The wedding ceremony is obviously a highly symbolic and traditional part of your wedding and marriage. A wedding ceremony can be executed in a number of ways depending on your preferences, culture, religion, and family traditions of you and your partner as well as your personal wishes.
Wedding ceremony location
A wedding ceremony is traditionally done in a church (which ever church you belong to or decide to go with if you and your partner belong to different churches). Go visit the church you have in mind, or visit a few different ones before you make up your mind as to where you want to get married. This to keep in mind is space make sure that all your guests will fit in to the space. Also take into consideration its location and where that is in relation to where you are having the reception as guest will have to arrange for transportation from one place to the next (unless you are taking care of this for them). Lastly, make sure that you get along with and are comfortable with the priest, father, minister or whoever will be performing the wedding ceremony. We will get more into that shortly.
If you are not very religious, your ceremony can also take place at a different location from a church, for example, at the venue where you are holding your reception, or outdoors at a different location such as a winery or in botanical gardens. Some people go with the adventure aspect of wedding ceremonies and get married at a mountain top accessed by a helicopter, by hiking or some other means of transportation (mind you, these services are usually smaller with just the bride, groom, marriage official and witnesses present). Other suggested places may be where you met, if this was at a small local café it may be harder, a place that is special to the two of you for whatever reason, for example, a favorite hiking trail that you go to every year or a special picnic spot. There are endless possibilities, so search your minds to find something that fits with your personalities and with the kind of ceremony you would like (traditional, casual, outdoors etc.) but don't forget to make sure it is accessible for all the guests you wish to invite to your ceremony.
Booking your ceremony location
Make sure to book your wedding ceremony venue and priest justice of peace or whoever is performing the marriage ceremony in good time before your wedding to be sure that the location is available.
Also keep in mind that the summer months (especially in North America) are very popular for weddings so things do book up more so in the summers than the winters.
Some churches requires you to use the priest(s) in that church, also something to keep in mind in case you have never been to the church before, you may want to meet the priest as well before deciding on the location for your wedding ceremony.
Some places also allow you to have a friend or family member, with a temporary license to conduct a wedding ceremony and declare a couple man and wife, marry you. Be sure to look up what is legal and valid in your state/province/country to be sure you are actually married after the ceremony is over.
You can normally find wedding officials by searching online. Or another great resource is to ask friends if they have been to weddings where the official was particularly good. Of course, if you have been to a wedding and really liked the ceremony official, then why not try to contact him/her. Different wedding officials will have slightly different styles in the manner in which they do things so it may be nice to meet with the wedding official and talk about what you envision in a ceremony and find out what he/she usually does. Sometimes the person who is going to marry you will want to meet you one or a couple of times just to get a feel for who you are, who you are together and to simply know more about you so they can somewhat customize the ceremony to you (if they do that). Other officials do not ask to meet you at all but will maybe ask you to fill out some forms. If you are more comfortable with one or the other, say so and see what is possible.
Structure of wedding ceremony
Many officials have a pre-written ceremony that they send you prior to the wedding. A lot of officials will be open to altering the ceremony to suit you. Some may work with you to do this where as others may simply ask you to do changes in the pre-written document and send it back to them a couple of weeks or so before the wedding. In the pre-written ceremony there are normally vows included as well and as with the rest of the ceremony, if they sound natural and authentic to you then you can go with them or you and your fianceé can put a personal twist on them to make sure it feels genuine.
During the wedding ceremony you may incorporate elements that are personal and appeal to you and your partner, that extra touch to make it 'yours'. Some couples choose to incorporate music and/or song. For example, you can walk down the aisle to your favorite song (or ask your dad or whoever is walking you down the aisle, what song he would like to play for you when walking you down the aisle). If you have some musically talented friends or family members it is a great idea to have them play or sing a piece during your ceremony. It breaks up the wedding ceremony a little and adds a very special moment that you will remember and cherish for a long time to come.
After the vows in the ceremony, the wedding bands are exchanged while saying a few words. Often you repeat after the wedding official so you do not have to worry about memorizing all the things you will be saying.
The wedding ceremony is the act of the wedding where you will actually sign and seal your agreement to enter marriage together. In North America it is common that the wedding certificate is signed right after the ceremony itself. The wedding couple will need to sign the marriage certificate, the wedding official will sign and put their seal on it and to make it official two witnesses need to sign it too. It is most commonly the maid of honor and the best man.
Do make sure to keep your marriage certificate in a safe place and make copies of it! If the bride is planning to change her last name to the grooms' she will need this marriage certificate as she is going through that process, to authenticate her name change.