The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your Wedding Ceremony *

The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your Wedding Ceremony *

Image by Raw Shoots Photography. See more of this real wedding here.

Planning your wedding ceremony can be one of the most daunting but also the most rewarding parts of the entire wedding planning process! You get to choose readings, music, florals, seating options, backdrops, and everything in between — all to craft the perfect environment to profess your heart to the love of your life. Is there anything better? If you already feel overwhelmed or just aren’t sure where to start, take a breath and rest assured that you’re in the right place! We’ve rounded up all our best ceremony planning resources, guides, and inspirational posts to walk you through every step.

Image by Rachel Rowland. See more of this real wedding here.

Setting The Foundation

There are few things more special and heartfelt than writing your wedding ceremony with your partner. This is the reason for the entire celebration in the first place, so take extra care in crafting a ceremony that speaks to you as a couple. There are so many different ways of creating the perfect wedding ceremony — and so many different tips and opinions. So, start with these 3 basics to set a good foundation, and let the rest of the pieces fall naturally into place.


Unless you’re having a religious or cultural wedding ceremony for which the order is set, the first step will be to figure out the order of your ceremony. Traditionally, a non-religious wedding ceremony would include these moments:

  • Processional
  • Welcome
  • Introduction and/or remarks on marriage
  • Readings
  • Vow exchange
  • Ring Exchange
  • First kiss
  • Unity ceremony
  • Final remarks + announcement of the newlyweds
  • Recessional

There are some obvious moments you absolutely cannot leave out, such as the vows, ring exchange, and first kiss. But most of the other moments can be changed, moved around, or removed entirely depending on your style and preferences. Think about what’s important to you, about what kind of ceremony will be most impactful to you, and plan the order to fit that vision.


Your wedding ceremony should focus on at least 3 important themes: your past, your present, and your future as a couple. When planning your ceremony with your officiant, be sure to give them insight into each of these areas of your life so they can integrate those into the overall story they will tell with their opening remarks, prayers, and/or advice. Keep your readings focused on those themes to continue that story throughout the entire ceremony. Give thanks to the people who have gotten you where you are, to the blessings you’re enjoying in the present, and be optimistic about what the future holds.


The sweet spot for a non-denominational wedding ceremony length is between 20-25 minutes. If it’s shorter than 20 minutes, you’ll likely feel rushed and your guests might leave feeling confused and disappointed. If it’s longer than 25 minutes, you run the risk of losing everyone’s attention. Try to stay within that sweet spot, and you’ll be golden.

Image by Arielle Teft Photography. See more of this real wedding here.

Personalizing Each Moment

After you’ve set the foundation by figuring out the order, how to integrate your themes, and the timing, it’s time to personalize each moment of the ceremony. This includes the vows, the readings, the unity ceremony, the music, and even the grand exit. Most of these personalizations will be easier to implement in non-denominational weddings, but they can also be added to religious and cultural weddings. We’ve also provided some religion- and culture-specific tips to add some personalization the rules from your church or family are more strict.

Image by May Iosotaluno Photography. See more of this real wedding here.


If you’ve followed us for a long time, you already know that we strongly believe you really should write your own vows. We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it and even put together a how-to guide and a list of unique tips for writing your wedding vows to make it as easy as possible! After all, the true purpose of your wedding day is to promise your lives to each other, and we think the best way to do that is in your own words.

All that being said, some churches do require couples to recite a standard set of vows to make the wedding official. And, while there’s really no way to get around that, we do have a tip for couples who want a religious ceremony but also want to write their own vows: do both! During your wedding ceremony, recite the standard vows that your church requires. During your first look — or even during your post-ceremony portrait session — read the vows you wrote to each other. If there’s anything better than writing your own vows, it’s stepping away from the rush of the wedding day to read those vows privately with the love of your life!

Looking for the perfect book to write those heartfelt words? Here are 41 wedding vow books to fill with your love!

Image by Lorenzo Accardi. See more of this real wedding here.


Aside from writing your own vows, adding readings is one of the best ways to personalize your wedding ceremony. Ask 1 or 2 family members or close friends to read passages that reflect your views on marriage or your hopes for the future. These can be totally unexpected wedding ceremony readings, such as quotes from movies or books, or they can be more traditional and classic, like one of your favorite romantic love poems. The key is to choose readings that fit the vibe of your day and the statement you two want to make about love and marriage.

Image by MemoryBox Photography. See more of this real wedding here.

Unity Ceremony

The unity ceremony serves as a visual representation of the couple joining their separate lives into one, which is why it usually takes place after the couple has exchanged vows. While this is not an official requirement for a wedding ceremony, it is a beautiful, symbolic way to complete your first task together as newlyweds. Many couples opt for the traditional candle lighting (which we always love), but a lot of couples are going the more non-traditional route with unity ceremonies that range from making a PB&J sandwich to taking a shot of whiskey! If you’re looking for unique ideas, check out these 11 sweet and sentimental unity ceremonies from some of our favorite real weddings.

Image by The Ferros. See more of this real wedding here.


The beauty of wedding ceremony music is that it can be as elaborate or as minimal as you want. You can also keep it super traditional or go out on a limb with whimsical, unexpected tunes. This is your opportunity to create a soundtrack for part of your life, so have fun with it! Here are a few key moments that most couples choose to highlight with music:

  • Parents and grandparents’ entrances
  • Groom’s entrance
  • Bridal party entrance
  • Bride’s entrance
  • Unity ceremony
  • Recessional (see our recommended songs here)

If music is a top priority for you and you plan to include as possible, we highly recommend you invest in live musicians. Even if ceremony music isn’t a high priority, we can’t say enough how special it is to have live music on your wedding day! Of course, if your budget doesn’t allow for it or you’re planning to use just a processional and/or recessional song, a recording is a good alternative — just be sure to find someone reliable to press play.

Image by here. See more of this real wedding here.


There’s no better way to mark the end of your ceremony and the beginning of the party than with an unforgettable exit! Flower petals, confetti, sparklers, and bubbles are all great options for your guests to literally shower you with love as you walk (or dance) down the aisle as newlyweds. Just be sure to check with your venue to see if they have any restrictions or clean-up fees!

Image by For Love & Light. See more of this real wedding here.

Religious and Cultural Considerations

If you’re planning a religious or culturally traditional wedding, you might think you have no room to personalize your ceremony. But, we’ve seen time and time again that, with a little creativity, most couples are able to find at least one way to make their ceremony their own. If, for example, you’re having a religious ceremony for which you can’t write your own vows and have to use readings from scripture, choose a totally unique and unexpected unity ceremony. If you’re following cultural traditions for your wedding, choose non-traditional music that is meaningful to your relationship. Just because you’re having a religious or traditional wedding ceremony, doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to personalize it. You might just need to get a little creative!

Image by Alineapict. See more of this real wedding here.

Design & Décor

At long last, you’ve made it to the best part of planning your wedding ceremony: the design and décor! From arches and backdrops to welcome signs to aisle markers, there are so many details that go into transforming your venue into your perfect ceremony space. Yes, there’s a lot to consider, but we’ve got this wedding décor checklist to help you nail every detail! We’ve also broken down the key elements of your ceremony décor below.

Image by Conie Suarez Bravo. See more of this real wedding here.

Arches and Backdrops

Of all the decor you can add to your ceremony, arches and backdrops just might be the most important. Not only are they beautiful stand-alone pieces, but they frame the most important aspect of your entire day: you two! We’ve seen everything from macrame to wood to wreaths to copper pipes and, we must admit, we love them all! We could go on and on about how arches and backdrops make your ceremony look complete and polished, but we’d rather show you instead. Here are round-ups of our favorite ceremony arches and backdrops to help you get inspired:

The 50 Ceremony Arches You’re Going to See at 2018 Weddings

Floral Ceremony Arches for Every Wedding Style

53 Head-Turning Wedding Ceremony Arches and Backdrops

The Best Etsy Macramé Backdrops for Your Wedding

23 Utterly Romantic Ceremony Arches for Your Big Day

See what we mean?! If you just can’t get enough, head over to our ceremony Pinterest board for even more arch and backdrop inspiration!

Image by SASs Photography. See more of this real wedding here.


When choosing seating options for your wedding ceremony, be sure to consider both form and function. If you’re trying to achieve a specific look, get inspired by these unique ceremony chairs that are as beautiful as they are practical. When planning the space, do your guests a favor and don’t try to pack the chairs as closely together as possible. Give everyone a little breathing room between each other and between the altar and the first row. Also, take into account the people sitting on the furthest sides or in the back row — will they be able to see everything? If not, use a semi-circle or full-circle design rather than a straight-row design to ensure everyone has a clear view of the altar.

Once the chairs are set, it’s time to add some pretty dimension to that aisle! We’ve got 45 beautiful wedding aisle markers to fit any style and any budget.

photo by Kayla Fisher Photography


While there is typically much less signage needed for a ceremony than for a reception, there are a few key signs you should try to include in your ceremony décor:

  • Welcome Sign — to greet your guests in style
  • Seating Sign — to let your guests know they don’t need to choose a side
  • Program Sign — if you’re not printing order-of-events programs
  • Unplugged Ceremony Sign — to politely remind your guests to put away their phones

For the full list of wedding signs to include in your big day, save this handy wedding sign checklist.

photo by Nicole Veldman Photography + Video


Wedding ceremony programs are totally optional, but they are a nice way to tell your guests what to expect and a bit about the wedding party. If you decide to print programs, they should include your names, the wedding date and location, names of your wedding party, officiant’s name, and the order of events. If you’re including traditions or readings you’d like to explain, this would be the place to do that, as well. Etsy and Minted have lots of beautiful, customizable templates to choose from, and we’ve linked some of our favorites here:

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photo by T&K Photography


For most couples, their wedding ceremony will be lit by natural sunlight, either outside or through the windows of their venue. That’s why we recommend couples plan their wedding timeline around the sun. When you’re saying your vows, you’ll want to be sure that you’re properly lit, that your photos will turn out beautifully, and that neither you nor your guests aren’t blinded by the harsh sunlight.

If you’re planning an evening ceremony or your venue doesn’t provide sufficient natural light, you’ll need to ensure your venue does have other forms of lighting or you’ll need to add your own. If you’re not sure where to start, that’s okay! We’ve got the ultimate guide to wedding lighting to help you decide what’s right for you.

photo by Eden Strader Photography

Final Thoughts

We know that we a lot of information, but we have just a few final tips to make sure your wedding ceremony goes off without a hitch:

  • Don’t forget the rings
  • Hand-write your vows rather than read from your phone — it will look better in photos and you won’t risk feedback in the sound system
  • Get to know your officiant ahead of time — it will make you and them more comfortable, and they’ll be better prepared to personalize your ceremony
  • Hire someone to run the ceremony — even if you don’t want a wedding planner or coordinator for anything else, trust us, you’ll want someone else keeping track of all the details and the timeline
  • Stay present — at some point during the ceremony, take a minute to breathe and look out at all the people who showed up to love and support you

We’re certain you’re going to have the wedding ceremony that exceeds your wildest dreams! Now it’s time for the ultimate reward: honeymoon planning!

How to Plan Your Dream Honeymoon

The Best 2018 Honeymoon Destinations

Use This Honeymoon Checklist to Help You Pack All the Essentials


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Vintage Boho Backyard Wedding in Tennessee *

Vintage Boho Backyard Wedding in Tennessee *

We’re suckers for DIY backyard weddings, and we’re head over heels in love with Katie and Seth’s vintage boho backyard wedding in Jackson, Tennessee. Although the two had initially planned on a destination wedding, Katie quickly realized that her ultimate goal was to make their special day feel like home. What better way to do that than to host your wedding at your childhood home?

The bold burgundy, blue, and white bouquets created by J Kent Freeman contrasted perfectly with the neutral Show Me Your Mumu bridesmaids dresses. And we can’t get enough of the DIY “love your face” neon sign and the bride’s Mrs. Jones custom denim jacket. All of these personalized touches just go to show that even the smallest details can make a wedding speak to who you are as a couple. So get ready Junebabes, these photos captured by Cody and Allison Photo are totally pinnable!

The Couple:

Katie and Seth

The Wedding:

Hamilton Residence, Jackson, TN

The Calla Blanche Gown

My whole inspiration for the wedding day look was a bohemian/hippie feel and look. Easily my favorite part of my dress was the unique lace, the ruffled lace on my V neckline, and a little bit of bell sleeve. But I also loved the bone-colored lining underneath the dress. I wore my mother’s diamond necklace that my dad gave her and my grandmother’s gold ring. I also loved my earrings and hairpiece that had touches of rose gold and white flowers. The rose gold tied in with my wedding ring and band. It’s hard to choose one favorite.

Why a Boho Backyard Wedding

When it came to picking a venue, we were first looking at a destination wedding but I kept coming back to the idea of home. I had grown up on my parent’s farm and it’s one of my favorite places—my husband loves it too. That’s when I knew that we had to have it at their house and in the fall—my favorite season.

The Bride’s Most Memorable Moment

A very special moment was having my dad walk me down the aisle. The year I was born, he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. One of the questions he asked his doctor then was, “Will I be able to walk my daughter down the aisle?” Thirty years later, there he was, walking me down the aisle in the same place that we played and made memories growing up.

Supporting Local Vendors

We had our local coffee shop come out to host a coffee bar. It was important to me to incorporate as many people and vendors as we could from our town. Our’s is a smaller town with a tight-knit community that means so much to us. Rather than giving out favors, we had customized cups at the coffee bar with our wedding logo for guests to take home.

Wedding DIY Projects

My dad custom made a 14ft table as the food table and made our altar out of cedarwood. I created our “welcome” sign stand from copper PVC pipe. I also created a 5x6ft circle ring out of plastic PVC that I spray painted gold. It was lined with flowers on one side and had a neon sign hanging from it that said, “Love Your Face.” We used it as a photo-op area at the reception. We also refurbished one of my parent’s old dressers to hold our mini pies.

The Wedding Team:

Photography – Cody & Allison Photography
Event Planning – Southern Sparkle Weddings
Floral Design – J Kent Freeman
Mini Pies – Eventful by Tim
Cake – L. Elizabeth Pastries
Coffee Bar – The Coffee Shop
Live Music – Blue Tone Music Group
Videography – Lynn Productions
Invitation Design – KSM Designs
Makeup Artist – Pop of Beauty by Randilee
Hair Styling – South of New York Salon
Wedding Dress – Calla Blanche
Bridal Accessories – Moo Country
Bridesmaids’ Apparel – Show Me Your Mumu
Groom’s Apparel – Street Tuxedo
Rings – Brasfield’s Jewelry
Rentals – Clayton Productions & Rentals, Eric’s Rentals

Congratulations to Katie and Seth on their vintage boho backyard wedding! Thank you to Cody and Allison Photo for sharing the incredible photos with Junebug. If you’re craving more boho backyard inspo, check out Jenna and Jansen’s Stylish DIY Backyard Wedding in Nashville.


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A dress shop worker’s tips, get a better wedding dress deal *

A dress shop worker’s tips, get a better wedding dress deal *

Photo by Megan Finley

Hi, Offbeat Brides. I’m a retail worker in the bridal industry in Australia, and I’m also a bride myself. Everyone wants a better deal on their dress, and for those of you shopping at brick and mortar dress shops, I wanted to offer some tips about how to talk to retail workers if you want to negotiate the price of your wedding dress down… from someone who works in the industry and knows.

Don’t tell my boss, but I want you to get a better deal!

How to get a better deal on your wedding dress

1) Definitely come in with a bright and friendly attitude

Dude, we work in retail, it can kill your spirit. A nice friendly attitude brought in at the door works wonders to endear yourself to your lowly bridal shop assistant.

2) Research is wonderful

Look at the store and their designers. Doing the prep-work on the web before you come in mean a lot less time spent browsing books and me lugging giant dresses off the shelf to show you that you just won’t like at all. (It can take a few dresses to get your groove)

3) Ask my opinions

I work with dresses and brides all day every day. Myself, if you ask me my thoughts on the fit of a dress, I will tell you my honest opinion. Why would I lie to you? The mirror won’t lie to you, so I won’t either.

4) Do the small talk thing

I see so many nipples daily, and small talk with the bride I’m seeing topless makes it easier for both of us to deal with the awkwardness. (I swear, strip club patrons should be jealous of the amount of nipples I see.)

5) I will give as much of wedding dress discount as I can… to people who are respectful and kind

I work with a lot of brides every day. I try give 100% to each of them, but I’m human and we all have off days. Be a happy and friendly customer and I will do my very mostest to get you the bestest deal!

6) and by far the most important: REMEMBER THAT I’M A PERSON!

I’m not scary. I won’t tear off the price tag and upgrade the price. I’m a kind-hearted person saving up for my own wedding. Treating me as an equal will go a long way when you ask if there are any special discounts or coupons available.

Why You Shouldn’t Negotiate with Wedding Vendors *

Why You Shouldn’t Negotiate with Wedding Vendors *

photo by Sergio Alcala Photography

Have you noticed the infinite amount of wedding planning information on the internet? Yeah, us too—it’s kind of our thing. The Junebug team made a commitment to equip our couples with real, honest advice. So, when we read articles about negotiating with wedding vendors—specifically how to “ask for discounts like a boss” and “friendly haggle”—we wanted to set the record straight.

If you don’t read any further—though we hope you do—here’s a simple summary: You really shouldn’t negotiate with wedding vendors.

Stay with us here…You can and should discuss your budget with them. In fact, we highly recommend asking vendors—especially wedding planners—about their best wedding budgeting tips. Some vendors may even be willing to help you brainstorm ways to adjust your budget. However, we never recommend you ask them to devalue the cost of their services.

We Feature Vendors

You should also know Junebug proudly features a carefully selected bunch of the world’s best photographers, planners, florists, DJs, and more. We work with them to curate helpful advice we can provide to our readers (you!) at no cost. Whether you stumbled upon this blog post wondering if it’s ever okay to negotiate with the team responsible for creating your day, or you’re simply interested in our two cents, we hope you’ll find the—seriously—unbiased answers you’re looking for.

A Few Tips to Consider Before Meeting With Vendors:

  • Research the market. There’s a vendor for every budget, style, and experience you’re looking for—it just takes time to find them. Not sure where to start? Visit our vendor directory for a carefully curated list of wedding industry pros.
  • Determine your must-haves. Make a list of your priorities. Vendors will help you know where to allocate the majority of your budget and where you can cut back.
  • Make a budget. When making your budget, keep in mind must-haves and market research. Know what you can afford before making any calls.

Once you’re ready to meet with potential vendors, we recommend reading these tips for making the most out of your meetings—even if they’re virtual.

photo by The Bold Americana

Professional Vendors Will Enhance Your Wedding Experience

We know you care about working with the best-of-the-best wedding vendors. Keep in mind, these vendors are small business owners. Your payment keeps their business running, feeds their family, and allows them to serve you with the professionalism and attentive care that inherently comes from working with a small business.

We understand it can be difficult to think of a vendor—especially a solo person—as a business, so here are a few scenarios to help frame your thinking:

  • It’s the end of the month. Your boss asks if they can keep a portion of your paycheck because they can’t afford to give you the full amount this month. Your boss really loves the work you do for them and hopes you’ll continue to work for their company regardless of how much you’re paid.
  • There’s a local restaurant in town everyone’s been raving about. The chef has even won awards for some of the restaurant’s specialties. Would you call beforehand to ask for a discount because you want to try their food but can’t afford the price?

If you’ve found a wedding vendor whose business would make your dreams come true prepare to pay the price for the expertise, time, and value they bring to your wedding experience.

Vendor-Client Relationships are Important

There are certain vendors who you spend a great deal of time with on the day-of—and before—your wedding. For example, you’ll likely spend more time with your photographer and videographer than anyone else on your wedding day. It’s important to choose vendors you enjoy speaking with and can form a genuine relationship with before your big day.

The fastest way to make sure you’re starting off right is also the most simple. Kick off your client-vendor relationship on the right foot by showing you respect the price of their invaluable services.

Surely you don’t intend to, but when you ask for a discount or try to negotiate with wedding vendors, the message you often inadvertently send is: “the value of your service or the work you will do for me is less than what you think it is.” Ouch.

Being Upfront About Your Budget is Okay

If you love a particular vendor’s work, you can reach out to them and be upfront about your budget. It’s pretty difficult to offend someone by telling them you admire their work! Keep your message short and sweet by letting them know you’d love to work with them and what your budget is. If they aren’t able to meet your budget, they might be able to recommend another vendor with a similar style.

photo by Phylicia Willis Photography

Instead of Negotiating with Wedding Vendors, Balance Your Budget

Remember earlier when you prioritized the services that are most important to you? Let’s revisit that list. We are confident you’ll find wedding professionals who match your dreams, needs, and budget. It might just take a little rearranging in your budget plan.

For example, if lush, enormous floral arrangements overflowing with the world’s most stunning blooms have been something you dreamed of since you were 12—we want you to have those super stunning floral creations. However, the right florist for the job might fall outside of your original budget.

Now is the time to look through the list and see if there’s another area of the wedding that you can cut back. Maybe those top-notch ceremony chairs (a detail you and most guests won’t notice on the big day) are worth sacrificing to make your floral dreams come true. Don’t be afraid to get creative and check out the advice from our real weddings to see what couples remember most about their wedding day.

We hope this advice has been helpful to you. Navigating wedding etiquette is stressful but it doesn’t have to be—that’s why we’re here. Our dream is that you hire a wedding team who will be a perfect fit for you and your budget. Wondering whether or not you should tip the vendors you hire? Work those tips into your budget ahead of time. We cover all of your questions in this post about tipping your wedding vendors here.

photo by Sergio Alcala Photography


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Best Amazon Decorations for Your Backyard Wedding Reception *

Best Amazon Decorations for Your Backyard Wedding Reception *

photo by Jordan Voth

We have a feeling we’re going to be seeing a lot more backyard weddings in the future…and we’re here for it! Hosting all of your closest family and friends for an intimate, outdoor gathering is one of the best ways to “do the thing,” in our opinion. If you’ve found yourself planning your own backyard wedding reception, we’ve rounded up the best Amazon wedding decorations to help you shop socially distanced and have it all arrive right at your doorstep!

In this roundup, you’ll find Amazon decorations for backyard wedding reception, including: 

  • Wooden candle holders;
  • Vintage-inspired string lights;
  • A macrame wall hanging;
  • Natural dried pampas grass;
  • Mexican blankets;
  • A boho area rug;
  • and more!

We can’t wait to see how you decorate your backyard wedding with these amazing finds!

Macramé Wall Hanging

Unfinished Wooden Candle Stick Holders

Glass Beverage Dispenser

Antique Decorative Bottles

Vintage Edison LED String Lights

Gold Rolling Bar Cart

Rattan Hand Fans

Cloth Dinner Napkins

Dinner Plate Gold Chargers

Wood Framed Mini Chalkboard

Natural Dried Pampas Grass

Artificial Fake Hanging Vines

Glass Card Box

Speckled Silver Votive Candle Holders

His and Hers Vow Books


DIY Balloon Arch and Garland

Acrylic Sign Holders

Small Rounded Square Glass Vases

Macramé Table Runner

Boho Medallion Area Rug

Wedding Guest Book

Fujifilm Instax Square SQ20

Galvanized Beverage Tub

Mexican Falsa Blanket

Gold Metal Glass Picture Frame

Porcelain Cake Stand

Mason Jars

Hanging Decorative Lanterns

Curtain Fairy Lights

Gauze Semi-Sheer Table Runner

Wire Storage Baskets

Giant 4 Connect in a Row

Looking for even more backyard wedding reception ideas? We’ve got you covered:

Our Favorite Backyard Wedding Dresses + Jumpsuits

The Best Wedding Lawn Games for an Unforgettable Backyard Wedding

photo by Jordan Voth


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