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How to Make Your Wedding Ceremony Unique (Without Going Broke)

I’ve been to a lot of weddings. And the thing that makes them memorable, that makes us all talk about them years later, are the UNIQUE and PERSONAL details from each one.

And I’m not talking about the trendy stuff, like donut walls or photobooths… Don’t get me wrong — those things ARE FUN. But they don’t make a wedding unique or memorable, in my opinion. Because MANY people do donut walls and photobooths!

What makes a wedding unique is one thing and one thing only (which a surprising number of couples leave out): How much it truly represents the couple getting married.

Many couples get sucked into the Pinterest vortex (this is a link to my own personal Pinterest vortex/board!) while planning their weddings and end up having a wedding that is exactly the same as the 5 other weddings you attended that year which were also planned on Pinterest.

On the other hand, when you’re a guest at someone’s wedding who’s really put their heart and soul into it (notice I didn’t say their WALLET), you can feel it. You know you’re witnessing something special… and you remember it forever.

This is a list of 14 ways to make your wedding as unique as possible. What this list is NOT: a list of expensive, trendy things you “need” at your wedding. Anyone can afford these 14 things, even me with my $5,000 wedding budget (I wrote a breakdown all about it here) 🙂

Good luck and happy unique wedding ceremony planning! By the way, I made a YOUTUBE VIDEO on this topic which I’ll put at the end of this article for my audio-visual peeps out there!

Looking for a unique and affordable wedding dress? I have tried on MANY (all under $300 — my dress budget) which you can read about on my resources page if you’re struggling!

#14: Let Your Readers Choose Their Own Readings

This tip will require a bit of trust in your close friends and family members! But if you do choose to trust them, the element of surprise can be really powerful. Everyone will remember a surprise, unique moment like this MUCH more than a canned, oft-repeated wedding reading.

Instead of choosing a wedding reading for your friends and family members, either (1) give them free range to choose whatever poem, book excerpt, song lyrics, etc. that they want, or (2) give them some guidance by perhaps suggesting a type of wedding reading and let them choose from those lists.

Here are some suggested wedding reading lists I have spent literal weeks compiling:

Or you could do what my partner did at his sister’s wedding: Instead of doing a reading, she asked him to just say something from the heart in Spanish for the Spanish-speaking family members present (especially for their grandmother who doesn’t speak English or French, which the rest of the ceremony was in).

Having a close friend or family member give more of a toast than a traditional ‘reading’ can actually end up being MUCH more meaningful and interesting. Truthfully, wedding readings can be a bit boring, especially if it’s one of the same old readings that everyone has heard a million times before.

#13: Provide a Welcome Cocktail

Just imagine it’s a hot summer day… you’ve just arrived at a wedding as a guest. Maybe you’re feeling a little nervous, not sure what to do or who to sit next to. And as you’re walking into the ceremony area, someone hands you a cold, beautiful cocktail! AHHH. So nice!

Instead of sitting and waiting a little bit bored, since you were a good guest and arrived early to the ceremony, you can chit chat comfortably with a cold alcoholic beverage in hand!

I had never been to a wedding that served drinks BEFORE the ceremony until recently and I LOVED it. Everyone loosened up and were all in a good, celebratory mood for the ceremony. No solemn, quiet, bored waiting around awkwardly looking at the entrance for a glimpse of the wedding party.

This is UNIQUE, memorable, and doesn’t have to be expensive — and it starts everyone off on the right foot for the rest of the event.

#12: Have Someone Who You Know and Love Be Your Officiant

All too often I’ve been to weddings where the officiant seemed to have no idea who the bride and groom even were!

And it’s kind of sad because it’s the most (or one of the most) special moments of their lives! And here’s this guy who barely gets their names right, let alone their stories and preferences. AND THESE THINGS ARE ESSENTIAL TO MAKING YOUR WEDDING UNIQUE! Your ceremony, led by your officiant, is the heart of your event.

It’s really important, in my opinion, to choose your wedding officiant extremely carefully. This person will be the center of your big event (and needs to know how to step aside and let YOU shine!). We’ve asked my brother to officiate our wedding, and my aunt to do a handfasting ceremony (this is a link to my 10-step guide to handfasting ceremonies) for us!

You can choose someone who you don’t know and design your ceremony with them… But I think it’s a thousand times better to ask someone who you know (and love) to officiate your wedding. Besides making it a person who you know and love, a good officiant should be a comfortable public speaker and NOT an attention hog 🙂

There are all kinds of ways for your friend or family member to get certified online. Check out the requirements for where you live. If it’s not possible where you live… Honestly, I would rather have someone I know and love do my ceremony and get it legally worked out later at the justice of the peace than have someone I don’t know perform my ceremony. But maybe that’s just me!

#11: Don’t Have a Religious Ceremony if You’re NOT Religious

OF COURSE if you are religious, have a religious wedding ceremony! Having a unique wedding all comes down to authenticity, so you have to make it reflect how you are in your everyday life and what is most important to you at your core.

I’ve seen some people in my life go through with religious wedding ceremonies just because it’s what their parents or family wanted. And not because they themselves really followed that religious. And so the wedding ceremony felt forced and not genuine.

For your wedding, make the ceremony a reflection of yours and your partner’s TRUE and core beliefs. If you’re not sure what those are… take some time and reflect!

Really dig deep and have the type of ceremony that you really believe in. It will make a huge difference to how you feel on the day and how your guests feel.

#10: Include a Wine Bottle Capsule

Any sort of unity ceremony or special ritual that’s “out of the ordinary” will of course serve to make your ceremony more unique. That’s why a wine bottle capsule ceremony is a great option (if you like wine)!

Before your wedding day, make sure that you and your partner each write a secret love letter to each other. Talk about what you love about each other and your plans for the future. Make promises to each other. Put the letters into separate envelopes and seal them.

During your wedding ceremony, your officiant will explain to everyone that he is taking a bottle of wine along with your two letters and placing them into a box or “time capsule.” It will be tucked away somewhere safe until…

…Until the day comes, IF the day comes that you go through hard times and are on the brink of divorce, you’re to open up the time capsule… drink the bottle together, and read each other’s letters.

OR if you never go through hard times, set a day — in 10 years, 15, 20… to open it up!

#9: Do a Handfasting Ceremony

I mentioned this a little bit earlier because we’re planning to do a handfasting ceremony at our wedding. I actually wrote a whole 10-part guide on how to have one here if you’re interested!

Essentially, this is an old Celtic unity ceremony which you may have seen in the movie Braveheart or more recently in the series Outlander. The couple’s hands are joined with ribbon or cords that can have special meaning depending on their color.

It’s a very romantic and intimate ceremony that, at least in the U.S. and Canada, is still fairly uncommon and unique. A handfasting can be done in conjunction with a ring exchange or in place of one — whatever you want to do!

#8: Don’t Get Stuck in Assigning “HAVE TO” Roles

Don’t feel like you have to stick to common roles in any way at your wedding! Meaning don’t get crushed under the pressure of conforming to gender roles, traditional age roles, etc…

For example, don’t feel like you need to have a gender-divided wedding party with bridesmaids and groomsmen if you have friends of other genders. Don’t feel like you need to have a wedding party at all.

If you don’t want to walk down the aisle, you don’t have to. You can start the wedding without a processional at all in fact! If you’re SUPER confused about how a wedding is “supposed to go”, I wrote an article explaining it step by step with a video to help you out… but in the end, you can do WHATEVER YOU WANT to be authentic to yourself and your partner… and therefore making your ceremony more unique.

#7: Write Your Own Vows

This is the easiest way to make your ceremony unique. No one else is going to say things how you say them. No one in the world knows your partner how you do and will be able to speak to them and about them the way that you do.

Your vows, written by you, WILL BE ONE OF A KIND if you write them yourselves. They don’t have to be outstanding. They just need to be from you. From your heart.

I wrote a whole guide on how to write your own vows with a video here which will help you write your vows quickly and easily. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to make your own voices heard on your wedding day… !!

#6: Involve the Crowd in Your Ceremony – Make Your Guests Participants

DO SOMETHING that gets the audience EXCITED and involved in your celebration of love — not just at the reception — but right from the start, at your ceremony! Involving your guests during your ceremony in a memorable way is actually quite unique. Most wedding ceremonies are more of a spectacle… in your wedding, make your guests participants!

This will draw them in and make them feel even more invested in what they’re witnessing. In fact, they won’t only be witnessing the ceremony but will be PART of it. And you’ll be able to feel the electricity in the air.

You can involve your crowd in many different ways. A subtle way is to ask your officiant to include them in his words as much as possible… to reference them consistently throughout the ceremony.

For example, saying things like “You all came here, traveling from X and X and X to be here today because J.C and M.J. have had a special impact on your lives in some way” and… “How fortunate we all are to be here today under this blue sky and how fortunate J.C. and M.J. are to have such loving family and friends gathered before them.” You get the idea!

Other ways to involve your crowd include:

  • Doing a ring warming ceremony: The rings are passed around from person to person so that each can “bless” the rings — Be careful not to let anyone lose them!
  • The crowd repeats after the officiant: Have the officiant allow the crowd to help “pronounce the couple married” at the end or to ask them to kiss. The crowd repeats a line after the officiant, such as “You may kiss the bride!” Or “Kiss already!”
  • Do a wishing stone ceremony: As each guest enters your ceremony, they are to pick up a stone. During the ceremony, your officiant asks them to “wish” on the stone a good fortune for your future (you can even ask them to write on it with a good or silver Sharpie if you want!). Collect the stones in a pretty jar or ask your guests to ceremoniously toss them in a nearby body of water (if one is close by!).

#5: Have Your Guests Sit in a Circle (Instead of Rows)

The average wedding ceremony crowd is seated in rows, such as church pews. And this is probably what you’ll NEED to do if you have a large guest count. However, if you are at all able to manage it, seat your guests in a CIRCLE instead!

Many ancient cultures know that there’s something extremely powerful about a circle. It changes the energy of any gathering. As a teacher, I’ve tried this in many classrooms and I can feel the dynamic change when me and my students sit in a circle versus the “traditional” classroom setup.

Sitting in a circle at a wedding, we can all look at one another. We can all recognize each other’s presence and share in the experience happening before us TOGETHER 🙂 In rows, we’re more able to all be in our own worlds.

You can do this so that you and your partner (and officiant) are in the center of the circle, in which case you’ll all have to be aware that you need to rotate at various points during the ceremony so you aren’t giving some people your back the entire time… OR you can be part of the circle — or the “head” of the circle with more of a semi circle of guests around you.

There are various setups for a “circle” seating wedding on Pinterest if you need a bit more inspiration.

#4: Have a Beer Blending or Wine Blending Ceremony

This is an alternative take on a unity ceremony (a sand ceremony, unity candle ceremony, etc.). Instead of joining a candle or sand, you have two cups of beers and one unity cup!

So each part of the couple pours their beer into one glass and drinks from it together! This could also be done with wine or really ANY of your favorite drinks.

#3: Do a Tree-Planting Ceremony

If you’re having your wedding on private property (or you manage to get some kind of permit to plant a tree!) consider doing a tree-planting ceremony during your wedding. I’ve never been at a wedding where a couple did this but I love the idea. This is a clear SYMBOL of your new and blossoming love.

You could even “plant” a tree in a big pot and take the pot home with you. Just you know, maybe don’t get a HUGE tree. Or bank on being able to replant it in the earth at a future home.

For the actual ceremony, make sure it’s not going to be too laborious, because you’ll be dressed nicely after all and don’t want to be getting all sweaty and dirty. Do the bulk of the digging beforehand and just make the ceremony throwing and packing some dirt!

This could even be another way to involve your crowd — ask some folks to come help you throw some dirt in!

#2: Bury a Time Capsule

Think about all of the things that are important to you as a couple. What are some objects that might represent your time together? Take some time and brainstorm together!

Maybe you have some souvenirs from your travels together… something you kept from your first date, letters, receipts, anything! And everyone will have photos.

Get or make a pretty box (maybe something “treasure chest” – like) and place the objects in the box. Have your officiant explain a bit of what’s in the box during your wedding ceremony, and when you are to open it up in the future — you can choose date at any time that seems right for you.

And then you can ceremoniously bury it… But more likely lock it up and take it home with you for safe keeping!

#1: Incorporate Your Languages and Cultures into Your Ceremony

Incorporate your culture(s) and language(s) if you speak multiple languages, into your ceremony. If you’re not super familiar with your family’s traditions, ask around. Ask family members and do some research into rituals that you may like to include in your wedding!

If these things are meaningful to you, and you include them, it will definitely serve to make your wedding feel authentic and unique to you!

That’s it, guys! I hope this list helps you out — And it won’t cost you much at all to make your wedding super special and personal. Here’s the video I made on this topic 🙂


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.