Outward Facing Ceremony

Your wedding day has arrived, your friends and family have gathered to share in the celebration, and they spend the entire service staring at the back of your head. If you’ve ever attended a wedding as an average guest, you know that you spend the majority of the ceremony seeing the backside of the wedding party and the expressions on the officiant’s face. Change things up a bit and let your guests get a good look at the happy couple with an outward facing ceremony.

What is it?

Basically, instead of standing with your back to the crowd, you and your spouse-to-be face them. The minister or officiant stands in front of you or below you (if you’re on a raised platform or alter) and conducts the ceremony with his/her back to the crowd while you are able to see (and be seen by) your guests.

Why it’s great?

For starters, it gives your guests a chance to truly witness the wedding ceremony. They can see your facial expressions and the reactions of your bridal party to every part of the wedding ceremony. It also prevents guests from straining to hear your vows, especially if you’re not miked, and it allows them to experience the emotion accompanying those sacred words. An outward facing ceremony doesn’t only benefit the guests, though. It also allows you and your spouse-to-be the opportunity to really take in the moment. As you look out over a sea of faces, you’re seeing the men and women who love you, have supported you, celebrate with you, and will be an active part of your life as a married couple.

Personalized Wedding Vows

Not only is it incredibly romantic and meaningful to write your own wedding vows, they can add a personal touch to your big day and sprinkle the ceremony with laughs or poignancy. If you and your soon-to-be spouse are thinking about crafting your own wedding vows, follow these five easy steps:

Step 1: Get Approval

Before you get started, be sure that your wedding officiant will allow original vows. Certain denominations require traditional vows, so before you do all the work, ask if personalized vows are permitted. Often, houses of worship will allow you to combine traditional vows with your own written vows. Regardless, be sure to let the officiant review your vows before the big day.

Step 2: Establish Expectations

While it’s understandable to keep certain aspects of your vows under wraps until the wedding, it’s important to discuss your expectations with your fiancé before the big day so you’re both on the same page. Some couples opt to write their vows together to guarantee cohesion and eliminate any potential for disappointment. If you do decide to write individual vows, discuss the length and style ahead of time to guarantee vows that are similar in style and depth.

Step 3: Determine Your Style

Like every couple, every wedding is unique and it should be a reflection of your individual personalities. Original vows are a wonderful way to add a personal touch to the wedding and create a certain atmosphere. Some couples take a light-hearted approach to vow-writing, crafting promises that are humorous and charming, while others opt for something more traditional, serious, or romantic. Whatever your preference, decide on a voice that’s fitting for you as a couple and write vows in the same tone.

Step 4: Create an Outline

To guarantee cohesion between the two sets of vows, establish an outline that you and your fiancé can both follow when writing. Structure, length, and flow are an important part of the vows. Talk about how you might want to organize your thoughts so that they make sense and complement each other’s. For example, begin your vows with a personal anecdote about your relationship, a story of how you met, or when you knew you were in love before moving onto your promises and commitments.

Step 5: Get Help!

There’s nothing wrong with seeking a little assistance when it comes to writing your vows. This is one of the most important moments of your life: you want it to be perfect! Find a trustworthy friend or relative to read over your vows and give you honest feedback. Or go online and find samples of vows that you like as inspiration for length, layout, and voice.

Wedding Vow Prompts

Writing your own wedding vows can be a daunting task so we’re here to help! If you’re stuck on where to begin or can’t seem to figure out what’s important to say, start by answering these 20 questions to get the creative juices flowing:

How did you meet him/her? What was your first impression? What went through your mind the first time you saw or talked to him/her?

At what point did you first realize you had fallen in love? Did a specific event trigger the revelation? How did you react?

How have you changed as a result of the relationship? What has your partner taught you about life, love, or yourself?

What new things have you experienced thanks to your mate? How has he/she changed your worldview?

What is the thing you miss most about him/her when he/she isn’t around?

How do you envision your future together? Where do you think you’ll be in 10, 20, or 40 years?

What facet(s) of your partner’s personality brings you the most comfort, joy, encouragement, or security?

Is there a movie quote, song lyric, or book excerpt that reminds you of your relationship or sums up how you feel about him/her?

What do you love most about your mate? What are the things you hope he/she will never change about themselves?

What moments in your relationship caused you to see your mate in a new and surprising way? At what moments have you been most impressed with his/her character, outlook, or response? Has your bond been strengthened by any difficult or harrowing experiences?

What goals or values does your partner have that you admire or respect?

In what ways does he/she inspire or encourage you to be a better person?

What unique promises can you make to him/her? Beyond vowing to love, honor, and cherish, what are some specific tasks or commitments that you’re agreeing to in marriage?

How will you make your mate a better person? How will he/she make you a better person in the future? What will be better about you as a married couple?

Why do you want to marry him/her? What unique things will he/she bring to the marriage?

What made you realize he/she was The One? How did you know you wanted to spend the rest of your life with this person?

How will you strengthen and protect your marriage? What will you do to make it stronger in the coming months and years?

What are you most excited about as it pertains to married life? What things are you looking forward to as a husband/wife?

What are your expectations of marriage? What do you hope it will look and feel like?

In what ways will you show your love, devotion, and faithfulness to your partner throughout your marriage?

The Herrington Inn

Selecting a Venue: Questions to Consider

Choosing the venue for your wedding ceremony and reception is one of the most important decisions you’ll make in the wedding planning process. Not only does the location set the vibe for the entire wedding, it will also influence the date of your nuptials, the size of your wedding, and the decorative theme of the day. As a result, you should choose a venue carefully. Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you set out to select the perfect setting for your I Do’s…

Home or Away? First and foremost, you have to settle on a city before you can choose a venue. Do you plan to get married in your hometown, your current city of residence, or do you want to plan a destination wedding?

Indoor or Outdoor? When you picture your magical day, are you dancing the night away under a canopy of stars or twirling around a marble dance floor under the dim glow of a chandelier? Are you beachside and barefoot or cozy and covered? Choosing between an indoor or outdoor wedding will instantly edit your options for possible rentals.

Large or Small? Is your heart set on an intimate gathering of close friends and family or a massive party of merry well-wishers? Before even considering a venue, think about whether your guests would even fit inside or if the size of the place would make your close-knit nuptials feel sparse and empty. Put together a rough idea of a guest list before previewing venues to ensure that you’re only considering places that are properly sized.

Ceremony, Reception, or Both? Choosing a locale that can accommodate your wedding ceremony and reception often saves time and money, but it can also eliminate several locations you might love. Figure out what’s most important to you before settling on a decision. Did you always dream of getting married in your family church? Do you envision yourself driving away from the ceremony with a lavish send-off? Or would you prefer to get the party started right away just a few steps from the ceremony? Whatever your desires, it’s important to know how you plan to use a venue before you start considering one.

Formal or Casual? When you picture your wedding day, is it all luxury and sophistication or comfort and charm? If you’ve got your heart set on fancy formality, scope out hotel ballrooms, lavish country clubs and resorts, or opulent historic homes. For a more relaxed atmosphere, consider local gardens or parks, a private residence, or an unexpected interactive locale, such as a museum, zoo, or art gallery.

Deciding on a Destination Wedding

One of the first—and most important—decisions you need to make about your wedding is where to hold it. There are a number of factors that weigh into this decision including your budget, guest list, location of friends and family, and residence of the bride and groom. A destination wedding gives you the opportunity to hold your nuptials anywhere in the world, but is it right for you? Here are a few factors to consider…

Dream Locale: The most appealing benefit of a destination wedding is that it affords you the opportunity to have the celebration in a location of your dreams. Whether you’ve always envisioned your wedding ceremony along a romantic beach, in a boisterous city, amid a foreign countryside, or atop a snow-capped mountain, your wish can come true. You can literally choose any place, near or far, for your upcoming nuptials.

Intimate Ceremony: If you secretly long for a small, intimate gathering, a destination wedding is definitely the way to go. Due to costly travel expenses and time off work, you can expect only the closest and most committed of your friends and family to make the trip. However, one thing to consider: if you come from a particularly wealthy family or circle of friends, you may garner more interest than most brides anticipate when planning a destination wedding. Don’t extend an invitation to someone that you don’t wish to attend your ceremony in the hopes that they’ll RSVP no.

Budget Concerns: A destination wedding can prove to be a costly alternative to a lavish and large hometown affair. However, the cost for a destination wedding can add up rather quickly. Depending on the location, length of stay, and whether or not you’ll be paying for any guests’ accommodations, the bill can tally up faster than you expect. Carefully plan out a budget and check on pricing before making a firm decision. Also, be sure to research any additional (hidden) fees associated with the wedding ceremony. Some resorts or locales have strict requirements on conducting wedding ceremonies that come with a hefty price tag. Wedding Budget

Friends/Family’s Feelings: One thing that’s especially important to consider, especially if you or your fiancé come from a large extended family, is how a destination wedding will impact your loved ones. Yes, this is your wedding day, but it’s also important to your friends and families too. Before deciding on a destination wedding, consider whether or not it will severely hurt the feelings of those you love. If you decide that a destination wedding is your dream, consider the possibility of hosting a small hometown reception after the honeymoon for anyone who was unable to make the trek to the wedding.

Wedding Vows

Writing your own wedding vows can be an incredibly romantic gesture and a creative way to make your ceremony unique. While personalized vows can make the nuptials more touching, they can also add to the stress leading up to the big day. If you and your fiancé are planning to craft your own vows, discuss it ahead of time and devise a plan.

Before you begin writing, make sure personalized vows are accepted by your officiant. Certain denominations require couples to use traditional vows during their ceremony. Once you get the green light, talk to your fiancé about your expectations. A lot of couples decide to write their vows together for cohesion. Writing your vows together will take the pressure off of each of you to live up to the other’s expectations. Plus, as an added bonus, it’s a great time to join together and reflect on your relationship, love, and commitments to one another.

If you decide to write your vows separately, discuss your plans ahead of time. Determine the style, length, and outline of the vows. Do you want humorous and charming vows, or serious and romantic? Figure out these details prior to writing to ensure that you and your fiancé are on the same page. Structure and flow is an important part of the vows. Figure out an outline that you both can follow. For example, maybe begin by discussing how you met, when you fell in love, or the wonderful traits your partner possesses before moving onto your promises and commitments.

To help keep you on track and guarantee uniformity among your vows, find samples online that you like. Use them as a reference for length, layout, order, or voice. Be sure to set aside an ample amount of time to compose your vows. This is a great opportunity for you to publicly profess your feelings, adoration, and devotion to your soon-to-be spouse. Give yourself enough time to gather your thoughts and clearly communicate your heart to your fiancé and wedding guests. Personalize your ceremony. Ceremony readings and vows.

Honoring A Loved One At Your Wedding

If a parent, grandparent, sibling, or close relative has passed away, there are a lot of wonderful ways to honor their memory at your wedding or reception. Here are some suggestions of ways to pay tribute to someone you have loved and lost:

1. Photo Table: Set up a special table at the wedding ceremony and/or reception filled with framed photos of your late loved one. Cover it with flowers or candles for an elegant, respectful display.

2. Candle Lighting: Make your late loved one a part of the wedding ceremony by lighting a candle in their honor. This can be done by another family member at the beginning of the ceremony or by you and your fiancé during the nuptials.

3. Mention: Ask your officiant to make mention of your remembered loved one during the wedding ceremony.

4. Program Insert: If you’re passing out printed programs for your wedding ceremony, include a special mention, letter, photo, anecdote, or poem dedicated to your deceased loved one.

5. Moment of Silence: Observe a moment of silence during the wedding ceremony or reception to honor the memory of the one you’ve lost.

6. Scripture/Letter/Poem Reading: During the ceremony or reception, have someone read the loved one’s favorite scripture or poem or a personal letter written by them during their life.

7. Toast: During your reception, honor the memory of your late loved one with a special toast given by you, your new spouse, or one of your family members.

8. Song: Honor the memory of your loved one by having their favorite song (or a song significant to you) performed or played at the ceremony or reception.

9. Personal Memento: Wear or carry something of significance to your lost loved one on your wedding day, whether it be a piece of jewelry, hair barrette, or a handkerchief.

Wedding Veil Alternatives

Years and years ago, brides wore veils, long veils.  It’s just what they did.  They wore a white wedding dress and veil.  And if you were an early trendsetter who decided to forgo the veil, you probably got a stern look of disapproval from your grandmother.  Now days, things are changing.  Don’t get us wrong, brides still loves veils, veils are still in, and veils are still very gorgeous.  But brides are beginning to expand their bridal headwear options to include baubles, headbands, flowers, vintage hair pieces, and much, much more.  Check out a few of our favorites!

Birdcage veils. For the bride who loves vintage or dramatic glamour, this is a fabulous option for you.  These stunning beauties have a classic elegance to them, while maintaining a sense of no fuss fashion.  There are tons of great options throughout Etsy.  Just search “birdcage veils” and you’ll be met with hundreds of options, each with great pictures and descriptions.  Still not sure you’re sold on the birdcage veil for the wedding day?  Think about using one in your bridal portraits for a dramatic and different look.

Brooches. These sparkly baubles give you the freedom to incorporate as much or as little bling as you want, as brooches come in every possible shape and size.  You can also incorporate hints of your wedding colors into these accessories, without overwhelming your entire look.  Lots of brides also take advantage of brooches as their something old or something borrowed, incorporating brooches from family members or dear friends.  Don’t have any brooches in the family?  Look at antique stores, vintage shops, and estate sales for older finds or scour jewelry shows for newer bling.  Brooches can be incorporated into almost any hair style…up, down, long, short, you name it!

Floral. The idea of flowers in the bride’s hair used to be reserved for destination weddings, but not anymore.  Brides everywhere are looking to nature to add a festive flair to their look.  Simple blooms look best, and white blooms create a look that is both polished and pretty.  Talk with your florist about what blooms might look best as well as what will be in season.  It is important to make sure the stem is long enough to slip a few bobby pins through, and if you would prefer to have your florist wrap a barrette or hair clip with the bloom, most are happy to do that for you.  And for the whimsical bride planning a garden party, why not do a wreath of baby’s breath?  A look fit for a princess, without being draped in diamonds.

Headbands. Once a thing for schoolgirls, headbands have come back onto the fashion scene in a big way the past few years.  Headbands are a fun way, yet hassle free way to add some fun to your bridal look.  And since headbands are so popular, look beyond the typical bridal stores.  Some of your favorite retailers such as Ann Taylor, J.Crew, Nordstrom, and Forever 21, make great headbands.

Custom hairpieces. Can’t decide what you want?  Thinking you want a little bit of everything, or maybe something with feathers, or maybe something you haven’t even actually seen yet?  Having a hair piece specifically designed for you is a special way to make a personal stamp on your bridal look.  Lo Boheme is one of our favorite places for custom hairpieces, as well as other wedding day accessories.  If the price tag is a bit high for you, invest some time looking around Etsy.  There are some incredibly talented people out there, just waiting to make the perfect hairpiece, just for you!

And if you’re not quite ready to give up on the veil, no worries!  Have the best of both worlds by wearing a veil for your ceremony and switching into one of the options above for your reception.  That way you can dance the night away hands and worry free! Wedding Veil Alternatives

A Stress Free Wedding Day

A Stress Free Wedding Day

A Stress Free Wedding Day

One of the most common things we hear from brides following their wedding day is, “Where did the day go?  It feels like a blur, so much happened, yet I can barely remember any of it.”  Unfortunately, much of this “memory loss” is due to stress on the big day.  Though stress and wedding planning often go hand in hand, stress and the wedding day do not.  Even when thorough planning takes place, many brides find themselves stressed and overwhelmed on the big day.  The day is too special and too important to be stressed, so we are offering a few simple tips to help you keep stress free on the big day.

Hire a wedding coordinator. Ok, we know, technically this is something that would have been done way before the wedding day, but we list this to highlight how valuable a coordinator is on the actual day of the wedding.  No matter how thorough and perfect the planning is, there will inevitably be last minute details that need to be taken care of.  The placement of the flower arrangements, the lighting of candles, the setting of tables, the timing of when ceremony seating begins…there is a lot to do, and if you try to take care of it all, you won’t be able to enjoy your day.  So, seriously consider a wedding planner so that when the flowers are late, when there are no matches in sight, and when you’re 25  napkins short, you won’t know a thing about it!

But if you can’t afford a wedding planner, don’t fret.  There is still a stress free way to deal with the details.  Think about a close friend or family member that you really trust.  Someone who is level headed, assertive, and efficient, and ask them if they would consider being the point-person on the wedding day.  The person that others come to with details and crises, the person who carries out your wedding day vision, and the person who solves those little stressors without mentioning them to you.  Perhaps a maid of honor could fill this role.  Regardless of who you chose, spend time with them the week before the wedding talking about your vision (i.e. how things will be set up, the schedule for the day, etc.) so that they can execute your vision while you stay stress free!

A Stress Free Wedding DayCreate a day of timeline. What things do you want or need to get done the day of the wedding?  A bridesmaids brunch, a special time with your family, manicures, makeup, hair…there may be a variety of things you want to do on your big day.  Write these things down, think about how long each thing will take, and then create a schedule.  Plan in thirty minute increments and leave yourself some cushion time with each activity.  Consider emailing this schedule to your wedding party a week before the wedding so they know what to expect and how they can help you stay on schedule. Be sure to check out the Music By Design event timeline for all your important details.

Have people come to you. Are you getting your hair done?  How about your makeup?  If so, consider having these vendors come to where you and your wedding party are getting ready.  This will cut down on travel time, traffic, unknown delays, and of course, stress!

Get ready at the wedding site. This stress free tip isn’t always possible, but when it is, consider primping at the ceremony site.  Lots of venues have bride and groom suites for each respective wedding parties to get ready in.  This cuts down on last minute rushing, people getting lost, and of course, your stress level!  It can also help set the wedding day tone earlier in the day.

Put your phone away. Though many of us are attached to our cell phones, consider detaching, at least for your wedding day.  Guests will get lost, friends will be late, and kids will get sick.  These things happen.  These things also prompt a lot of people to call you to tell you about them.  Though it might be nice to have a heads up, it will also likely lead to unnecessary stress.  You won’t be able to change whatever is going on, and there is likely another guest they can call for directions.  So for your big day, we encourage you to tuck your phone away and enjoy a stress free wedding day!

Ceremony Music Tips

Ceremony Music Tips

Ceremony Music Tips

Hiring Your DJ to Play During Your Ceremony Makes Sense and Saves Money. A string quartet will run you between $300 and $500 per hour. Your DJ will charge you between $100 and $300 to run your ceremony.

When it comes to planning your wedding, a lot of attention is paid to the reception part of the day, but there’s also quite a bit to be considered when it comes to the ceremony itself.  One key question you may be asking yourself is, “Who will be providing the music for the ceremony?”  If you are having your ceremony at the same site as your reception, chances are your DJ will gladly provide music of your choice for your ceremony for considerably less (or at no charge) than it would cost to hire a string quartet or other musicians.

Live music is beautiful, but when you are on a budget, prerecorded high-quality digital versions are just as effective.  Your DJ will also have the microphones needed for your officiant and any readings you may have during your ceremony.

In terms of the music, you have unlimited options.  Some couples prefer traditional music and others prefer more contemporary options that reflect their personal taste.

The following are some examples in Ceremony Music Tips:


Canon in D
Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring
Ave Maria
The Four Seasons: Spring
Lohengrin: Bridal Chorus
Midsummer’s Night Dream: Wedding March


Storybook Love from the movie “The Princess Bride”
When I’m Sixty-Four: The Beatles
Over the Rainbow: Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwoʻole
All I Want Is You: U2
Lovers in Japan: Coldplay
Lucky: Jason Mraz
Into The Mystic: Van Morrison

For a great mix of traditional meets contemporary, look into the Vitamin String Quartet.  They perform classic string versions of music for hundreds of artists – from The Beatles to Guns ‘N’ Roses.

Also, be sure to check out Fred Benedetti for some great instrumental guitar selections.

To make your ceremony easier to envision, the following is a sample of a timeline including notes where a special song is typically played.

Ceremony Timeline

Guests arriving and seated by ushers (ushers distributing programs) Prelude music playing

Ceremony begins

1. Groom and officiant processional Select a Song
2. Grandparents then parents processional (Select a song – usually same song as number 1)
3. The parents will light the candles (if you decide on a unity candle)
4. Bridal party processional Select a Song
5. Bride’s processional Select a Song
6. Bride and groom give flowers to the parents (optional) Select a Song
7. Readings (this is not as popular these days)
8. Vows
9. Unity candle or sand ceremony Select a Song
10. Bride and groom recessional Select a Song