Whether you’re having a wedding ceremony completely in English, including different languages, special religious rites, or some newly invented rituals, having an awesome wedding program for your guests will help everyone present feel included. Here’s some suggestions to make that memorable program:
Don’t start from scratch.
Most couples who are getting married for the first time have a hard time getting started with this, or really any project surrounding their upcoming wedding for one simple reason: They’ve never gotten married before! So a lot of couples will attempt to reinvent the wheel. There are so many samples of wedding programs out there—from single sheets to entire booklets. You can go to Etsy and look for Wedding Infographics (they’re pretty cute), find pre-written templates to take to your printer, or take to Pinterest to see what others have put together. You’re bound to get some great ideas, but…
Don’t steal copyrighted information.
Words—even the words you’re reading right now—were written by someone that actually owns them! Even though the likelihood that someone will be in attendance at your wedding that knows the author (heck, the author might even be invited!), that doesn’t diminish the fact that someone worked on that program you really like. Remember, you’re looking first for ideas.
As well, many texts you find on the internet will tell you that they’re for sale or that they’re free for use. Sometimes an author will ask you to cite where you found the text. For example, a great resource for Jewish wedding couples is Ritualwell. They have a lot of rites, prayers, poetry, and more that would be great for your wedding. If an author is listed and you can contact them, the right thing to do would be to at the very least reach out to that author and ask permission.
Talk with your wedding officiant—especially for accuracy!
A lot of Do It Yourself couples like to run with creativity and enthusiasm when creating a wedding program. But in doing so, they often look to wikipedia and other online resources to offer explanations about what is happening during the wedding ceremony. Your officiant is really your go-to resource for accuracy of symbolism and explanation. For example, a more traditional take on the breaking of the glass at the end of a Jewish ceremony is about recalling the destruction of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem. That’s probably fine for the more traditional wedding, but a more modern interpretation might be to remind everyone present that a marriage can be fragile if not tended to, just like a glass, and so the couple breaks the glass with the implied blessing that they are committed to making their relationship strong, just as they know this glass is weak.
Figure out what you want to include—and exclude
You’ll definitely want to include your names, the names of your bridesmaids, groomsmen, family members in the wedding procession, the date… but after that, providing a program is also a way to share with your guests a little more about you. Maybe you want to include how you both met (a paragraph at most), where you’re going for your honeymoon, or photos of your pets! Remember: This is your wedding and you only have one to celebrate (anniversaries are another thing!).
You also have an opportunity to help everyone with any jargon or things that might seem foreign if you’re performing rituals that many are unfamiliar with.
For example: don’t assume that everyone has been to a Jewish wedding. In fact, many Jews don’t know all the parts of a Jewish wedding! Here’s something I’ve put together for couples that’s short and sweet. Feel free to use the text, but please, attribute the author! Thank you!
The Jewish Wedding Ceremony (by Cantor Erik Contzius)
- Signing of the Ketubah: The Jewish wedding contract is called the ketubah. In it are the promises the bride and groom make to one another as they become a married couple.
- Procession: When the wedding begins, members of the bridal party and family process to mark the grand entrance of the bride and groom.
- Khuppah: The khuppah is the Jewish wedding canopy representing the home the married couple will be making: A place which shelters them but is open to family and friends.
- Birkat Erusin (Betrothal): The first of two blessings recited over wine, Erusin is a ceremony of formal betrothal or engagement.
- Reading of the Ketubah: At this time the text of the ketubah is read to all who are present.
- Exchanging of the Rings: In the ketubah it is stated that two witnesses must watch the exchange of rings to validate the promises made in the ketubah.
- Birkat Nissuin (Sheva B’rakhot): Nissuin is the formal blessing of marriage. It is through the recitation of seven blessings (in Hebrew, sheva b’rakhot) that the couple formally becomes married.
- Priestly Benediction: A special blessing from Numbers is said over the bride and groom (“May God bless you and keep you.”)
- Smashing of the Glass: The groom smashes the glass as a sign of good luck.
If you’re printing a booklet yourself, know how to make a booklet!
You’d be surprised… Printing a booklet in booklet form is not a simple task. Let’s say you are trying to do a half-page booklet (8.5″ tall x 5.5″ wide finish product). You have to make sure it’s formatted so that the correct page numbers and content are in the right order—which for a booklet is not intuitive. Once you put it together, it makes sense.
If your program is only 4 pages, one side of a regular letter sized piece of paper would have pages 1 and 4, with the interior having pages 2 and three. Here’s an illustration to make it a little less confusing:
If you wanted to print an 8 page program, things get a little more tricky. Look at this:
Any reputable printing service will know what you want, but if you’re aware of the printing pitfalls ahead of time, it will help alleviate any frustration.
Good luck, and happy wedding!