How To Personalise Your Wedding Ceremony or Vow Renewal

In this post, I share 10 suggestions on how to personalise your wedding ceremony or vow renewal. I suggest you don’t do them all! Instead, cherry pick your favourites and work with your celebrant to make these suggestions a reality.

Over the years, I’ve worked with a LOT of couples whose objective has been to get their wedding ceremony over with as quickly as possible! I can empathise with people who don’t like being the centre of attention (I’m a kindred spirit). However, I think that when the ceremony is super short (maybe only 10 minutes or less), it doesn’t give the couple time to overcome their nerves and actually absorb the occasion.

For me, the photographer, a short ceremony doesn’t give me much scope for capturing emotions and different angles. Even if you want to keep things simple, I’m sure you don’t want your ceremony to feel underwhelming or forgettable. After this, this is such a big milestone in your life!

So, here are my 10 tips on how to personalise your wedding ceremony or vow renewal…

1. Handfasting

This is a popular ritual (I did it at my wedding!) and it makes for some lovely photographs. Handfasting is an old tradition, originating in Scotland. It involves binding the happy couple’s hands together with ribbons or cords, to represent their commitment to each other. This is where the phrase ‘tying the knot’ comes from! Your celebrant can conduct the handfasting alone. Alternatively, you can involve your loved ones. For instance, your parents could come forward, one at a time, to place a ribbon or cord over your hands. With the help of your celebrant, when you complete the handfasting, you can tie the ribbons or cords into a knot, or even hold them up to create a saltire.

2. Quaich

This is another ancient Scottish tradition. It symbolises love and trust as the wedding couple share the first drink of their marriage together, from a two-handled silver cup called a quaich. Don’t worry if you don’t like whisky! You can use any tipple or soft drink that you both like. Once you’ve exchanged vows and rings, your celebrant or a loved one can fill the quaich with your drink of choice, then you can both take a swig. You might want to involve your closest family and offer them a sip too. I’ve also seen a quaich passed around all the wedding guests, but I can understand that this might be less appealing post-Covid!

3. Sand Ceremony

The unity sand ceremony involves pouring sand from separate vessels into a single, larger one. This is an opportunity to create something really special to display in your home! In the ceremony, you’ll each step forward to pour sand into a glass bottle. You’ll do this a few times, to create layering. You might want to involve other family members, especially if you have kids. Sand mixing works best if the colours of the sand are noticeably different. So, be sure to plan this well in advance of the wedding! Perhaps visit your favourite beaches and make sure the sands look distinctive. Once the sand mixing is complete, you’ll need to place a stopper in the bottle. Then, make sure someone responsible takes charge of the bottle and puts it in a safe place!

4. Ring Bearer: Include The Kids Or Fur Baby!

Involving a ring bearer in your ceremony is a great way to involve the kids, or even your dog! For your furry friend, your best bet is to place the rings in a pouch and attach it to the collar. You have a few more options with little ones. They could carry the rings in a pouch or box. I’ve even seen a little briefcase with ‘ring security’ on it! Another option is to tie the rings to a wedding ring cushion (have a look on Amazon or Etsy for inspiration). Any of these options will give you some extra, memorable photographs, and will help to personalise your wedding ceremony.

5. Involve Your Wedding Guests With A Ring Warming

So, we’ve thought about how to get the rings down the aisle but there’s something else you can do before they end up on your fingers: ring warming! Once the ring bearer has handed the rings to your celebrant, he or she (the celebrant, not the ring bearer!) can announce that the rings will be passed around all the wedding guests. Each guest will have a few moments to hold the rings and (silently) give their best wishes for a long and happy union. A ring warming will work best if the rings are in a see-through pouch or tied to a ring cushion. This way the guests will be able to see the rings but there’s no risk of them dropping out of an opened box.

Wedding rings in a pouch on top of a folder and tartan handfasting ribbons at the Loch Ness Country House Hotel

6. Light A Candle In Your Wedding Ceremony or Vow Renewal

Lighting a candle (or candles) is a lovely way to honour absent loved ones in your wedding ceremony. You might light a single candle together, or you might take it in turns to light multiple candles, each one representing a family member who, sadly, is no longer here. You might even want to have photographs of these relatives on display, or this might be too emotional for you. If you’re well-organised before the wedding, you could even get a candle or candles specially made (or you could perhaps ask your celebrant if this is something they could arrange). You can light a candle in your ceremony even if you’re getting married outdoors; you’ll just need to ensure the candle is protected from any breezes blowing!

7. Include An Oathing Stone In Your Ceremony

The oathing stone is another ancient symbolic wedding ritual. The happy couple holds a stone while saying their vows. The idea behind this is that your promises are rooted to a physical object. Maybe you have a stone at home that has a special meaning for you. Alternatively, you could choose a stone from your favourite beach or mountain to include in your wedding ceremony. If the stone sits in your hand comfortably, you could each take it in turn to hold it while saying your vows, or you can hold it together. A larger stone or rock could sit on the ground at your feet, or on a table.

8. Write Your Own Wedding Vows

This is one of my favourite tips for how to personalise your wedding ceremony or vow renewal. If you’d like to say a bit more than the legal vows, your celebrant might be able to suggest some wording, and perhaps give you a few options to choose from. This was certainly the case when I got married. Alternatively, you could go a step further and write your own personal vows; you’ll say these in addition to the legal stuff. The most personal and memorable wedding ceremonies, elopements and vow renewals I’ve seen have included personal vows. Be warned though, you might get a little emotional at this point in proceedings! Make sure your make-up artist uses waterproof mascara! Of course, it doesn’t all have to be serious and emotional; you can include the light-hearted things in life, like promising not to eat all the Custard Creams yourself!

9. Include Wedding Readings In Your Ceremony

Readings are a great way of extending your ceremony and making it more personal to you. Me and my husband both gave readings at our wedding (I gave this reading from ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’). This might be too much public speaking for you, over and above your vows! If you’re friends or family are up for it, you could ask them to give readings. You could have more than one reading; the most I’ve come across in a single ceremony is four (and that was one of my favourite ceremonies ever). Of course, if your friends and family don’t want to do this, you could ask your celebrant to do a reading instead. The only disadvantage with this option is that it doesn’t add variety to the photographs.

10. Include Songs Or Hymns In Your Ceremony

Singing isn’t just for religious ceremonies. You can include this in your ceremony whether you’re getting married in a church, hotel, marquee or on a beach! For a church wedding, your minister will be able to help you to choose a couple of hymns. For a civil ceremony or humanist wedding, you could choose a traditional or popular piece of music. To give you some ideas, I’ve come across ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ by The Corries (this couple loved the outdoors) and ‘Let It Be’ by The Beatles (the couple wanted to honour the bride’s mum who had passed away during the pandemic). I love when there’s at least one hymn or song in a ceremony, as it gives me an opportunity to move around the venue and capture some different angles and candid shots of the wedding couple and their guests.

So, there you have it! These are 10 suggestions on how to personalise your wedding ceremony or vow renewal. I hope you’ve gotten some inspiration here for your special day!


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