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Nondenominational Wedding Ceremony Ideas

Jan 24, 2020
By Wedding Spot

There are plenty of ways to plan a nondenominational wedding ceremony that is both beautiful and heartfelt. Although you won’t be able to lean on the structure provided by religion, you can easily create a ceremony outline, activities list, and vows that you both love. Here’s everything you need to know about nondenominational wedding ceremonies, as well as some concrete suggestions you can totally use!  

What is a nondenominational wedding ceremony?

It basically means any wedding ceremony that doesn’t include religious practices or traditions. If religion isn’t a priority for you and your loved one, your wedding day can still be filled with lovely activities. 

What do you include in a nondenominational wedding ceremony?

At the very least, your nondenominational wedding ceremony should include a formal wedding party entrance, wedding vows, ring exchange, and official first kiss, followed by a formal wedding party exit. 

How long is a nonreligious wedding ceremony?

One of the benefits of a secular wedding ceremony is that it can be anything you want. And if you don’t follow other general wedding traditions, it can be short and sweet or take as much time as you want it to. Generally speaking, most weddings (both religious and secular) tend to clock in around thirty minutes or less, so use that as your ruler when planning your own. 

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How to plan a nondenominational wedding ceremony in 9 simple steps 

First, consider what you and your partner envision for the ceremony. How do you want to express your love for one another in front of your friends and family? What rituals or traditions do you want to include, regardless of their religious connotations? What makes your relationship unique, and how can you incorporate those special things into your ceremony? 

Next, think about your guests — they’ll be the ones watching it all unfold after all. This means that it’s probably best to consider their needs after you have your shared vision in place. Things like bathroom breaks and ceremony activities that they’ll also love should at least be acknowledged. 

Once you have all of those elements laid out, it’s time to put them in the right order. We made a suggested nondenominational wedding ceremony outline based on traditions most couples know and love.

  1. Pre-ceremony. Consider the experience you’d like your guests to have as they greet one another and make their way to their seats. Live or recorded music is always nice to set the tone. 

  2. Wedding party entrances. Traditional wedding processional orders follow this structure

  3. Guest welcome. The officiant addresses the guests, invites them to take a seat, and makes opening statements. 

  4. Officiant readings, song, or speech. Invite the officiant to perform any chosen pieces or, if you have a close personal relationship with them, ask them to give a short speech about you.

  5. Wedding vows. Speak from the heart and keep it around two to four paragraphs each. We have some tips on writing nondenominational wedding ceremony vows below.

  6. Wedding ring exchange. Have the officiant invite you to exchange rings and narrate it for those who can’t see. 

  7. Optional nondenominational wedding ceremony activities. Add one or two symbolic rituals to your wedding ceremony to make it more personalized. 

  8. Ceremony closing. The officiant says their final remarks, officially announces you as a couple and invites you to kiss each other. 

  9. Wedding party exits. You and your partner should lead the ceremony exit and your wedding party can leave after you, in the order they came in. If you’re aiming to keep your ceremony to thirty minutes or less, budget more time for the readings, vows, ring exchange, and activities than you do for the entrances and exits. 

How to write nondenominational wedding vows you’ll love

Nondenominational wedding vows are different from religious wedding vows. Religious ceremonies usually have required or traditional vows to follow, but nondenominational wedding vows can be whatever you want them to be. 

However, with all of that freedom, it can be hard to decide what to focus on. Here are some suggestions to help you get started: 

  • Define what marriage means to you. If it’s not expected or required of you based on your belief system, it may be nice to highlight why formalizing your union is so important. 

  • Make promises to your new spouse. These can range from silly (I promise to always leave my dirty socks directly next to the hamper) to serious (I promise to be there for you on your darkest days, even when it’s hard). Include one to three meaningful commitments you intend to keep during the course of your new relationship. 

  • Incorporate spiritual beliefs, if you have any. Here are five beautiful ideas

  • Sprinkle in some poetry, lyrics, or meaningful quotes. This is especially lovely if either of you are artists, have a shared passion for a certain film or book, or appreciate the same public figures. 

  • Acknowledge the past, present, and future of your relationship. Think back to how your relationship began and compare it to where it is now. Then, flash forward one, five, ten, or more years into your married life and share what you hope it will be. 

15 meaningful nondenominational wedding ceremony activities

We chose activities that are meaningful, easy to replicate, and fun to do. No matter what your reasons are for including them, as long as you and your partner are excited about doing it then that’s all that matters. 

1. Light a candle

If you’re blending families, use a candle with enough wicks so that everyone can individually light one.

2. Remember loved ones

A thoughtful moment of silence, reading of names, or stand in front of a remembrance table when you say your vows. 

3. Bury a time capsule

Include a letter to each other or craft a message from you as a couple to your future selves. 

4. Ask a guest to speak

Ceremony speeches are a good substitute for reception ones. If you plan to have both, keep your ceremony ones short, sweet, and heartfelt, rather than humorous. 

5. Sing 

If you, your partner, or a wedding guest is especially talented in this area, hold some space for them to perform a song you both love. 

6. Drink tea

Here are some helpful tips on how to plan a tea ceremony for your wedding. 

7. Make sand art

Another great option for blending families, sand art is a beautiful and graceful way to symbolize coming together. 

8. Read from your journal

If either of you keep a diary, it could be fun to see what you’ve written about each other over the years (if you feel comfortable sharing). 

9. Have a toast

Having a toast during a wedding ceremony can be tricky. Here’s how to do it well. 

10. Make a gratitude list

Thank your attendees, wedding party, and vendors for participating in your big day. Or simply list all the things you’re most grateful for about your partner. 

11. Meditate

Have your officiant lead a few minutes of calming or heart chakra-focused silence together as a group. 

12. Honor parents

Present them with gifts, include them in the ceremony, or simply thank them for everything they contributed towards the big day. 

13. Dance

It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Sometimes couples will have one spouse circle the other as a symbolic gesture. 

14. Include your pets

Place special wedding collars on them after you exchange your own rings. 

15. Water a tree 

As your love grows over many, many years, so will this tree. You can plant it at your house and enjoy it as part of your view for decades to come. 

UP NEXT: You might also want to acknowledge your multiculturalism during your wedding ceremony. Here are some essential tips to do exactly that. 

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Wedding Spot

The Wedding Spot blog is designed to help couples navigate every step of the wedding planning journey. From before the engagement to after you say “I do,” our goal is to give you the tips, ideas, and inspiration to prepare for your big day — and all that comes with it.