I mentioned earlier for some insane inspiration.
  • Make it personal, the styling is really a chance to show off your personality. For example I had couple that had really funky skull candles as their ceremony candles – it suited their rock n’ roll style to a tee. Another groom refurbished an antique oil lamp as their ceremony candle as a dedication to his father & grandfather who worked in Lighthouses. One wedding wanted to include their young son’s style so everything was insane multicolours – from the candles, to the hand fasting ribbon and the neon sand they used in one of their ceremony rituals.  It’s just small touches but it can bring a lot of heart & personality to the day.
  • Consider adding some signage to jazz up your ceremony room, it can serve the dual function of being both helpful & super stylish. The functional ones are usually with regards seating {Choose a Seat not a Side} or like I mentioned above, the ‘Unplugged Ceremony’ ones. I’ve also seen really nice ones with the order of the day explained {so people know the plan & what’s coming up} or just fun ones with quotes or even directions & arrows to the next phase of the celebrations. Check out this other Pinterest board I made up for some more cool ideas ‘Killer Wedding Signage’.


Pink wedding ceremony decor styled by Elk Stylist{Styling by Elk Stylist at Ballymagarvey Village}


The Main Event 

Okay, so these next few tips are for the main event – the bit where you actually get married!

Naturally, religious Church weddings have a more defined structure & there a little less for you to play around with so my advice here is a smidge more geared towards non-religious ceremonies.

So, in case you’re not too familiar with ceremonies there is quite a standard format which I’ll do a quick walkthrough.

There’s the ‘intro’ where one or both of you arrive and come down the aisle. This is the first bit you can personalise as obviously you get to pick the music.

Couples & parents walking down the aisle to their wedding ceremonies

Following that there’s usually an intro from your celebrant where they welcome you, your guests & often explain a little bit about what’s to come in the ceremony.

Even in non-religious ceremonies a lot of couple still include candle lighting to symbolise the joining of their lives/families.  Often a parent from each side will light outer candles at the start of the ceremony & then later the couple will light a central unity candle using the flames of the outer candles.

Throughout the rest of the ceremony there is usually a mix of readings & breaks for music.

I love how creative people get with their readings, I mean you can literally choose any poem or passage you love from a favourite book. Some people even choose lyrics or funny scenes or quote from movies. I’ve been to a few where the readings were a surprise – the couple asked their friends to try pick something fun that summed them up as a couple!

The same goes for music. Remember you can pick whatever the heck you want, so if you’re not in to mushy romantic music don’t be afraid to walk down the aisle to Iron Maiden >.< I’ve shot a wedding where the bride walked in to the Jurassic Park theme song and one where they left dancing to ‘ I Wanna be Like You’ from  the Jungle Book. My favourite of all time was when friends of the couple performed an acoustic version of Remix to Ignition  and also ‘Down to the River to Pray’. All the guests stood up & joined in for the second song, it was amazing!

In Humanist & other non-religious ceremonies the celebrant will include lots of nice stories about the couple. It’s kind of like the equivalent to a priest’s homily in a mass but it’s throughout the whole ceremony.  Sometimes about how you met or they might send you on questions ahead of the day to have some nice quotes about each other.

There are official bits that have to be included – vows, exchanging rings & signing the registry – but on top of this you can add in some pretty fun extra rituals.

There’s ‘hand fasting’ which is an ancient Celtic tradition where your hands are bound together – apparently it’s where the term ‘tying the knot’ comes from. You can do a wine box one {I don’t think that’s the official name} where you seal letters to each other inside a box with some nice booze of your choice – the idea is that you open & read the letters & enjoy a drink on an anniversary {or if you have a fight before then >.<}.  There’s loads more too, so I just thought I’d include this handy link to a list on Confetti {7 of the Most Common Unity Rituals in Humanist Ceremonies}.

Wild Things Wed Planning Your Wedding Ceremony

A Few Extra Tips

  • Take a big deep breath & try to enjoy yourself and take it all in!
  • Take your time when you walk down the aisle, it’s super tough to shoot if you sprint up the aisle. It’s even worse if bridesmaids & groomsmen are too fast and a pile-up happens at the top of the aisle and totally blocks my view 😀
  • On anther important note. There are no rules on who has to walk you dow the aisle, it can be anyone you want or you can walk on your own!
  • Vows – you don’t have to do personalised ones but it can be a really, really nice touch. If you’re good off the cuff great but if not don’t write them the night before or the morning of. It’ll add way to much stress to your day & they may not end up being as thoughtful as they should be.
  • Finally, have a bit of fun with it and don’t be afraid to get involved. If you want to laugh at readings or cry at vows, cheer when you walk down the aisle, belt out the words to the songs or even snog the face off each other for the first kiss then go for it!





Click Below for Part 3 of my Wedding Walkthrough Guide

‘How to Make the Most of Your Drinks Reception ’