wedding ceremonies

Wedding Ceremonies

Everything you Need to know about Wedding Ceremonies

“I wanna be your vacuum cleaner
Breathing in your dust
I wanna be your Ford cortina
I will never rust
If you like your coffee hot
Let me be your coffee pot
You call the Shots
I wanna be Yours”

outdoor wedding yorkshire photography

Quite frankly, I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of hearing John Cooper Clarke’s I Wanna be Yours at wedding ceremonies. It makes me smile every single time.

Wedding ceremonies come in all shapes and sizes – big traditional church affairs with hymns, choirs and prayers, laid back woodland ceremonies officiated by best friends while guests huddle under umbrellas from the rain, intimate little town hall weddings that are over in a flash and simple ceremonies in stately homes with drinks on the patio afterwards. Whatever your choice of wedding ceremony, there are a few choice bits of wisdom to consider.


From classic string quartet’s to full on choirs, music on your phone or guests singing Take That songs, music is a must at weddings. If you do opt for playing tracks from your phone, please make sure that you can actually hear it at the end of the church and give the job of queuing the music to someone who won’t mess it up and don’t forget to take off the password! And if you can, have a quick run through the day before to see how long it takes to get down the aisle so that you time it just right. I’ve done weddings where the groom has seranaded the bride down the aisle, where amazing gospel choirs have led the entrance, and even a bride accompanied to the theme music of Jaws! Don’t forget to also choose music for the signing of the register (this is the perfect time to have a little live music) and you’ll also need suitable music for coming back down the aisle. If you’re planning a singalong, don’t pick anything obscure and make sure you give guests the lyrics so they can join in.

documentary wedding photographer dewslake farm


Do not run down the aisle. If you’re having bridesmaids or groomsmen, let them get to the top of the aisle and in position before you start the short journey otherwise, your partner’s first look will be obscured by confused flower girls who don’t know where they should sit. Once they’re in position, then make your grand entrance… and don’t be jogging down the aisle… milk it for all it’s worth! I know that many people don’t fancy being the centre of attention, but slow down enough to let your parents enjoy the moment, and for little old photographer me, to get those cracking aisle shots.

Bride walking down the aisle. healey barn wedding ceremony photographer


When it comes to the person leading your wedding, there is always lots of choice. If you’re getting married in church, then there is no choice other than the vicar or priest generally, but then I’ve done weddings where there were three priests – one of which was the bride’s father! If you’re having a registrar-led wedding, then the local authority will allocate you the registrar – but thankfully you can personalise your wedding a little bit these days even with a civil ceremony or town hall wedding. The perfect choice for me everytime, is a celebrant led wedding. they are as personal as you can get and a great celebrant will not only marry you, but also provide a wonderful story of your life together. They can be as humorous or as emotional as you want. Currently in the UK, celebrants cannot legally marry you. But if you hop over to Wales or Scotland, you can get married wherever you please using a registered celebrant. My favourite celebrant is Zena Birch. If you’re going down the hand-fasting route, you can even get your best friend to do it and some of these have been the best ceremonies I’ve ever experienced. Just make sure to choose someone who is great at public speaking.


Don’t forget the tissues (unless you’ve a heart of stone of course). Most wedding gowns don’t have pockets (more is the pity!), so ensure your bridesmaid, groomsman, best man, mum, or dad has a lovely hankie to wipe your tears/snot. You can opt for tissues of course, but a hankie looks so much better on the photographs.

groom crying during ceremony yorkshire wedding photographer


There are lots of amazing wedding ceremony readings out there, just don’t go for the over done Lovely Other Dinosaur poem (if you haven’t heard of it, please don’t google it… a kitten dies every time this is read out at a wedding). Try not to opt for the obvious either… do something that really means something to you and if that means using the lyrics from your favourite Nick Cave or Elbow song, then fantastic. Just try and keep it short-ish and original. I once had the joy of hearing a groomsman recite Kylie’s I Should Be So Lucky in a deadpan drawl – the crowd went wild! Even in church, you don’t have to do a religious reading, feel free to mix it up a bit. Why not get the groom’s mum involved and let her do a reading too. It makes for fabulous emotional connection.

dewslake farm outdoor wedding ceremony


When it comes to saying ‘I do’, do not, I repeat, do not stare at the registrar, celebrant or vicar whilst exchanging vows and rings… look at each other. Stare into each other’s eyes, even if that means you start laughing uncontrollably or you start crying! We want to see the emotion so go the whole hog and soak it all up. It doesn’t matter if you get the words mixed up or if the ring needs a little help to get over his knuckles, it all makes for beautiful memories. This bit will fly by so take your time, muck up all the middle names, stare at each other and let the moment bowl you over.

manchester town hall photographer wedding ceremony


Feel free to have your ring bearers be adorable… fluffy dogs or cute kids are great… just don’t expect it to go exactly to plan. I’ve seen toddler ring bearers having full on tantrums, I’ve seen best man brandishing a Haribo jelly ring, and page boys delivering rings in tiny suitcases. It doesn’t have to be the Best Man who is in charge of the rings or even present them. It’s your wedding and you can do what you want. If you want an eagle swooping into the ceremony with the rings tied to its leg, crack on. If you want your favourite pooch rocking up in a bow tie with rings on the collar, be my guest. If you decide your mum is going to be the ring bearer, or your grandpa, or your best friend, it does not matter a jot. Just don’t forget the rings!

ring bearer leeds town hall wedding photography


Signing the register is the legal bit.. it requires you to actually stare at paperwork, when we all know you just want to stare at each other! But it’s five minutes, usually in bad light (I can count on one hand the times where the register has been signed in amazing light with a beautiful backdrop). If it’s in a church, it could be in a vestry surrounded by the accoutrements of clergy life including a filing cabinet, a dodgy kettle and the fire extinguisher. If it’s in a country house, it’s usually on a nondescript table with a white table cloth. It is now normal for the registrar to request the photographer that no photography take place whilst you sign the legal document, so we’re usually forced to photograph you afterwards with a blank bit of paper whilst you hold a pen looking uncomfortable. It is my least favourite shot and still to this day, I have no idea why we still do it. If I can discreetly shoot it from a distance, then cool but I try not to make a big thing of the signing shot so we can go outside as soon as possible for confetti and drinks – yay!

Groom signing register. Yorkshire wedding photographer


Once you’ve signed the paperwork, your officiant will present you to your guests. This is your chance to wave the bouquet in the air, do a little fist pump, or a big dip and a kiss. Give your newly signed marriage certificate to your mum to place in her handbag where it will be safe – don’t give it to the best man who will stick it in his inside pocket and then lose it whilst break dancing after 8 tequilas and 4 Jaegers later that night. A little dance back down the aisle to some lively music is always fun, and don’t forget to pick up your bouquet on the way out.

documentary wedding photographer bowcliffe hall yorkshire


Don’t forget to bring your own confetti… and lots of it. Try and get flower petals as opposed to paper confetti and check with your church or venue first beforehand to ensure they’re ok about it – some churches have restrictions on whether or not you can throw confetti in the church yard. Or opt for confetti canons – i love those things! They’re also great on the dance floor during the first dance! Whether you go for little paper cones or envelopes filled with petals, or a big basket brandished by a bridesmaid so guests can grab a handful as they exit, confetti is a great shot to get. Once you exit the ceremony, have your photographer squirrel you away somewhere so you can catch your breath and have a couple of minutes with your new husband or wife. Then have the wedding party organise your guests so that they are ready for the big confetti moment. Remember to keep your mouth closed and try not to close your eyes as people throw petals your way. Oh and don’t forget to seal the deal with a little kiss amongst the paper rain.


Lots of my couples now opt to have an Unplugged Wedding Ceremony. This means that you get to see everyone’s smiling face as you walk down the aisle rather than them being hidden behind phones and iPads. It also means that they are present in the moment as you say your I Do’s and there are no distractions. There are some great ideas for Unplugged Wedding signs on Pinterest and you can check out my board here for some inspiration. Ask your officiant to tell the guests to put away their phones and cameras at the beginning of the ceremony, so there’s no temptation. And trust that your photographer, is capturing it all anyway.

Outdoor ceremony in Masham. Yorkshire wedding photography

Finally… remember to relax. This is your big day.. all the planning, the diy, the decisions, it’s all over. It’s finally here. Remember to enjoy every single second.

Yorkshire wedding photographer, Shelly Mantovani at Toast of Leeds.  If you’re getting married in the future at Dewslake Barn, Healey Barn, Manchester City Hall,  or elsewhere in the UK or Europe, get in touch by visiting my photography website at or you can find me on TwitterFacebook Instagram or Pinterest.  I photograph weddings across the UK in tipis, barns, country houses , iconic hotels, Industrial warehouses, town halls and cool city boozers . For more information and to check availability, contact me now.

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