Updated: Apr 22, 2019
It just takes thought and a sprinkling of creativity to make your wedding meaningful - not extra money. So here's a little anti-consumerist post to inspire you...
1) Think about what marriage means to you
Talk to your partner about your hopes and ddreams for your life together. What brings you together? Where do your dreams overlap? Why are you doing this?
Note down the key themes and ideas that reflect what you want your marriage to mean - this could be abstract concepts like connection, intimacy and partnership or more specific hopes and plans - like building a home together, having children or going on adventures.
Don’t worry too much about how you phrase it or getting the perfect list, but let these notes guide you when you’re planning your ceremony and making decisions about everything from your guest-list to your music choices. If your love of dancing is what brings you together, that's kind of got to be a theme for your wedding day.
Or if you're more private and intimate as a couple, that should guide you in your wedding planning so that you don't get railroaded into planning a huge event you're not comfortable with. Just talking about it and getting your ideas down on paper will give you a head start in making sure your wedding planning aligns with your values as a couple.
2) Take control of your ceremony
The number one way to make sure your ceremony is meaningful is to think about what you want and how to achieve it. When I got married it gave me a lot of pleasure to know we were making the exact same wedding vows that my parents had made forty years earlier - but treading in their parents’ footsteps is the last thing some couples want to do! If you want your ceremony to be personal and truly unique, look for a celebrant. A celebrant will create something totally bespoke and she can tell your love story, involve your guests and bring in unique moments and rituals in any way you want.
A celebrant can also help you to bring some privacy and intimacy to your ceremony, if that's what you want. Some couples don't even speak during the ceremony - they just write each other private love letters to exchange during their ceremony and read later. If you're feeling nervous about the ceremony, it could be that you haven't realised how much choice you've got. You really can take control and make sure it goes just the way you want and don't let anyone tell you not to!
3) Write your own vows
You don’t have to be good with words to write your own vows; you just need to think about what promises you really want to make. Your celebrant can rewrite your ideas to make them sound pretty - if that’s what you want.
I think about my wedding vows all the time. They help me to listen intently when my husband is explaining the problems he’s having with his vintage Saab in great detail and they inspire me to drag myself up off the sofa to do my fair share of housework. (I hope David’s not reading this… Alright to do a little bit of housework…)
The point is words matter; promises matter. We stand up and make public promises as a statement of intent. You're more likely to do something if you've promised you will. The more thought you put into your vows, the more they will mean to you and the more you’ll remember them. When life gets hard - which, at some point, it will - those promises will be your guiding light.
4) Involve the important people
Invite the people you love, the people who are happy for you, the people who will fill your day with positive energy and excitement. And don’t just invite them to watch; make them active participants. I got one of my best friends to sing at my wedding; another did a reading; my mum made our order of service; my brother played the trumpet as I walked down the aisle (he’d been practising for weeks as he hadn’t picked it up for years!); my uncle took all our photographs; one friend decorated the marquee (which my poor dad was roped into lighting and setting up - a major drawback of doing a DIY wedding in your parents’ garden… but that’s another blog); and other friends lent me accessories and even helped out with setting up activities to entertain the kids.
This kind of all-hands-on-deck, somewhat chaotic team effort won’t be right for everyone - and for heaven’s sake don’t give a starring role to someone you know is unlikely to respect your wishes - but so many beautiful memories come from letting people help. Your celebrant can talk this through with you to work out how - and how much - you want to involve your guests. For example ring warming is a lovely ritual (where everyone present warms the rings in their hands before you exchange them) or you can invite guests to each bring a flower or a pebble from their garden to decorate the space where you’ll be exchanging vows.
There are no rules - you know the sorts of ideas that you and your friends would be comfortable with - but, with a bit of thought, you and your celebrant will come up with an idea that connects with your vision. Don’t let your guests feel like they’ve come to watch a show; it’ll mean so much more to them - and to you - if they are part of it.
5) Make memories
Sometimes we get so caught up with recording memories, we don’t devote enough time to making them. One of my wedding day regrets is that I asked my uncle to take too many group photos. Obviously David and I were in every one of them - so instead of talking to our guests we were just standing near them with increasingly forced grins. That was nine years ago - thankfully the fashion now is much more for documentary style wedding photography.
Don’t get me wrong - recording memories is incredibly important and photos, videos, audio recordings and messages from your wedding day will be precious to the two of you for years to come - but don’t let the documenting of memories get in the way of making them.
Stay in the moment. How about, instead of slipping away for half an hour with your photographer for some intimate couple photos, you slip away by yourselves - just the two of you - to connect, to hold hands, to be together away from all the hustle and bustle? You won’t get any photos but maybe you’ll have something better.