You may have never performed a marriage ceremony.  But you’ve attended plenty, I’m sure.

Some were probably good, and fun, and exciting.  Most, though, if your experience has been like mine, have been boring.

image via NotaryPublicParalegal

I remember the first ceremony I performed. To call it a disaster wouldn’t be fair, but whatever word is just short of “disaster” would aptly describe the experience.  Since then, through countless ceremonies I’ve done, I’ve learned a lot.

You’ve got to know one thing about me: I’m not all that traditional.  And my ceremonies reflect that.  If you’re a traditional person, though, I think that you can still incorporate these principles the next time you’re given the opportunity.

10 keys to a successful marriage ceremony

1. Insert some humor.

The bride and the groom are nervous and emotional and ripe with anticipation. Which makes everyone else nervous and emotional, too. A little humor eases a lot of tension. If you can get even a chuckle out of people, you’ll feel the weight lift in the room. Trust me…I can sense it every time.

2. Make it personal.

Every single line doesn’t have to be a personal, inside joke between the three of you. But sharing stories and quotes from the bride and groom helps everyone present feel like they know the soon-to-be-weds. My intro before I seat the parents, and before I get into my mini-sermon, is full of stories from the bride and groom.

3. Share favorite Bible verses/songs/quotes.

I’m not putting these on par as equals. I believe that Scripture is crucial in a marriage ceremony (see below), but in preparation for the ceremony (in meetings with the bride and groom), listen for clues. If they mention a favorite author, song, painting, or Bible verse, jot it down. You can use this to weave the truth about marriage into your ceremony.

4. Reflect on your own marriage.

Personal reflection can lead to beautiful, powerful, rich ceremonies.  Pull truth from your own experience in marriage, but don’t include your own stories. Use these as the background and motivation as you’re preparing, but leave out anthing that starts with, “When my wife and I…” or “On our wedding day…” or “One time, my spouse…” Hogging the spotlight is not cool…leave the spotlight on the bride and groom.

5. Craft your message for the bride and groom.

It’s their ceremony, right? Make sure you spend time speaking to them. There’s a great portion of my message where I’m speaking to the bride and groom by name. In a sense, I’m glad that the congregation is there to witness it, but that portion of the message isn’t for them specifically.

6. Craft your message for the congregation.

Don’t forget that you’ve got husbands, wives, and future husbands and wives in the congregation. As you prepare, think through how your message will land with them, and how you can even challenge them to love their spouse in a bigger, more self-sacrificial way.

7. Challenge the bride and groom.

Push them a little bit. They’re ready to make the biggest commitment of their life on earth…this is a huge deal! Push them to love more deeply, to be willing to weather the storms, to be willing to love through the pain, heartaches, and challenges of life. Challenge them now, and pray they take you up on it!

8. Don’t box yourself in.

Don’t make every ceremony have to look the same. Be willing to be flexible on the details. You don’t have to be flexible on the truth you’ll share…but remember, this isn’t your ceremony. It’s the bride’s and groom’s. If they want to do some non-traditional stuff, make it happen. (I once helped with a Mexican Lazzo ceremony. It was strange for me, but incredibly meaningful for the bride and groom.)

9. Link marriage with the Gospel.

For me, this is a must. It’s the one thing that I tell couples I can’t bend on. I don’t have an altar-call at the end of the ceremony, but I weave the Truth of the Gospel, the roles of the husband and wife in marriage, and the role of Christ and his bride (the Church) throughout the message.

10. Keep things short.

Nobody likes a long ceremony. Nobody likes a long ceremony. Nobody likes a long ceremony.

(experts say you need to hear something 3 times in order to best remember the idea. You’re welcome) If your portion of the ceremony goes over 30 minutes, you’ve probably lost everybody in the room, including the bride and groom. Here’s an important truth to remember: people didn’t come to hear you talk. They came to see the bride and groom get married.

Have you ever experienced a boring marriage ceremony?

What was the longest ceremony you ever attended?