With over a decade of experience officiating and having married thousands of couples, we like to think of ourselves as ceremony experts! And with hundreds of blog posts under our belts, we know Young Hip & Married is a ceremony resource for so many couples planning their weddings.

And so, we wanted to put all of our best knowledge in one place by creating the Ultimate Wedding Ceremony Planning Checklist!

If you want to plan a wedding ceremony that is meaningful, unique to you and places the importance of your wedding day where it should be (on your marriage!), then you’re going to want to keep reading.

Start your wedding ceremony planning here

Before you dive into the nitty gritty of ceremony planning, start with the basics.

Take a read through our wedding ceremony FAQs for an introduction. Next, you’ll want to check out this timeline for planning your ceremony so you know when to start what tasks.

Your first task? Choosing your wedding venue and wedding date.

young hip and married wedding ceremony
by Jordyn Keller Photography

Decide what type of wedding ceremony you want to have

Just like how every couple is different, so is every wedding ceremony (or at least, they should be – no more cookie cutter ceremonies!).

When it comes to your wedding you can have a huge ceremony with a custom script and all your friends in attendance or a small elopement with just you two, your witnesses and meaningful vows. Wedding vs elopement: find out which ceremony is right for you!

You can get married at home, in your backyard or at Disneyland. You can stream your wedding to guests virtually or have an unplugged ceremony with no phones or cameras. You can just do a legal signing ceremony or skip the paperwork and have a commitment ceremony.

Still not sure? Check out our wedding ceremony packages to find out which one is best for you!

Planning an elopement? Check out our elopement planning resources

An elopement is a beautiful way to start your marriage with an intimate celebration that’s just about you two. If you’ve decided to elope, get started with our elopement ceremony FAQs.

(Still on the fence? Check out the pros and cons of eloping and our quiz: Should you elope?)

If you’re set on eloping but your family isn’t sure, here’s how to get your big family excited about your small wedding. Just because the guest list is small doesn’t mean you can’t share your elopement with your loved ones.

Wondering where to elope? Check out some of our favourite elopement locations!

Victoria elopement with Young Hip & Married
by Jades Photos

Before the ceremony: Plan your wedding rehearsal

If you’re planning a wedding ceremony, you should also be planning a wedding rehearsal (here’s why a rehearsal is so important). A rehearsal answers any outstanding questions and ensures you, your wedding party and your vendors are prepared for the big day.

Get started with our wedding ceremony rehearsal FAQs, timeline and checklist. And don’t forget about planning an awesome rehearsal dinner too!

Before the ceremony: Get your marriage licence

Another thing you’ll need to do before your wedding ceremony – that is if you want to make it official and legal – is obtain your marriage licence. The rules on marriage licences vary by region, so make sure you’re getting the right information for where your ceremony is taking place.

signing marriage license with Young Hip & Married wedding officiant after ceremony
by Dennis Webber Photography

Start and end your ceremony: Processional & recessional guides

Before we plan the meat of your ceremony sandwich, let’s start with the bread – how you’ll be entering and exiting your ceremony, also known as your processional and recessional.

There are lots of processional orders you can follow, as well as unique processional ideas you can incorporate to make your ceremony your own. Remember, this is your wedding, so you get to decide how you enter your ceremony and whether or not you’re given away. You also get to choose what songs you want to walk down the aisle to.

After the pronouncement, your ceremony will end and you’ll recess back up the aisle while an awesome ceremony exit song plays!

PS: Need more help with your ceremony music? Check out our complete ceremony songs list and top wedding ceremony songs!

Find the best wedding officiant for your ceremony

We may be a little biased, but we truly believe a great wedding ceremony comes down to a great wedding officiant. You want to work with someone who is experienced, professional and able to deliver the type of ceremony you want – whether that’s short and sweet, full of jokes, romantic or traditional.

Start with our wedding officiant FAQs so you get a better understanding of what an officiant does. Learn how to find an officiant, how to make sure they’re licensed, and how to find secular or non-denominational officiants, if that’s important to you.

Once you have a shortlist of officiants, you’ll want to know how to choose the best officiant for your ceremony. Check out our do’s and don’ts, plus important questions to ask your officiant to make sure they’re the right fit.

Of course, you’ll also want to know how much your wedding officiant costs (PS: all of our pricing is available on our packages page) and you may even want to know what they’re going to wear on the big day!

Young Hip & Married elopement ceremony at Green Lake with wedding officiant Lauren
above & feature by Erica Miller Photography

Plan your ceremony script

With your wedding officiant in place, the next part of ceremony planning is creating your script (and yes, you do need a ceremony script!). A wedding ceremony script doesn’t just outline what is going to be said by your officiant, it also covers everything happening at your ceremony, such as the ring exchange, vows and first kiss (more on those below!).

If your officiant tells you that they don’t want you to see your ceremony script before the wedding, RUN! This is a major red flag. You should see your script beforehand and be confident that everything that will be said and done at your ceremony reflects your values.

Start with a wedding ceremony outline and take a look at our sample ceremony for inspiration. Make things your own by adding unique elements, keeping things fun and, of course, ensuring your ceremony is inclusive.

Don’t forget to include any housekeeping or special announcements for the start of your ceremony, such as a land acknowledgement.

Write your wedding vows

As you know, we’re big fans of wedding vows. We love them so much we wrote the course on them! Vows truly are the most important part of any ceremony – they’re the promises you’re making to your partner and the foundation of your marriage.

Start off with our ultimate wedding vow guide, learn about the different ways to write and deliver your vows, and get your questions answered with our vows FAQs.

Don’t worry if you don’t consider yourself a good writer or very romantic. There are all types of vows: funny vows, modern vows, simple vows, repeating vows and traditional vows. Not sure what vows are right for you? Take our quiz!

If you decide to write your own vows (the best option, in our opinion!), we’ve got you covered. Learn how to write your vows, how long they should be, what to include in them (like knowing statements), and get started with our FREE vow writing guide.

Or if you’re planning a vow renewal, you can check out some of our favourite renewal vow examples.

PS: Vows aren’t just for the couple getting married! You can also include your guests with a community vow.

bride and groom exchanging vows during wedding ceremony at Bloedel Ceremony, young hip and married wedding ceremony planning checklist
by Erica Miller Photography

Ceremony element: Make your declaration of intent

What is a declaration of intent? Good question! A declaration of intent is the part of a ceremony when you declare your intent to marry your partner. Think of this as the “I do” portion when you consent and confirm your decision to get married.

While often confused or combined with vows, we believe choosing your declaration of intent is an important part of your ceremony. Tune in as Officiant Shawn Miller explains more!

Ceremony element: Exchange rings and your first kiss

Two important elements of a wedding ceremony (though not mandatory) are exchanging wedding rings and your first kiss as a married couple.

We trust you’ve got your smooching handled. But just in case, check out everything you need to know about kissing at a wedding!

Then check out our guides for choosing your wedding rings, planning your ring exchange and deciding on the words for your ring statement.

ring exchange between couple at Young Hip & Married wedding ceremony
by Erica Miller Photography

Add to your ceremony: Readings, quotes, prayers, poems and more

There are lots of ways you can add more personality and meaning to your wedding ceremony. One of the best ways to do that is by incorporating words through readings, quotes, prayers, poems or even jokes!

Not only does adding these words bring more importance to your ceremony, but it can also be your chance to give a loved one a position of honour when you ask them to be a reader.

Not sure how to choose a reading? Here are some of our favourite wedding ceremony readings:

If you’re planning a religious ceremony, check out some of our posts on prayers and blessings:

Not into readings or prayers? Check out some other words you may want to add to your ceremony:

wedding ceremony toast, champagne wedding toast at wedding ceremony
by Clint Bargen Photography

How to add unity ceremonies to your wedding day

Another option for your ceremony planning is to add a unity tradition or ritual to your wedding. These rituals symbolize the union of the couple coming together with things like sand pouring, candle lighting, tree planting, etc.

One of the most popular unity ceremonies is a handfasting ceremony. Check out what a handfasting ceremony is and how to include one in your wedding day.

Other popular unity ceremonies are the sand ceremony and the unity candle ceremony. Want something more outside of the box? Check out our list of unity ceremony ideas!

Everything you need to know about your wedding party

Your wedding party – if you choose to have one (yes, it’s okay to skip the wedding party) – are the important people you ask to stand next to you on your wedding day. Unfortunately, these roles of honour that are meant to bring friends closer together can result in a lot of drama and stress if you don’t follow our wedding party rules.

Will you be having kids in your wedding party? If so, we’ve got rules for that too. And remember, they don’t just have to be flower girls and ring bearers – feel free to drop those dated and unnecessarily gendered terms!

Don’t want the same boring old wedding party experience? Check out these unique ideas for your wedding party!

wedding party posing with the newlyweds after wedding ceremony
by The MacLeans

Everything you need to know about wedding guests

Yes, your wedding ceremony is about you two. But you shouldn’t forget your guests!

Happy guests make for a happy wedding. Your guests will be on their best behaviour if you give them what they want and include them in your ceremony.

Some of the most important guests at your wedding ceremony may be your family members. Check out how to involve your parents in your ceremony and what to do if you are part of a blended family. Are you inviting kids to your wedding? Here are 12 fun ways to include the kiddos in your life in your wedding day!

PS: In less fun ceremony planning, here’s our guide for cutting your guest list. Brutal, but necessary.

Prioritize your relationship when planning your wedding

One of our values here at Young Hip & Married is that we care more about your marriage than your wedding – and so should you! The best way to do that is to prioritize your relationship during wedding planning.

Don’t just plan a wedding – plan your marriage! Continue to make time for each other, whether that’s extravagant nights out, at home date nights, or even just watching a TV show together. Make sure you’re on the same page when it comes to the big things in life, like your finances and your families (who may be weighing in on your wedding planning).

If you find yourselves disagreeing about your wedding or already having some wedding regrets, take a time out. Destress from wedding planning, think about what comes next and bring it back to what is actually important: your relationship!

For more on great relationships, check out these marriage tips from our officiants and marriage advice from lifelong couples!

bride and groom in front of tree posing after their ceremony
by John Bello Photography

Plan your wedding ceremony decor and creative elements

While this isn’t a mandatory part of ceremony planning, we wanted to include it in this checklist because we know many couples love getting creative and adding a few extras to their ceremony. Just keep in mind that this is all optional, so don’t stress if you don’t have it at your wedding!

Get inspired with these fun ideas for your wedding ceremony plus our list of creative additions for your ceremony. You can really take things to the next level by leaning into a theme for your wedding ceremony such as a winter wedding, Halloween wedding or nerd wedding!

Other extras you may want to add include wedding ceremony signs and wedding programs.

Phew, there you have it! That’s our complete wedding ceremony planning checklist – everything you could ever want to include in your ceremony, plus our best resources to help you create the ceremony of your dreams.

An amazing ceremony starts with an amazing officiant who understands what you want and can be your partner in designing a ceremony that is right for you two. Meet our team of wedding officiants, check out our ceremony packages and get in touch to book your ceremony with us!