Wedding Traditions and Other Information To Help With Your Wedding Plans

Wedding Formalities

A description of how wedding service formalities are undertaken.


When you become a bride, you don’t automatically know how to organise a wedding, let alone all the rules and details. Liz Re has the low-down on wedding stationery, speeches and the ceremony order of service.

First impressions count and if you want your guests to get excited about your wedding, it all begins with your invitations. These days, there are plenty of options from funky postcards to detailed cards with illustrations and photos.

Red ink-vites owner Natasha Mathers says the bare essentials for wedding invitations are: the couple’s names, wedding date, time and venue, and an RSVP date and method.

Natasha says some couples stick to the traditional format of listing their parents’ names such as: “Joe and Sue Bloggs and Tom and Sally Smith invite you to celebrate the wedding of Tim Bloggs and Jane Smith.” But, many couples use something simpler such as: “Tim and Jane invite you to celebrate their wedding”, or “You are invited to celebrate the wedding of Tim and Jane”.

She says most people include an address and phone number in the RSVP details, and some include an email address. Or, you can use RSVP cards which are sent with the invitations and can be printed with the couple’s name and address, ready to be posted back. Other helpful information such as maps or directions can be printed on the back of the invitations.

Natasha says you should send your invitations four to six weeks before the day, but as early as possible if you are having interstate and overseas guests.

Order of service:

Other stationery to consider includes thank you cards, menus, place settings, and order of service booklets or sheets. While you don’t have to have any of these, if you are having any sort of formal ceremony, it is nice to give guests an idea of when things will occur with an order of service booklet.

If you’re having a fairly traditional ceremony, you should include your bridal party’s names and the words to any hymns or prayers in your ceremony. You might also like to give your guests a bit of entertainment by including the story of how you met and became engaged

I’d like to thank:

Traditionally, the bride’s father opened the speeches at a wedding reception, followed by the groom and the best man, and each had certain people to thank and toasts to make. Today, the format is a lot more free-flowing and open to different speakers and less conventional topics.

If you want to keep tradition in mind, the bride’s father was responsible for welcoming guests, the groom and his family, give words of wisdom and good wishes to the couples and propose a toast to them.

The groom then thanked the bride’s parents for letting him marry her, thanked his parents, the hosts and any other helpers, spoke fondly about his bride and toasted the bridal party.

Finally, the best man traditionally injected humour into the formalities by telling a funny story or two about the groom before wishing the couple well, reading cards from those unable to attend and proposing a final toast to the bride and groom.

Choose what parts of this format you want to keep when organising your speeches and remember not to bore your guests with speaker after speaker, each thanking the same people.

Melbourne woman Allison Harlie planned to thank everyone involved in her wedding, from an aunt who made the cake to a cousin who provided the cars, until three weeks before the day. She went to another wedding and the bride and groom delivered a 20-minute PowerPoint presentation. “They thanked all and sundry for anything and everything,” Allison says. “And it was excruciatingly boring for the audience.”

After that, Allison decided to thank everyone personally as she mingled among guests on the night.

Another important thing to remember is: don’t get too carried away trying to be funny. Be wary of crossing the line between funny and telling embarrassing tales guests probably don’t want to know, and pass this message on to others who will be speaking if you think they need a reminder.

It is common for brides to speak at their receptions these days, or for couples to do a joint speech. This can be a less threatening way to thank your guests and let everyone know how happy you are together.

Order of Service (the traditional way):

  1. Processional: the bride walks down the aisle. Traditionally, the bridesmaids enter the church or ceremony area first, followed by the bride with the person who is giving her away.
  2. Welcome: the priest or celebrant welcomes family and friends.
  3. Giving away: Traditionally, the father gives his daughter away, but another member of the family or a close friend can do this or the couple can give themselves to each other.
  4. Introduction: the priest or celebrant speaks about what marriage means to the couple. This will have been discussed in meetings before the wedding.
  5. Hymns: usually only included in a church service. Alternatively, you might like to include a meaningful or uplifting song.
  6. Reading: from the Bible, a book of verses or a favourite poem. This is a great way to involve a friend or family member who isn’t in the bridal party.
  7. Monitum: the celebrant has to read the words from section 46 of The Marriage Act, to explain the legal nature of marriage. This is a legal requirement.
  8. Prayer: optional; common in traditional church ceremonies.
  9. Declaration of intention to marry: any objections to the marriage are publicly called for.
  10. Exchange of vows: write your own or repeat standard vows.
  11. Exchange of rings: otherwise known as the ring ceremony, where you give the rings to each other. You might choose to give gifts instead of or as well as rings.
  12. Pronouncement: declaration of marriage – the priest or celebrant pronounces you ‘husband and wife’.
  13. Signing of the marriage register: The couple and two witnesses must sign the marriage register, certificate of marriage and marriage certificate.
  14. Congratulations or blessing: to be given by the celebrant or priest.
  15. Recessional: the couple leave the ceremony, followed by the bridal party. This is usually done to music – often a song that is significant to the couple.

By: Liz Re

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