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Most weddings follow the same basic structure, but if you ask people what are the parts of the wedding ceremony, they will simply say, processional, wedding, recessional. If you are planning your own wedding, you will enjoy the overall experience even more by knowing exactly what is involved with the ceremony structure. Actually, the processional and recessional are what precede and follow the ceremony itself. The processional is when the bridesmaids enter the church or location where the wedding is being held, followed by the grand entrance of the bride. The recessional is simply the exit of the bride and groom to music, followed by the wedding party. The ceremony itself has several parts that follow a basic format.

First, the minister performs what is called the Opening or Invocation. He or she will announce the purpose of the gathering and welome the guests. Then, the names of the bride and groom are announced and the guests are given a special invitation to participate in the ceremony. If this is a religious service, the minister will request the prayers of the guests for the wedding couple.

The body of the ceremony usually includes a short speech by the minister. A comment will be made regarding the meaning of marriage and the importance of the couples decision to make a lifetime commitment. If the minister knows the couple well, he or she may make a few comments as to why the bride and groom make a good match. During the body of the ceremony, there will often be contributions by friends or relatives of the couple. This may be the reading of a favorite scripture or poem.

The body will also include asking both the bride and groom if they are marrying of their own free will. The minister will then address the guests with the famous, If anyone has just cause, why these two may not wed, speak now, or forever hold your peace. Although the bride and groom know that no one is going to say anything, there is always that awkward moment and a gentle sigh of relief when the minister continues with the ceremony.

The vows are then introduced and their meaning importance explained. The vows themselves are read to the bride and groom at which time they will respond in most cases with I do or I will. The completion of the vows and words of, By the power vested in me by the state of (wherever the wedding is taking place), means the couple is officially married in most Christian marriages. Some couples use the standard vows of their religious faith, while others will write their own vows. If you write your own vows, be sure to go over them with the minister before the wedding to see if they are appropriate.

The exchange of rings is the part of the wedding ceremony that is most often remembered. The bride and groom will repeat phrases after the minister, declaring their devotion to each other. Then, the rings are placed on each others finger. In the western Jewish tradition, the marriage is official when the rings have been placed on the fingers of the bride and groom.

The closing of the ceremony includes the ministers announcement that the groom may kiss the bride. After this, the minister introduces the newly married couple to the guests, using the brides married name for the first time. Music is often an integral part of the wedding ceremony. Many couples will have a soloist sing just before the bride comes down the aisle. Other popular times for special music are before or after the vows, after the reading of a scripture or poem, or just before the introduction of the married couple to the guests. The timing of the music is a personal choice.

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