A marriage needs the support and love of a community, cheering you on when you're doing well, and bolstering you when times are hard. That's part of the reason why we invite wedding guests to attend our wedding ceremony. So why not incorporate your guests as part of the ceremony itself? Here are five traditions that make your guests a meaningful part of the wedding ceremony:
- Making a Vow In the Episcopal church, this is called the Community's Declaration of Consent. But people of many faiths have used this tradition. The minister or officiant asks the assembled guests, "Will all of you witnessing these vows do all in your power to support these two and their marriage?" The congregation, or wedding guests then respond, "We will."
Alternatives: Will the congregation please rise. A marriage needs the support of a community. Will you, Jane and John's friends and family, promise to support them in their marriage, loving them, and encouraging their love for each other? (We promise). Read more about Community Vows of Support
- Blessing the Rings If you have a small wedding, you may ask your wedding guests to bless your wedding bands, or to imbue them with positive energy and love. Hand them to someone in the front row, and ask for them to be passed around until they come back to the front. It's best if this can happen during a musical interlude. Having more than 50 guests? You may just want to just ask a few select people to hold the rings and bless them, as passing them around the room will take too much time, and you'll run the risk of losing them.
- Candle Ceremony A candle ceremony is another nice way of harnessing the love of your family and friends. It's like a unity candle ceremony, but instead of just uniting the two families, it unites the whole room.
Each guest is given an unlit candle as they enter the ceremony. At the designated time, the officiant or the bride and groom light the candle of someone in the front row. They, in turn, pass the flame to the person next to him or her, who in turn passes it to the next person. When everyone's candle has been lit, the last person passes the flame to the bride and groom, who use it to light a central candle.
It's wonderful to do this right before the procession, so that your guests don't have to worry about fire danger and dripping candle wax for too long. As they exit into the night, the sight of all those candles will be breathtaking.
- Standing and Giving a Wish The officiant should inform the crowd that there will be 10 minutes of reflection and relative silence, when anyone who is so moved can get up and give a wish for the couple's marriage, or simply an observation. This custom was originally based on a Quaker wedding ceremony, but has since become something unto itself. You can shorten the amount of time given to this activity, particularly if your guests seem particularly shy. I recommend that you tell guests in advance about this portion of their ceremony; doing so allows them to think about what they want to say, and to work up the courage.
- Exchanging the Peace One of the simplest ways of involving your guests is also one of the nicest. Towards the end of the ceremony, each guest will turn to their neightbors, say hello and shake hands. They might say "Peace be with you," or "Peace and love." Though exchanging the peace is not directly asking for their support, it is helping to form community and human interaction. And ultimately, that community is what will support you, for many years to come.