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Y’all know I’m the first in line for a big bow or beautiful monogram, but I also understand they’re not everyone’s cup of tea. (Though, if you’re here at Southern Weddings reading, I’d say there’s a better than average chance they are!) In everything from your aesthetic choices to the words you say when you vow forever to each other, we want you to choose what’s right for you and what most helps to tell your unique story – not what looks good or what someone else is doing.

In that spirit, today we’re chatting about a few wedding ceremony traditions you might want to consider including in your big day. Traditions can make your ceremony even more meaningful by underscoring or illustrating the more important moments, but they’ll fall flat if they’re not rooted in what matters to you. Take a peek and see which ones speak to you – we can’t wait to see what you choose!

Bamber Photography

Military saber arch: For military brides and grooms, one of the most recognizable (and beloved!) wedding traditions is the saber arch—a ceremony exit that both celebrates the newlyweds, and acknowledges that serving our country is truly a family commitment.

Traditionally, the saber arch is performed by 6-8 uniformed service members (often guests or groomsmen/bridesmaids) immediately following the ceremony. On the command, the saber team raises their sabers into a high arch, which the newlyweds enter as they are announced by one of the members. As the bride and groom pass through, the two saber bearers in the front traditionally lower their sabers before the couple can proceed out of the arch.

This is when the saber bearer to the couple’s left gives the non-military member of the couple a gentle tap on the backside and a welcome to the applicable branch! After a kiss, the newlyweds are free to proceed and the saber team recovers on command and dissolves formation.

Unity candle: Typically the unity candle ceremony uses two taper candles with a large pillar candle in the center. At the beginning of the ceremony, a family representative from each side (usually the mothers of the bride and groom) light the two taper candles. Later during the ceremony, the bride and groom use the two light candles to jointly light the large center candle to symbolize the joining together of two families.

Anna Shackleford

Foot washing: Washing one another’s feet is a newer wedding tradition that stems from the biblical story of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet (John 13:1-17) as a gesture of service and humility. Christian couples especially may find deep symbolism in recreating this moment during their wedding ceremony, while promising to serve one another selflessly in marriage, but any couple committed to living out these qualities in their future may find it meaningful.

During the ceremony, the bride and groom simply take turns sitting down on a chair in front of a basin of water, while their significant other kneels in front of them, removes their shoe(s), and washes their feet with water. Another option: because a foot washing ceremony is so intimate, some couples choose to wash each other’s feet in a more private setting, perhaps during their first look, or after returning to their ceremony site post-recessional and after their guests have been dismissed.

Jumping the broom: This tradition has a history tied back to nineteenth-century slave communities in the South, but it has gained richness and deeper meaning for couples who choose to include it in their ceremonies today. The act of jumping can represent crossing the threshold into marriage, the beginning of making a home together, their dedication to working together through difficult and joyful tasks, and a sweeping away of the old and a welcoming of the new. The humble broom becomes quite beautiful when used in this way, and many are dressed up for the occasion!

A Bryan Photo

Carrying a white Bible: For families that have Bibles that have been passed down from generation to generation, carrying this heirloom down the aisle is a way for a bride to honor her heritage. Whether or not it’s an heirloom, Christians brides often carry a white Bible as an outward representation of their faith on this incredibly special day. Bibles and small white prayer books can be tucked into your bouquet or embellished with ribbons or flowers and carried solo. If you decide not to carry a Bible but are looking for another nod to your faith, we love the idea of wrapping your favorite verse into or around your bouquet or placing a family bible on the altar at your ceremony.

Ring warming: In a ring warming ceremony, the wedding bands are passed hand to hand through the congregation before being exchanged (tie them to a pillow or place them in a special bag to minimize the risk of dropping them!). Your officiant can ask each guest to hold the rings for a few moments, “warming” them with their prayers, blessings, and good wishes for your marriage. When they’re returned to you ready to wear, they’ll be symbolically fortified for your lifelong marriage to come!

We have heaps more ceremony planning advice and recommendations in our Joyful Wedding Planner. If you’re passionate about telling your unique love story through your wedding, this is the product for you!

Anna Shackleford and Bamber Photographer are delightful members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

kristin Written with love by Kristin
1 Comment
  1. avatar Wedding Pixie reply

    Love these ideas, hand fasting is another tradition I love!

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Hello, friends! I’ve got a treat for you today! Our good friend, sweet Southern gal Victoria Strader, is here to share a bit about how she planned her ceremony. She’s five years out from her wedding, but her perspective is timeless, and I think you’ll love this peek into her special day! Enjoy! – Emily

Hi y’all! I’m Victoria, and I’ve been married to my high school best friend/college sweetheart Ben for almost five years. It seems like just yesterday I was trying to keep myself from looking at the one and only Southern Weddings blog before getting engaged, haha! :) We have a one-year-old son named Beau and we live deep in the heart of Texas.

Photo by Blue Ribbon Vendor Meredith Teasley

As each year of my life goes by, I become more and more passionate about the deepening of relationships: the relationship with God that defines my faith, my marriage with Ben, the sweet time spent playing on the floor with my squishy baby boy, and the friendships that keep me thriving in the business of ordinary life. We planned a wedding for the winter of 2012 in our hometown, the place where both sides of my husband’s family have lived for generations.

While we were limited in some aspects of planning because this was the kind of wedding where I had to accept the fact that there would be invitations tacked up on the bulletin board of Granny’s Sunday School class, there were some things we didn’t compromise on. When planning for our wedding ceremony, our vision was for it to be deeply personal: a reflection of our personalities and our faith. We wanted every detail to ultimately point to The Lord through a celebration of the ways he has worked in us individually, together, and in other relationships. I’m thrilled to share three of our favorite aspects with y’all today!

Photo by Caroline Joy

1. Our pastor. The first detail that we were passionate about was our youth pastor from high school officiating the ceremony. Ben and I were in the same youth group, so this felt like a no-brainer! Josh knew us so well then, and even now, five years later and with his family living a few hours away, they still mean so much to us. (In fact, neither of us felt right about announcing the pregnancy of our son until we made the road trip to share the news with them in person!) Josh did an incredible job of weaving stories of each of our personalities together with some deep and beautiful scripture. My biggest hope when attending a wedding ceremony is that I’ll walk away feeling like I know the couple more, and I think Josh hit the nail on the head for us in this way. The message of our wedding shared the gospel of our faith, as well as our own personal stories of coming to be Christians.

2. Our wedding vows. Our vows, and the completely non-traditional way that we stumbled upon them, are another favorite detail about our ceremony. When initially discussing our vows, we wanted something different than the traditional lines, but didn’t feel incredibly inspired to write our own. Enter: the Southern Weddings blog! I watched a wedding video* on the blog of a couple who had written their vows, and their words echoed so much truth from the Bible. They were beautiful, and after showing them to Ben, we agreed that nothing we had begun to brainstorm seemed even a tiny bit as beautiful as those words. I just remember Ben saying, “Nothing I write is going to show people Jesus as well as those words!” Haha!

So I did some hunting, dug up the email of the bride, and emailed her asking permission to “borrow” their vows. I explained our story and the heart behind our request, and she so graciously sent me back her approval and best wishes. I realize this method might not be for everyone (and might make any artistic, creative person cringe – ha!), but it ended up being the best possible fit for us. When we recited those vows, it didn’t feel weird to have borrowed someone else’s words at all. If anything, they felt more special because we had thought so much about them!

3. Our ceremony music. Planning for our ceremony music was not something that came naturally to me (I actually rarely listen to music!), but I knew how important it would be for our celebration. I often think of specific couples when I hear their wedding songs being played, and desired for our selections to be sweet and represent us well! One of our good friends from high school is an incredibly gifted vocalist, so we had him sing “Be Thou My Vision” during a time of prayer. My all-time favorite movie is The Parent Trap (the 90’s version!) so our recessional was to “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)”, the song that plays in the closing credits :)

Something really sweet is that as I reflect on planning our ceremony five years later, I would still choose all of the same things. The meaningful part of our wedding grows more and more special to me each year, and I’m so grateful for the time we put into it!

Thank you so much for sharing, Victoria! You can follow along with her on her blog and Instagram, where she shares the most ridiculously adorable photos of her smile-y little boy. If you’re planning your own ceremony, be sure to check out our Joyful Wedding Planner – it’s an invaluable helper for something so important!

*Since the video post Victoria mentioned is from more than five years ago, it’s no longer active on our site, sadly. But the fun part? It was the wedding video of our friend Sam from LULA Hair + Makeup! No wonder Victoria found it so inspiring! :)

emily Written with love by Emily
2 Comments
  1. avatar Laura @ Laura Likes Design reply

    Aw, I just love that you used the song from The Parent Trap! Such a fun little detail of the day!

  2. avatar Pixie Wedding Sites reply

    Oh my goodness what an adorable baby boy! Just so cute :) fab wedding

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The easiest way to guarantee I will cry buckets of tears at your wedding ceremony? Include “Be Thou My Vision.” We sang it during our ceremony, and to this day, anytime I hear it, I’m immediately transported right back to June 23, 2012. There’s something incredibly powerful about music and its ability to bring emotion to life’s most special moments – your wedding ceremony most certainly among them.

A darling reader bride recently asked us to share some of our favorite outdoor ceremony music suggestions, so I’ve happily compiled a few selections, from processional to recessional. (These would all work well whether you’re getting married indoors or out!) My main tip for outdoor ceremonies, though? Be proactive about the sound system, if you’re not hiring live musicians. If you want your guests to be able to sing along or enjoy the music, make sure everyone can hear it.

P.S. The linked headings below lead to a Spotify playlist, where you can listen to our suggestions! A perfect activity for a weeknight dinner :)

Favorite wedding ceremony classical processional songs:
• Wedding March – Mendelssohn
• Canon in D – Pachelbel
• Ave Maria – Bach or Schubert
• Water Music – Handel
• Ode to Joy – Beethoven

Favorite wedding ceremony hymns and songs:
• Abide With Me
• All Creatures of our God and King
• Be Thou My Vision
• Come Thou Fount
• In Christ Alone

Favorite non-religious ceremony songs:
• Wedding Processional – Rodgers and Hammerstein
• Can’t Help Falling in Love – Elvis
• Falling Slowly – from “Once”
• Make You Feel My Love – Adele
• A Thousand Years – Vitamin String Quartet

Favorite modern recessional songs:
• The Real Thing – The 5 Royales
• Book of Love – The Monotones
• Brighter Than the Sun – Colbie Caillat
• Everlasting Love – Carl Carlton
• Love, Love, Love – The Clovers

One final tip? When picking music, think about the overall feel of your big day – is it classic? romantic? laid-back? upbeat? Pick music that will tell your story and maybe even make you tear up when you hear it at a friend’s ceremony years later ;)

We have more ceremony music suggestions (along with heaps of helping ceremony planning recommendations) in our Joyful Wedding Planner. Snag one over in our shop!

Image round up: Jen Dillender, Tanja Lippert, Jen Fariello, Blue Ribbon Vendor Amy Arrington and Perry Vaile

kristin Written with love by Kristin
4 Comments
  1. avatar Savannah Fannon reply

    Any suggestions on playing music outdoors?

  2. avatar Patti reply

    I’m a church organist and singer and play at weddings all the time. For outside ceremonies, it will depend on what musicians you will have. I heard a string quartet playing Beatles tunes at a wedding and they played “Here Comes the Sun” as the bridesmaids came down the aisle. I’ve heard a recorded instrumental of “Someday My Prince Will Come” at an outdoor wedding. One of my daughters used recorded dulcimer music for her wedding that included the traditional “Here Comes the Bride” and for her recessional, she used “How Sweet it Is (to be Loved by You)” by James Taylor as her recessional. It was perfect.

  3. avatar EvDressau reply

    This is a great reference, I think I will listen to these music before my wedding, and then find out that I feel suitable for my wedding song.

  4. avatar Geoff reply

    Choosing music had to be one of the hardest things we had to do for our wedding, but once we had the ceremony entrance and first dance songs the rest seemed to fall into place.

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