Start at the beginning 

Your origin story can breathe life into your wedding ceremony

Every good story begins with an element of uncertainty, that quintessential air of “what will happen next?” My brother, for instance, met his future wife at an East Coast college and they dated for a couple years before parting ways. The breakup was a matter of geography: He moved back to Montana and she moved back to Tennessee. For five years they didn’t even stay in touch—they were just distantly fond of each other. She was working in the city, he was out in the wilderness building trails. They dated other people. And then one day she decided to reboot her life and take a six-month, cross-country road trip to visit friends and family from coast to coast. She called my brother to tell him she’d be in town for a few days to catch up. Those two days turned into a few weeks. When she left again to continue on her road trip, a spark had ignited—we could all see it. They exchanged emails, and even when he hiked into the Bob Marshall to work on trails in the backcountry, they wrote letters that were delivered to my brother by mule. At the end of her road trip, she flew from New York to Montana. She borrowed a car, drove it to Hungry Horse and then down a long gravel road to the trailhead. From there, she rode a horse—with a packer as her guide—into the wild. When she and my brother met up, they slept on a bed of canvas under the stars. And that was that; they were together for good. At their wedding ceremony, their good friend and officiant told the tale again for all the guests to hear. It was a reminder of how far they’d come—literally—to get to the altar, as well as an entertaining story for the wedding guests.

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  • Cathrine L. Walters

Not every couple has a story that involves long journeys on horseback or a dramatic hiatus. That’s okay. Whatever your origin story, it’s important because it’s yours, and for that reason it might be worth incorporating it into your ceremony. These days, more couples are looking for a way to personalize their wedding rather than sticking to a generic sermon or meditation on marriage. If you’re looking for that personal touch, the following are a few things to keep in mind.

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  • Johanna B Photography

Find your plot

Make a list of small and big events you and your partner have shared together that map the moment you met to the time you decided to take the plunge. They can be simple and seemingly mundane moments, or profound and theatrical, or just plain hilarious. Remember that a good story is candid. Even fairy tales—with all their lost glass slippers, maidens in comas and dangerous dragons—travel an uneven road before ending up blissful.

No to TMI

That said, too much information isn’t a good thing. No one wants to listen to super-intimate romantic stories (no one!) and no one wants to hear about private matters that feel like gossip. Hold those details for your memoirs, please. Once you’ve made your list, strike the things you think are TMI or that don’t, for some reason, seem to fit the occasion.

click to enlarge Missoula Independent news
  • VioletRay Photography

Adding character

Beyond the story of how you met, you might consider adding in a list of details about each other that make you compatible or, on the other hand, make you opposites who attract. These anecdotes or tidbits can be peppered throughout your origin story to give it even more color. People will be riveted, and you’ll be energized by the reminders of why you love each other.

Keep it short

Everybody at your wedding loves you, but they don’t want to sit through a play-by-play.

click to enlarge Missoula Independent news
  • Johanna B Photography

Get an editor

To keep it short—and because you might be uncertain about what details should or shouldn’t go into your ceremony story—find a friend who’s a good writer to help you bring your tale to life. If your wedding officiant is a natural storyteller, consider writing up a cheat sheet of facts and interesting details about you and your partner and the way you met. Your officiant should be able to weave those things into his or her speech in a way that might even be a fun surprise for you and your to-be.

The end?

Finally, make sure that you get a hard copy of your ceremony story for after your wedding. It’ll be a nice reminder in years to come of how you and your newlywed saw the story of your particular “once upon a time.” And, by the way, unlike fairy tales, the wedding isn’t the “happily ever after.” It’s just another beginning to yet another potentially good story.

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