These days, your options for the kind of wedding you want to have are endless. If you’re not bound by family or traditional expectations, there really are so many possibilities, including nature-themed weddings, historically-themed weddings, and handfasting ceremonies.
This list includes 13 different kinds of wedding ceremonies for you to choose from, with some vows or readings that you might consider for each one.
Some couples look back on the kind of wedding ceremony they chose and are disappointed that it didn’t really reflect who they are as people and as a couple. To avoid this, make sure you do a bit of soul-searching before making a decision about the type of wedding you want to have.
Be open-minded to all of the many possibilities, and choose the one that best suits your personalities and your budget.
Remember that you don’t have to choose just one type of ceremony, but can combine two or more to make the perfect hybrid that fits you and your partner’s wishes. For example, you could do a traditional Christian ring exchange AND a handfasting to celebrate your Celtic heritage.
As much as possible, I encourage you to try to do what you really want, and not what your friends and family expect you to do. Good luck and happy planning! 🙂
#1 Nature-themed Wedding Ceremony
What is a Nature-Themed Wedding Ceremony?
A nature-themed wedding is also more likely to be an eco-friendly wedding, which is something I like to write about on this site and something my partner and I are trying to do with our own wedding.
A nature-themed wedding might take place outside, either in a family member or friend’s (or your own) backyard, or maybe even in a public park. Some people choose to hold their ceremonies on a beach, in a forest… a national park! the possibilities are endless! And you can have just you and your partner present, or any number of guests.
The point of a nature-themed wedding is to get married in the “cathedral of mother nature” underneath the sky, the stars, and surrounded by fresh air and the great outdoors. It’s not for everybody, but if this is attractive to you in any way, don’t be afraid to pursue it and learn more about nature-themed weddings!
You might even consider bringing into your ceremony some ‘mother-nature’ or alternative, new age, whatever-you-want-to-call-it spiritualism that celebrates the beauty of nature.
Remember to plan for rain if you go the nature, outdoors-route. You have to always plan for rain and hope for sun, so you’re not disappointed. Make sure you rent a tent or have an area like a gazebo on site where all of your guests can fit for the duration of the ceremony and the reception.
Vows for a Nature-themed Wedding Ceremony:
“[NAME], I give myself to you this day our wedding day, to be your wife/husband. With our loved ones and the elements of the Earth as our witnesses, I promise to love you all the days of our lives. I promise to be true to you, with a loyalty and devotion as reliable as the ground beneath us, and as seamless as the sky above.”
“[NAME], as we stand here today in this beautiful setting, I vow to love you and to be true to you as long as we both shall live. And just as the trees surrounding us stand tall, providing safety and shelter against the storm, I promise to provide you with safety and shelter as we face the storms of life that may come, always together.”
Readings for a Nature-themed Wedding Ceremony:
I’ve compiled some great lists of wedding readings, many of which would be perfect for a nature-themed wedding! These lists include well-known, and also some unique, poems and speeches that will have your poor unsuspecting crowd of friends and family in tears:
- Summer Solstice Wedding Readings
- 21 Wedding Readings from Literature
- 10 Simple Wedding Readings for Your Big Day
#2 Celtic Wedding Ceremony
What is a Celtic Wedding Ceremony?
Celtic culture once spread far and wide around Europe, so it’s hard to say exactly what a Celtic wedding ceremony is, as it can potentially incorporate all sorts of elements! Before there were churches and temples, Celts used to worship their gods and goddesses in nature, under the open sky.
So, you’ll find that a lot of Celtic ceremonies are held outside and that before the ceremony, the four elements of earth, water, air, and fire are usually ‘called upon’ or acknowledged.
Celtic wedding ceremonies have been popularized in the U.S. via TV series and movies such as ‘Braveheart’ and ‘Outlander.’
Ireland and Scotland have seen a wave of tourism from couples coming to these shores in search of having a Celtic wedding ceremony. Some couples want to celebrate their own Celtic heritage and others are simply drawn to this sort of ceremony, which celebrates love between the couple and a communion with nature.
There are many elements of a Celtic wedding that can be included in your ceremony, such as a handfasting, an exchange of Claddagh rings, and/or jumping the broom!
Vows for a Celtic Wedding Ceremony:
In ‘Braveheart,’ we see the groom give the priest a piece of material, his family’s tartan plaid, to be wrapped around the bride and groom’s joined hands. They then say these words to each other:
Him: “I will love you my whole life, and no other.”
Her: “And I you, and no other.”
Reading for Celtic Wedding Ceremony:
May the God of peace guard
The door of your house,
The door of your heart.
May the road rise to meet you,
And the sun stand at your shoulder.
May the wind be always at your back,
And the rains fall softly upon your fields.
May life itself befriend you
Each day, each night,
Each step of your journey.
May the peace of the spirit be with you
And with your children,
From the day that we have here today
Until the the day of the end of your lives.
#3 Renaissance Wedding Ceremony
What is a Renaissance Wedding Ceremony?
When you think Renaissance period, you might think of Henry VIII or knights in shining armor… or perhaps those dresses that push your boobs up really high! Renaissance festivals attract thousands of visitors each year and more and more people are deciding to have Renaissance age-themed weddings as well.
You can ask your guests to dress up, include Renaissance-themed invitations, and make certain activities a part of your reception: For example, jousting, mead drinking, and maypole dancing!
Vows for a Renaissance Wedding Ceremony:
Here are some vows you might like to adapt for your own Renaissance-themed ceremony. Please remember that, this being a period script, is quote gender role-ish specific. So feel free to adjust it based on what works best for your and your partner.
Groom: “I taketh thy hand in mine, my lady, my truest love, and looketh upon thy gracious countenance, as I pledge mine oath and troth to thee in vow of matrimony. I forsake mine ancient ways, and all others from mine past, to cleave unto thee, for all eternities to come, as thy devoted husband. Before these goode witnesses, I giveth myself to thee this day, to be thy protectorate and thy sustainer throughout our lives. From this day forth, may we be not two, but one. I loveth thee, my Lady [NAME].”
Bride: “I accept thy pledge, my Lord, my love, and I also pledge mine oath and troth to thee in vow of matrimony. I shall loveth thee and careth for thee all the days of our lives. Before these goode witnesses, I giveth myself to thee this day, to joineth with thee as we be not two, but one, for all eternity. I loveth thee, mine Lord [NAME].”
#4 Handfasting Wedding Ceremony
What is a Handfasting Wedding Ceremony?
A handfasting, mentioned previously as part of the Celtic wedding ceremony tradition, can be added to any other denomination of wedding (or non-denominational wedding).
Handfastings are part of Wiccan or Pagan wedding ceremonies, but have also become more mainstream thanks to their appearance in many series and films.
In a handfasting ceremony, couples place their hands together and a ribbon or rope is tied around them by the officiant, “binding” the couple together as one. This ceremony has deep significance and can add a layer of romance and intensity to your wedding.
Vows for a Handfasting Wedding Ceremony
This is a handfasting wedding script (slightly adapted) that my aunt used when she joined my brother and my sister-in-law together in a really beautiful handfasting, or “celebration of the hands” ceremony:
Celebration of the Hands
Officiant: “(Ask the couple to face one another) Please join your hands and with your hands your hearts.
(Wraps the ribbon around the couple’s hands and speaks these words)…
These are the hands of your best friend, young and strong and full of love for you, that are holding yours on your wedding day, as you promise to love each other today, tomorrow, and forever.
These are the hands that will work alongside yours, as together you build your future. These are the hands that will passionately love you and cherish you through the years, and with the slightest touch, will comfort you like no other.
These are the hands that will hold you when fear or grief fills your mind. These are the hands that will countless times wipe the tears from your eyes; tears of sorrow, and as in today, tears of joy.
These are the hands that will tenderly hold your children, the hands that will help you to hold your family as one. These are the hands that will give you strength when you need it.
And lastly, these are the hands that even when wrinkled and aged, will still be reaching for yours, still giving you the same unspoken tenderness with just a touch.”
#5 Wishing Stone Wedding Ceremony
What is a Wishing Stone Wedding Ceremony?
If you’re looking for ways to involve your audience more in the ceremony, instead of just having them be passive observers, consider incorporating a wishing stone ceremony.
This is where your guests are given a stone and a paper card when they enter your ceremony venue. Pens are provided as well. At some point during the ceremony, the officiant asks the guests to write a short wish for the couple on the piece of paper and to “put” their wish into the stone.
The stones are then placed into a collective jar or some kind of pretty container. In a traditional setting with rows of seats, the stones might be collected exactly in the same way that churches pass around the tray to collect money during a mass.
The little cards can be collected the same way. Or another cute idea is to ask your guests to tie the cards to a ‘wishing tree’ similar to those found at public shrines in Japan.
The couple is left with a jar of stone ‘wishes’ to decorate their home, and a bunch of sweet cards full of tangible wishes that they can read later.
Other objects you could give guests instead of rocks/stones: Wine corks, raw quartz crystals or other rough gemstones, buttons, thimbles, pieces of sanded and shaped wood, mini bottles (to put their messages inside), etc.
Script for Wishing Stone Wedding Ceremony:
Officiant: “The couple has asked for everyone gathered here today to take part in their wedding ceremony by participating in a wishing stone ritual. Please take the stone and card that you were handed upon entering today into your hands.
Let us all take a moment to close our eyes.
Feel the weight of the stone in your hands and imagine a happy or heart-felt memory that you have shared with [NAME] or [NAME]. I ask you to think of a message of well-wishing that you would like to give to this beautiful couple, to put all of your love into this wish, transferring it into the stone in your hands.
Open your eyes. Please take one moment to now put your wish into words on the card in front of you. When you’re finished, please take the stone and the card and place them into the [collection containers] as they come around.
Your wishes will serve to protect and nurture the couple as they enter this union together.”
#6 Victorian Wedding Ceremony
What is a Victorian Wedding Ceremony?
More and more couples are having period-themed weddings, perhaps due to the popularity of period series and movies. One kind of wedding ceremony like this is Victorian-themed wedding ceremonies.
Queen Victoria’s reign from 1837 to 1901 brought many changes to to popular ideas of love, romance, and marriage. When Queen Victoria married Prince Albert, she refused to wear the expected crimson robes she was supposed to wear, and instead wore a white wedding gown – changing the bridal fashion game forever.
This being the time period it was, things were pretty heteronormative, with gender roles and expectations clearly defined. Interestingly, Queen Victoria is said to have kept the traditional vow of ‘to honor and obey’ despite the fact that she outranked her new husband!
For a Victorian wedding ceremony in this day and age, you could ask guests to dress up in period costumes. Remember, though, that some guests won’t be on board with this so you’ll have to go in knowing that.
Vows for a Victorian Wedding Ceremony:
Feel free to change these as you see fit. As mentioned, they are quite “gender-y” and reflect the times. If this isn’t your thing, skip it or modify it!
Groom: “You are my lovely bride and my fair lady. You’re the fairest of all women, and I choose you this day to be my wife. I promise to love you, honor you, and cherish you with joy, as a delicate flower. I will not neglect you, but shall always nourish you with my love, building you up and encouraging you to bloom evermore for the rest of our lives together. I vow to be true to you as long as we both shall live.”
Bride: “My handsome groom, my good and upright man. I choose you this day to be my husband. I promise to be dependable and to love and care for you every day of our lives. I shall be your shade and your sanctuary at the end of each day. I shall always nourish you with my love, building you up and encouraging you. I vow to be true and to cherish you from this day forward, til death do we part.”
Reading for a Victorian Wedding Ceremony:
Sir Philip Sidney, My True Love Hath My Heart
My true love hath my heart and I have his,
By just exchange one for another given;
I hold his dear and mine he cannot miss;
There never was a better bargain driven;
My true love hath my heart and I have his.
My heart in me keeps him and me in one;
My heart in him his thoughts and senses guides;
He loves my heart for once it was his own;
I cherish his because in me it bides:
My true love hath my heart and I have his.
#7 Time Capsule Wedding Ceremony
What is a Time Capsule Wedding Ceremony?
My friends did this at their wedding and I thought it was an awesome idea. Before your ceremony, each partner writes a letter to each other. This is a letter that should be about 1-2 pages and should express why you love each other, the current state of your relationship, why you’re marrying one another… you know, your basic love letter!
But it’s a secret. You don’t show them to each other. The letters go into two envelopes and are given to the officiant, along with a nice bottle of wine.
At the ceremony, your officiant explains that the couple has written love letters to each other. He or she places the letters and the bottle of wine together ceremoniously into a box and closes it.
The officiant explains that if the couple finds themselves in hard times in the future, and are on the brink of divorce at some point in their marriage, they are to sit down together alone, open up the box… enjoy the bottle of wine and read each other’s letters.
If the couple doesn’t need to do this, they are to open the box, enjoy the wine, and read the letters on their tenth wedding anniversary! And then make anther time capsule and start the cycle again…
#8 Catholic Wedding Ceremony
What is a Catholic Wedding Ceremony?
A Catholic wedding ceremony requires both parties to be of the Catholic faith. It takes place in a Catholic church during what is called a Nuptial Mass, and usually takes place in the morning or early afternoon.
In my personal experience attending many Catholic weddings, they are long (about 1 hour or slightly longer), and very structured. They’re often very similar to each other, and you have to sit through the full mass, because it’s a worship ceremony– as much about God joining the couple together as it is about the couple’s story and commitment to one another.
Catholic wedding ceremonies include the following parts:
- A processional and welcome
- Three biblical readings, and perhaps a hymn or solo
- The exchange of vows
- The exchange of rings
- Nuptial blessing
Vows for a Catholic Wedding Ceremony:
“I, [NAME], take you, [NAME], for my lawful wife/husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”
“I, [NAME], take you, [NAME], to be my husband/wife. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.”
Reading for a Catholic Wedding Ceremony:
1 Corinthians 13: 4-8a (New English Bible)
Love is patient and kind, love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
#9 Nondenominational Protestant Wedding Ceremony
What is a Nondenominational Protestant Wedding Ceremony?
There are many Protestant churches that aren’t associated with any particular association of Protestant churches (such as Methodist, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Unitarian, etc.) and that therefore might have many ways of celebrating wedding ceremonies that are all somewhat different.
Many of the wedding ceremonies that we think of these days in the U.S. follow formats and vows from these churches.
Vows for Nondenominational Protestant Wedding Ceremonies:
Some of the vows that are perfectly acceptable to use in these cases include the following.
“Will you have this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife, to live together in holy matrimony? Will you love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, in sickness and in health, in sorrow and in joy, forsaking all others, be faithful to her as long as you both shall live?”
Or also this vow…
“This celebration is the outward token of a sacred and inward union of hearts which the Church does bless and the State makes legal… a union created by loving purpose and kept by abiding will. Is it in this spirit and for this purpose that you have come here to be joined together?”
The couple replies, “Yes, we have.”
The couple joins hands and recites these vows to each other:
“I take you to be my wedded wife/husband,
To have and to hold, from this day forward,
For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer,
In sickness and in health, to love and to cherish,
Till death do us part.
This is my solemn vow
According to God’s holy ordinance;
And thereto I plight you to my troth.”
Reading for a Nondenominational Protestant Wedding Ceremony:
Matthew 19: 1-6 (New International Version)
When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there. Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
#10 Christmas Day Wedding Ceremony
Why a Christmas Day Wedding Ceremony?
Some couples get married on Christmas Day, either for religious reasons, or because it’s the best time when all of their family is together in one place! You can decorate and wear attire that is “Christmas” or “winter” themed, with lots of holly, berries, and mistletoe.
It’s not the most popular time for most people to get married because it’s COLD so you’ll probably also be able to find much better prices on vendors and venues if you get married at this time of year (December ish). Christmas Day itself might be a bit tricky, because it’s a holiday and workers of course want to spend it with their families.
Vows for a Christmas Day Wedding Ceremony:
“Christmas is the birthday of Jesus Christ, God’s sacrificial gift to us, and so we have come to marry on this sacred day and give ourselves to each other in the spirit of Christmas, with a holy, sacrificial love for each other.
On this silent night, I give myself to you, [NAME], as your loving and faithful husband/wife, as I offer my gift of love to you, a gift that shall endure until the end of time. Every year of our lives, as we gather during the Christmas season and give gifts to each other, I promise to give myself anew to you in remembrance and honor of the vows we are taking here today.”
Or perhaps you’ll prefer these Christmas Day vows…
Groom: “[NAME], this is a holy, sacred season that has deep meaning for both of us. It is a season of love and of giving. What better time than this for us to marry? You are the best Christmas present I have ever received, and I take you as my wife this day. I promise to love you and to be faithful to you as long as we both shall live.”
Bride: “[NAME], and you are my precious gift. I take you today as my husband. I promise to love you and honor you as love as we both shall live. When we celebrate our anniversary, each year on this date, it will always have special meaning as we remember this day when we gave ourselves as gifts to each other.”
#11 New Year’s Day Wedding Ceremony
Why a New Year’s Day Wedding Ceremony?
Why not?! It’s the fresh start to a new year, new beginnings… it makes sense to have a wedding on this day! It’s very symbolic. People are also in party mode on New Years, which is great because your guests will already we prepped to have a good time.
It might even be best to hold your wedding on New Years Eve and then party into the morning, counting down together until the clock strikes midnight, and ringing in the new year with all of your guests!
Vows for a New Year Wedding Ceremony:
“As we part the past behind us and embark on a new year, so we put our individual lives behind us as we become one in holy matrimony. And just as a new year is bright and promising, so you are my new day, my hope, my joy, and the sunshine of our future together. Take my hand and walk with me into the new year and into our new life as my husband/wife. I give you my heart and everything that I am as we begin our lives together.”
And this one too! …
“Today is a new beginning, a new year and a new life together as husband and wife. I take you this day as my husband/wife. I promise to love you in good times and bad, in plenty and in want, in sickness and in health, for all the new years to come.”
#12 Destination Wedding Ceremony
What is a Destination Wedding Ceremony?
A destination wedding is a wedding abroad, or so far outside of the town you live in that it takes significant travel to get there. About 25% of weddings are destination weddings these days. If you’re thinking about having a destination wedding, you have so many choices from tropical destinations to the very popular Ireland and Scotland, as mentioned previously!
A ceremony for a destination wedding can incorporate the wedding customs of the culture you’re traveling to. If it’s not part of your own cultural heritage, make sure you ask some people who are from that culture to help you.
You should have the consent and help of people from the home culture to assist you with any rituals that you plan on incorporating, to ensure you’re doing it correctly and respectfully.
As for vows and readings, it will depend on the setting you’re in and how much of your own personalities and home culture you want to infuse into your ceremony.
My suggestion for destination wedding ceremonies is to do plenty of research on the destination you’re heading to beforehand. Don’t show up without any knowledge of the place or of what you can expect!
#13 Elopement Wedding Ceremony
Finally, if you’re not impressed by any of these wedding ceremonies or if it just doesn’t interest you to plan them (or pay for them!), consider just a simple, easy elopement wedding ceremony!
This can be done on a beach, in a courthouse, your own backyard… whatever! Use any of the vows you catch your fancy on this list and recite them to each other. Just you, your partner, an officiant of your choice, and maybe a witness or two (depending where you live and how legal you want this to be!).
That’s all, but not really…
These are just 13 different kinds of wedding ceremonies out there. But there are literally hundreds more for you to choose from. I hope this list inspires you and gives you a place to start from!
Whatever you do, find a wedding ceremony that works for you as a couple, that speaks to you, and try not to let anyone else influence your decision too much!
Source: Some of the vows listed in this article were adapted from Diane Warner’s Complete Book of Wedding Vows, Revised Edition: Hundreds of Ways to Say I Do (Hal Leonard Wedding Essentials)