1. Make it beautiful
Ok, so I may be a little biased in this respect, but there’s nothing that I (and a gagillion other people too) love more than a piece of beautiful stationery. Where your invitation was the first clue about your wedding, and the first piece of something real to get excited about, on your wedding day your guests have probably got up exceedingly early, pulled their collars tight with ties and squashed their feet into their best shoes and followed Google Maps instructions to somewhere strange they’ve never been before. Sitting down in your venue, holding onto the Order of Service, is the moment the excitement and anticipation becomes real. How to make it more exciting? Give them a truly beautiful piece of stationery to look at and hold. A thick textured card will feel luxurious, as will a ribbon or tied binding. So many people love to keep their Order of Service as a memento of the day. A portrait of you two or a beautiful illustration of the venue are a really charming way of marking and memorialising the day, the place and the people.
2. Tell everyone why they’re there
I once drew an Order of Service that concertina-ed and folded out, with something different on each page. The cover had the happy couples’ names and a frame of their favourite things, and the second page featured a little illustrated feature about how they first met. I believe it involved mulled wine, as all excellent winter-based first dates should. With a page dedicated to their relationship story up until marriage, this lovely couple really wanted to tell their guests all about why they’d all ended up in a Town Hall in Islington on this special day. Every cousin, relation and school friend found out what had brought them here, and I loved that idea. Even if you don’t want to dedicate a large section of your Order of Service to telling your story, do consider a short sentence to cover it. Everyone in that room is already there for you two, probably primed to weep with joy, so a short phrase on the inside cover about being brought together over the office kettle, the university library, or a blind date, will send them well on their way to happily crying into their tissues with the romance of the day.
3. Make it fun
This comes with a caveat – if you are having a religious ceremony, the Order of Service is often developed very closely with the person holding the ceremony. The sacred nature of the space and ceremony you are undertaking should obviously be taken into consideration, if relevant to you. However, if you’re having a more informal ceremony, don’t feel that you need to stick to formal language. These are people who you know, and know you, so you can write with that in mind. If you’ve been anywhere near Pinterest looking for wedding ideas, you’ve probably seen the ‘So You’re Going to Sit Through A Wedding’ Order of Service, and I love the tone of it. Think about small pieces of humour that are relevant to you and your other half or jokes about each others’ likes and dislikes you can suggest in the text of your Order of Service? Or even jokes about other people in your wedding party? Do you have anything light-hearted or brightly coloured included elsewhere in your wedding – the brides’ shoes? The grooms’ socks? Tell your guests and let them look out for it. Perhaps a little I-Spy game for time before the ceremony – tears, skirts that are a little too short, a nervous groom?
You don’t need to go over the top with twee or silly writing. However, I do think these touches of humour and familiarity work extremely well in including your guests in the day. Make your guests more than observers. Include them in the day. Encourage your guests to show the warmth, the love and the laughter that will make your day really special.
4. Tell everyone what to expect and when
As well as humour, inclusion and your story, the other thing that will make your guests comfortable is knowing what to expect. While the timings and scheduling may have been seared into your brain after months and weeks of spreadsheet management and emails with your venue, but your guests don’t know what the plan is. They may have a general idea of a ceremony followed by a reception, but do they know what periods of waiting will be? Do they know when they need to be on hand for group photos? Most importantly, do they have some idea of when they could expect food? You don’t need to give particular times, and you should maybe avoid them, just in case of delays, but a list of events for the day will really help your guests be in the right place at the right time. Knowing that the cake cutting and the first dance is happening, and in what order in relation to the meal, will help everyone be grouped and poised with cameras at the right time, in the right place.
5. Introduce the important people
Since you’ve taken the time to choose some really special people to be your bridesmaids and groomsmen, to do readings and sign the register, it makes sense to tell your guests about them, and why they’re there. From just including their names, to their relationship to you, or an unusual funny fact about them, say as much as you like.
Consider also telling your guests about the people they’ll see in the ceremony – the person taking the wedding, musicians and bands, wedding organisers, photographers, and designers. They might want to know more about them, and the Order of Service memento will be really useful to them, without you fielding all the questions.
6. Make special requests
Are you having an unplugged wedding? Would you like to request that your guests don’t take photos during the ceremony? Do you want to keep photos off social media? This is a place to tell them. You can ask your officiant to re-iterate, but the Order of Service is a great place to make any requests of your guests. It could be to dampen down the social media sharing, to prevent your ceremony photos being full of ipads held aloft, or it could be requests to sing their hearts out, laugh, cheer or clap at different moments of the ceremony.
7. Give them a special message
I’ve already mentioned that your guests are probably a little sleepy, and pulled into some restrictive and beautiful clothes. They may have travelled far, or taken time away from their work or families to be there to celebrate with you. The Order of Service is a great place to say thank you for being there.
8. Confetti and photo instructions
Your guests will have been following the Order of Service, from entrances to songs, to readings and prayers, to find out what to expect next, when and whether they’re expected to stand up and sing. Take advantage of their close attention by telling them what you want them to do next. Do they need to collect confetti from somewhere or someone? Are they banned from throwing confetti in the venue? Are you having a photograph of everyone at the ceremony venue? If so, where should they go? Where should they wait? Tell them.
Also, if you’re going onto another venue, consider including transport details and post codes. While the guests attending the wedding are probably mostly grown-ups who should be prepared, they are also busy grown-ups with many things to think about aside from your wedding. It’s great to help them out a bit, and you make sure everyone is in the right place at the right time.