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How to Have a Unique Wedding Ceremony

Despite all of the trends and hype in wedding planning, what truly makes a wedding unique isn’t at all about having a funky backdrop or a perfect floral centerpiece. We need to dig a bit deeper to truly personalize our weddings.

This is a list of ideas for how to have a unique wedding that won’t cost much (if anything) and that will get at the HEART of your wedding ceremony to truly make it uniquely you.

What follows is not a cookie-cutter list of Pinterest wedding decor to add to your ceremony, but a list of REAL ways to make your wedding unique that can work no matter who you are — because the idea here is to make your ceremony reflective of who YOU are in your everyday life, and to honor emotional connections between you, your partner, and your guests.

Remember before starting to plan your wedding to sit with your partner and really brainstorm all of the things that you care about in your daily lives: What are your values? What really matters to you? What kind of ceremony elements will be reflective of YOU TWO, and what are all the things that you can simply let fall away?

There are many unique “things” you can do to make your wedding ceremony your own, but this is a good place to start and I really do hope it helps you in crafting the perfect ceremony for you and your partner. You may also want to read my article on How to Write the Perfect Wedding Ceremony in 10 Steps.

I also made a video on this topic for my wedding YouTube channel, which you should check out and write me a comment on! I’d love to hear from you! 🙂

Here’s how to have a unique wedding ceremony:

#1: Let Your Readers Choose Their Readings

This was my partner’s idea, and at first I thought it was a little weird. I’ve never been to a wedding where the readings weren’t curated by the couple. Usually, the couple chooses the readings and gives them to their readers to read. No surprises. And sometimes it’s even a bit boring and a low point of the ceremony (not always, but sometimes!).

Instead we could use these opportunities to insert some authenticity and emotion. It requires us to trust our friends/family members who will be reading to pick something good! And it puts more pressure on them (and less on us!) but no matter what they choose, it’s guaranteed to be more meaningful because they chose it for you.

You should have the officiate say that the reader has chosen the reading, and that it is a surprise to the couple. And also, you might want to give the readers some parameters for choosing their readings, such as: Keep it under 3-4 minutes, choose a poem, etc… whatever you want those parameters to be!

If your friends need any help choosing a reading, I’ve compiled a LOT of great collections to choose from that you can share with them:

#2: Have a Welcome Cocktail Before the Ceremony

This is another tip I learned from my partner’s family. I think it may be common in other cultures but in North America, we typically don’t have a drink before the ceremony. However, at my sister-in-law’s outdoor summer ceremony in Quebec in Canada, guests were handed a cold welcome cocktail on arrival.

This was great because everyone inevitably arrives at different times, despite what the invitation says. And instead of some guests sitting bored waiting for the late arrivals, everyone was able to hang out and have a drink and mingle… and loosen up before the ceremony! It was only one drink so people weren’t getting too crazy before the ceremony, but it did put everyone in a really good mood.

You can keep it really simple, maybe even doing champagne flutes (why not celebrate early?!) and then have someone make an announcement when it’s time for everyone to sit down and get the show started!

#3: Have Someone You Know and Love Officiate Your Ceremony

How many times have you been to a wedding in which the officiant didn’t seem to know anything about the couple? It makes the whole thing feel generic and just… not very special. To have a unique wedding ceremony, it’s vital to ask someone to officiate who knows and loves you both. And even better if the person officiating is given some freedom to write part of, or somehow incorporate their own words, into the ceremony.

#4: Don’t Have a Religious Ceremony If You’re Not Religious

This one is a bit touchy, but hear me out. If you’re not religious at all in “real life” but choose to have a religious wedding ceremony to appease family members or cultural expectations, it’s likely your ceremony won’t feel uniquely you or very authentic.

If you are religious, then of course you should have a religious ceremony or incorporate your religious practices into it. In general, the idea is for your wedding ceremony to be reflective of your true selves and of who you are in your everyday lives.

#5: Add a Wine Bottle & Letters Capsule to Your Ceremony

This is an element that you can add to almost any kind of wedding ceremony, and that actually leaves you and your partner with something beautiful long after the wedding day.

It works like this: Sometime before your wedding, both you and your partner should write letters to each other. They can say anything you want, but should be kept secret from one another. You should write a few pages about why you love each other, why you’re excited to get married, etc…

And then put the letters in (two separate) envelopes. At the wedding, your officiant takes a bottle of wine and the two letters and puts them all in a box together, while explaining that if you and your partner ever to come into hard times in the future… and are on the brink of divorce… you should open up this box, drink the bottle of wine together, and read these letters to remember why you made this commitment in the first place.

If you never come into hard times, open up the box on your tenth wedding anniversary!

#6: Have a Handfasting Ceremony

A handfasting ceremony can be incorporated into your wedding in addition to a ring exchange. If you’re a fan of Outlander or have seen Braveheart, you’ll be familiar with this. Essentially, the couple has their hands tied together with a pretty ribbon or cord as the officiant talks about the creation of their union. Then the couple keeps the tied knot in their home — this is actually where the phrase “to tie the knot” comes from!

It can also be a cool way for some couples to connect with their Celtic heritage.

If you’re not sure how to do a handfasting ceremony but are curious about it, read my article A Handfasting Wedding Ceremony: The Complete 10-Step Guide to show you how to do it from A to Z!

#7: Don’t Get Stuck in “Have-To” Roles

To make your ceremony unique, throw out everything you’ve been told about the roles that people “have” to play at weddings. Mix up the genders between the bridesmaids and groomsmen, have both of your parents walk you down the aisle, ask your grandmas to be the flower girls… literally any combination of processional or wedding party that you can imagine, you can do at your wedding.

Do what feels right to you, and don’t try to force your favorite people into roles that don’t suit you or them. Being authentic to yourself and those closest to you will make your wedding ceremony unique.

#8: Write Your Own Vows

Don’t let this one scare you off! Writing your own vows doesn’t have to be as terrifying as it sounds, and it makes a HUGE difference in terms of how personal your wedding feels. There’s probably nothing better you can do to make your wedding feel uniquely you than writing your own vows.

If this is really scary for you, just keep them short and sweet. Even just 30 seconds of hearing your voices, with words from the heart, is enough. You can each agree to say a few sentences about what you love about each other and then promise to love each other for the rest of your lives! Done.

Here’s a simple process to write your own vows:

  1. Decide together with your partner how long they should be (so they aren’t too lopsided)
  2. Sit down together to write them about a month before your wedding (don’t leave them to the last minute)
  3. Write them down on a rough piece of paper if you want, but put the final draft on a nice clean sheet that is VERY legible! And give these to your officiant to take care of.
  4. For the actual vows: Write a few sentences about how you met or another love story of the two of you; write a few sentences about why you love your partner; and write a few sentences of promises/vows.
  5. Practice them! Preferably in front of someone. The more you practice, the less nervous you’ll be. You can do it!

#9: Involve the Crowd in Your Ceremony

Involving your crowd is a way of deepening your connection with your guests, and thus making your wedding ceremony uniquely yours and different from any other wedding experience!

There are many ways to do this. For example, you could include a wishing stone ceremony in which all of your guests are given a stone upon entering your ceremony. They either write a wish (with a metallic Sharpie) on the stones for you, or the officiant asks everyone at some point in the ceremony to hold the stones and “put” their wishes into them. At some point, maybe on the way out, everyone drops their “wishes” into a collective jar, or tosses them into a stream or nearby body of water.

The same thing could be done on pieces of pretty paper that are then tied to a “wishing tree” during the cocktail hour. A “flower ceremony” in which guests are each given a flower to add to a vase or a basket is also a fun idea.

Or you could simply include your crowd by asking them to repeat something after the officiant participating in the act of joining the two of you in marriage!

#10: Seat Your Guests in a Circle

A circle is powerful and if you have a smaller guest count, sitting them in a circle can really personalize the event. There’s something about being able to see everyone across a circle that makes everyone present REALLY feel part of what’s happening. So much more so than sitting in rows! So do this if the logistics allow for it.

There are some examples on my Pinterest boards if you need a little inspiration 🙂 We’re planning to set this up a bit differently than I have seen anywhere, where we’ll actually be part of the circle too. Our guest count is low so we can do this pretty easily.

But you can also stand in the center of the circle if you have a lot of guests, and have sort of… rows in a circle, if you can envision that (check out my Pinterest)! The downside of this option is that your back is to some of your guests during the ceremony. So consider rotating at some points! 🙂

#11: Have a Beer or Wine Blending Ceremony

There are all kinds of popular unity ceremonies that can be added to a wedding to make it more interesting, meaningful, and unique. These include lighting unity candles, combining two different colors of water (such as the photo at the top of this article), a sand ceremony, and more!

But one reeeaally fun unity ceremony is a beer or wine ceremony. This is when there are two glasses of beer (or wine!) and each part of the couple pours the drinks together into one special glass… which is then shared by the couple. YUM.

#12: Do a Tree-Planting

If you’re having your wedding on private property, consider including a tree planting in your wedding ceremony! Plan it well… preferably with a pre-dug hole so that you’re not getting all dirty shoveling dirt at your wedding!

The wonderful part about this is that you’ll be able to watch a tree grow, a literal representation of your love and union that you can see every day in your backyard (or wherever your wedding is held!).

#13: Make a Wedding Time Capsule

This one is fun! In the weeks and months before your wedding, gather up photos and other objects that are special and representative of your relationship in some way. At your wedding, have your officiant explain the contents of the time capsule and do a ceremonial “burying” of it.

Don’t actually bury it if it contains really sentimental objects. Keep it closed up in a closet or attic or something! And then make a pact during your ceremony to open it at some point in the future, such as your tenth or twentieth (or longer!) wedding anniversary!

Some objects you might consider putting into your time capsule:

  • photos, of course
  • love letters
  • favorite books, newspapers, poems, etc.
  • an object from your home where you live together
  • a letter to your future children
  • a copy of your favorite music/lyrics to “your song”
  • an article of clothing that reminds you of each other
  • each of your favorite scent or perfume
  • travel tickets of adventures you took together
  • a newspaper from the day of your wedding
  • letters written by your friends and family

#14: Include Your Languages and Cultures

This may be more important to do than you even realize. Really stop and think about the ways you can incorporate any languages that you speak (or your family and friends speak) into your ceremony. Could you make it a bilingual ceremony by doing the readings or the vows (or the welcome remarks, a prayer, etc.) in different languages?

What customs from your cultures could you add in terms of readings, clothing, rituals, etc? There may be many things that you haven’t even thought of! Talk to your family and get some suggestions 🙂

…And a few more ways to make your wedding unique

All of the suggestions above will work to make your wedding more heartfelt, and to really tap into who YOU are as a couple.

There are of course other things you can do to make your wedding unique that are more superficial, such as making sure the decor is true to who you are. Here are some more superficial suggestions that will affect the aesthetics of your big day:

  • Use sola wood flowers instead of real flowers or fake flowers
  • Use eco-friendly decor that won’t harm the environment
  • Rent an eco-friendly wedding venue instead of a typical wedding hall
  • Get married in a month that works best for you — not just the expected wedding months
  • Cater your own wedding for more unique food options
  • Have a live painting take place during your ceremony by hiring a talented artist
  • Play music during the processional and recessional that is special to you as a couple
  • Instead of throwing rice, use eco-friendly alternatives such as dried leaf cutouts
  • Have a ring warming ceremony in which all of your guests touch and “warm” the rings during the ceremony before you do your vow exchange

That’s it! Have FUN making your wedding super unique!

There are endless ways to make your ceremony and wedding unique. Just make sure and take some time alone with your partner to truly brainstorm all of the possibilities and to reflect on who you are as a couple in your every day lives… and then think about how you can best reflect that in your wedding day.

The only way you can make your wedding cookie-cutter is to follow the rules and do what everyone else is doing. So don’t listen to any wedding “experts” or wedding websites and ultimately, just do YOU 🙂


Brittany is a writer and teacher in Vancouver, Canada. She started the website Wayfaring Weddings as a way to share her research on affordable, eco-friendly, and less stressful approaches to wedding planning.