We’ve all seen a wedding ceremony that starts with the traditional line, “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today…” We’ve seen it in movies, TV shows and probably most of the ceremonies we attended growing up.

But is that the only way to start a ceremony? Heck no! “We are gathered here today” is a classic, but it’s not the only opening line in your wedding officiant’s arsenal.

If you’re looking for a modern, unique or non-traditional way to start your wedding ceremony, keep reading for 10 alternatives to “we are gathered here today” – including some favourite openers from our officiant team.

Or, if you like how “we are gathered here today” sounds, go ahead and use it! You can even put a little spin on it with some of our suggestions below.

Let’s plan your wedding ceremony’s opening line! 

The traditional way to start a wedding ceremony: “We are gathered here today…”

The traditional opening line of a wedding ceremony is, “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to join this man and this woman in holy matrimony.” But if you don’t like how that sounds, don’t identify with those gendered words, or don’t like the references to religion, you can absolutely change it!

Your ceremony is meant to be a reflection of you. The words spoken should ring true to you and represent who you are. If your eyes simply glaze over hearing the traditional opening line we’ve all heard dozens of times, you can bet those words will put your guests to sleep too.

Putting a spin on “we are gathered here today”

You can still use “we are gathered here today” to open your wedding ceremony if you want, but with a twist. Change the ending so it’s a little more modern and true to your relationship.

For example:

  • We are gathered here today to witness the union of Name1 and Name 2.
  • We are gathered here today to celebrate the love between these two amazing humans.
  • We are gathered here today to cheer our butts off for these lovebirds!

Or try out a brand new wedding ceremony opening line, such as the 10 we’ve collected blow.

Young Hip & Married wedding officiant Erika Enns officiating a Whistler Elopement with a couple in the Stone Circle
by Clint Bargen Photography

10 other ways to start your wedding ceremony

If “we are gathered here today” isn’t how you want to start your wedding ceremony, check out these 10 other options. These are opening lines that your wedding officiant will say at the beginning of your ceremony, after your processional, when you and your partner are standing hand in hand.

1. Words of welcome

“Welcome friends, family and loved ones…” 

Welcoming your guests is a beautiful way to start your wedding ceremony. It sets the tone that your wedding day is about more than just you two – it’s about the community around you.

2. Thank you

“On behalf of Name1 and Name2, I want to thank you all for being here…”

Starting your wedding ceremony with gratitude is another great way to begin. This immediately acknowledges the importance of all of your loved ones being present on your special day. This is especially powerful if many of your guests had to travel a long way or take off work to join you.

3. Today is…

“Today is a day to celebrate…”

We love this wedding ceremony opening line because it reinforces what your wedding day is all about. Feel free to change out the ending or have your officiant repeat a few “today is” lines such as, “Today is a day to celebrate. Today is a day of joy. Today is a day of promise.”

4. Beautiful day

“On this beautiful day, Name1 and Name2 have brought us all together to celebrate love…”

Want a beautiful opening to your wedding day? Then start it off with the word “beautiful!” Of course, this one works best if it’s not pouring rain or hailing down on your wedding day…

5. Start the ceremony with a joke

“Well, it sure took them long enough, didn’t it?”

If you’re looking to start your ceremony off with a laugh, why not ask your wedding officiant to make a little joke? A professional officiant will know how to insert a bit of humour into your ceremony without going too far.

Young Hip & Married elopement, Officiant Shawn opening the ceremony with the couple, we are gathered here today
above & feature image by Erica Miller Photography

6. Congratulations to the couple

“Congratulations, Name1 and Name2. You’ve made it. After all these years, you two are finally standing here…”

Instead of having your wedding officiant address your guests first, have them address you at the start of your ceremony. After all, you’re the stars of the show! Our officiants love to take a moment to speak directly to the couple, inviting them to centre themselves and really feel the gravity of the moment.

7. Love

“Love has brought Name1 and Name2 together…”

It all comes back to love! That’s why we love the idea of literally starting your wedding day with the most important word out there.

8. Cheering!

“Let’s show Name1 and Name2 how excited we are for their wedding. On the count of three, everyone let out a big cheer…”

Officiant Shawn says this is one of his favourite ways to start a wedding ceremony. Not only is it the perfect way to celebrate, but it immediately lets your guests know that they are in for a good time, not another boring ceremony!

9. Cultural welcome to open your ceremony

If your culture, religion or family has a practice they usually do to open ceremonies or important occasions, it can be really meaningful to incorporate that into your wedding day. It’s a wonderful way to pay respect to your personal beliefs and traditions, and truly put a unique stamp on your day.

If you and your partner come from different backgrounds, talk to your wedding officiant about how to best combine your favourite practices and rituals. Our officiants have lots of experience leading multi-cultural and multi-faith weddings, and would love to help you find the best solution for your day.

10. Song, prayer or reading

Another great option is to open your ceremony with a song, prayer or reading. These elements are often incorporated in the middle or end of ceremonies, but we love the idea of starting your wedding with these important words. It can really set the tone for your day and allow you to give an important role to a guest of honour.

Young Hip & Married wedding at Fraser River Lodge; ceremony with the couple, guests and florals
by Kaitlin Day Photography

Bonus: Wedding announcements at the start of the ceremony

While you may have chosen the opening line of your ceremony, that’s not actually the first thing your guests are going to hear. Before your officiant’s speech officially begins, you’ll likely have some other things happen, such as housekeeping announcements.

This is when your officiant reminds your guests about important things, such as the fact that you’re having an unplugged ceremony or where to meet you for photos afterwards. Once those announcements are made, the music starts and your processional begins.

Another announcement you might hear at the beginning of a ceremony is a land acknowledgment. This can be a very meaningful way to ground your ceremony and pay respect to the people and land you’re getting married on.

We’d love to know: How are you planning to start your ceremony? If you’re looking to create a ceremony that is completely custom to you with words that best represent your love, we think you’d be a great fit for our Custom & Creative Wedding Ceremony. Check out our packages, meet our team of officiants and get in touch to book your ceremony today!