How to Perform a Wedding Ceremony

Ordained minister presides over vow exchange at wedding

As the wedding officiant, you will play an integral role in constructing a couple’s marriage ceremony. But crafting a memorable wedding can be difficult, especially if you don’t have any prior experience. If you’re a first-time minister struggling to decide how to write a wedding speech, don’t panic! That’s precisely why we put together this useful guide. Read on to learn how to go about officiating a ceremony, what to say at a wedding, and how to structure the wedding script.

Guarantee the Ceremony is Legal

First thing’s first: make sure the wedding you’re performing is legal. Each jurisdiction sets its own rules, but most areas will require you to do the following prior to officiating a ceremony:

  • Get ordained as a ULC minister
  • Obtain documentation showing your legal status
  • Show your minister license to marriage officials

Meanwhile, the couple will need to apply for and receive a marriage license. As an officiant, you must take the lead in ensuring this license is correctly filed with the appropriate government agency. Be sure to research the marriage laws specific to your area to ensure all correct processes have been followed.

OK – now that we’ve covered some important legal points, let’s move on to the wedding ceremony.

What Does a Priest Say at a Wedding?

If you’re a newly-ordained minister who’s tackling this whole officiant thing for the first time, you might be asking yourself: “What does a priest say at a wedding?” It’s a complicated question, but this guide should shed some light on the topic.

For the most part, what you saying during the wedding will depend on what type of ceremony the couple wishes to hold. Unlike traditional religious weddings that are quite formal and regimented, wedding ceremonies performed by ULC ministers can be customized to fit the couple’s vision for their big day. Given this flexibility, you should work closely with them to create a personalized script that closely reflects their values and beliefs. If you’re in need of ideas, don’t forget to consult the wedding script generator here on our site.

Below we’ve put together a sample wedding script to give you an idea of what a typical ceremony looks like. Remember: while most of the script can be heavily customized, the legal sections of the ceremony (typically the Declaration of Intent and the Pronouncement) must be included.

Example Wedding Ceremony Script

Opening Remarks

This opening statement will welcome guests to the ceremony and set the tone for the event. Keeping in mind the couple’s faith traditions or beliefs, you might convey the sacredness of the event, remark on how joyous an occasion it is, or take things in another direction entirely.

Welcome, everyone. We are gathered here today to celebrate the bond shared by _______ and _______ and to witness them enter into the sacred bond of matrimony. This extraordinary couple stands before us ready to take this important next step in their relationship. Let us acknowledge the significance of this event as they prepare to form a union and begin a lifelong journey together.

Family Blessing or Affirmation of Support

Traditionally, the officiant asks, “Who gives this man/woman to be wed?” Some couples opt to omit this portion of the ceremony entirely, or simply substitute with a less-archaic alternative such as “Who supports this couple?”

Officiant: “Who supports this couple in marriage?”

Audience: "We All do."

Prayer or Reading

This opening prayer or reading can come from any source you like, or you may pen your own. Typically, the source selected focuses on topics such as love, marriage, or relationships. A poem may also be a good choice for secular or progressive religious ceremonies.

Religious:The Bible notes in Corinthians that "If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing."

Secular: As author Richard Bach once wrote: "A soulmate is someone who has locks that fit our keys, and keys to fit our locks. When we feel safe enough to open the locks, our truest selves step out and we can be completely and honestly who we are; we can be loved for who we are and not for who we're pretending to be.”

Consecration

The officiant explains the meaning of marriage and the importance behind the ritual. The language used in this section should match the rest of the ceremony in terms of style and tone.

Marriage goes far beyond simply exchanging rings and filing a joint tax return; the bond formed today transcends these materialistic elements of life. In its essence, the marital union is a lifelong spiritual commitment, a powerful display of devotion coupled with a passion to share one’s life with another. As we move forward with the exchange of vows, may you never lose sight of the importance these words carry.

Ordained Minister Presides Over Vow Exchange At Wedding

Exchanging of Vows

Some couples choose to write their own vows or borrow from existing writings for this portion of the ceremony. In other cases, the officiant might prompt the couple to recite scripted vows.

Simple Version

I, _______, take you, _______, to be my (wife/husband), in sickness and in health, through the good times and the bad, from this day on, til’ death do us part.

(Repeat)

Longer Version

I, _______, take you, _______, to be my (wife/husband), my guide, my life partner, my best friend. I vow to stay by your side always, through all the successes and the challenges life has to offer. I pledge to give you all the love my heart can hold and all the support I have to offer. As we look forward to a life full of joy and happiness, I promise to never take your presence for granted. I cherish the light you bring to my life daily, and will continue to bring for the rest of my days.

(Repeat)

Declaration of Intent

A necessary legal element of the ceremony, the Declaration of Intent includes an affirmation from both parties that they agree to enter willingly into the union.

Minister: “(Bride/Groom), do you take (Bride/Groom), to be your lawfully wedded (wife/husband)?

Bride/Groom: "I do."

(Repeat)

Ring Exchange

This part is typically pre-scripted and rehearsed. It can be short and sweet, or longer and more in-depth depending on the couple’s wishes.

I, _______, give you, _______, this ring as a sign of my lifelong commitment and everlasting love.

(Repeat)

Pronouncement of Marriage

A central element of the ceremony in which the officiant pronounces the couple wed. This generally includes one of the most well-known wedding priest lines, a statement affirming that the officiant has legal authority from an official body.

“By the power vested in me by the state of ________, I now pronounce you legally wed. Groom/bride, you may now kiss the groom/bride.”

Presentation of the Couple

The ceremony closes with the presentation of the newly married couple to the assembled guests.

Minister: “It is now my honor to present to you, for the first time, Mr./Mrs. ________ and Mr./Mrs. _________!

Filling out the Marriage License

Married Couple Sign Legal Marriage Certificate

There are just a few more tasks you’ll need to complete to finalize the union. Immediately following the ceremony, both you and the couple will need to fill out and sign the marriage license (sometimes witnesses are required to sign as well, so read the fine print carefully). It’s also customary for the officiant to present the newlyweds with a marriage certificate to commemorate the occasion.

Once the marriage license has been completed, give it one final check to ensure no sections were overlooked. With everything filled out correctly, the marriage license must simply be returned to the issuing office to make the marriage official.

Renewal of Marriage Vows

One final note: married couples frequently choose to hold marriage renewal ceremonies to express their devotion for one another and reestablish their vows. This variation on a regular wedding generally follows a similar format but generally employs a slightly different tone and distinctive terminology. Our blog post about how to plan a vow renewal ceremony includes some great insight on the subject.

Just as newlyweds are typically presented with a marriage certificate after saying “I do”, an officiant performing a vow renewal ceremony will often choose to give the couple a marriage renewal certificate to celebrate the special moment.