Wedding programs are NOT something that is required for your wedding day which is part of the reason why they are probably so fun to create. It’s not an etiquette thing, it’s simply a nice detail to allow your guests to get a deeper understanding of your ceremony as well as a better knowledge of your bridal party, cultural traditions and anything else you want them to know. Just by having them, you are going a little above and beyond and guests will undoubtedly appreciate it. If you choose not to have wedding programs, your guests will not hate you. Most won’t even realize they aren’t there. If you’re not sure if you need them, we tackled that question a few months ago.
modern wedding program by SimplYou Design, a DPNAK recommended vendor
What should they look like?
Wedding programs should (as should the other details of your day) be cohesive with the theme, mood and vibe of your day. If you’re planning a super-elegant wedding, your program should match it (i.e. “The Marriage of Amanda F. Smith to Randall J. Barrett”). If you’re planning more of a casual get-together, your program should be less formal (i.e. “The wedding of Amanda and Randy”). Depending on who will be designing and creating them, they can be one-sided, folded, on a stick… really as creative as you can (and want to) muster. They can be a simple 8.5×11 sheet of paper folded in half or they can be a booklet with ribbon, grommets and tassles. You pick, just make sure they gel with your other elements.
one of my favorite designs from Minted
What should you include?
the people. The staple items to include in your program would be your names, your parents (or hosts), other VIP family members that you wish to make a special mention of (grandparents, godparents, etc. – these folks should also partake in your processional as a general rule of thumb), along with your bridal party names. Adding any bridal party associations is also a nice added touch (i.e. Brian Barrett, Best Man and brother of the Groom).
the events. You’ll also want to list the order of events for your ceremony from the Processional to the Kiss. This is also a great time to include a small explanation of any special cultural or religious traditions you will be taking part in making it even more special. Having a tree watering ceremony? Great, tell your guests why and what makes it so special and they’ll appreciate it that much more. Never assume they’ll just figure it out.
your thanks. This is a great space to include a meaningful and heartfelt “thank you” from you, your families, whomever is inviting the guests. Guests will read this program inside and out as they wait for the ceremony to start and a small paragraph on how you appreciate their attendance and look forward to celebrating later with them is a nice touch.
those who have passed. On a more somber note, there may be some individuals that you were close to that have passed away. Including a small “In Memory Of” is a nice way to pay respect and send some love to them.
anything else you want. Love that. It’s your day, you can do what you want. Maybe you have an interesting story of how you met or got engaged. Share it with your loved ones. This is the perfect spot to do it (if you haven’t already on your wedding website) and guests will have time to sit and enjoy it. It also gives them something to talk with you about. “Oh, you met at a Yankees game? We’re big Yankees fans, too…” You get it.
a more elegant touch // program by Shine Wedding Invitations
Where should they go?
This is a logistics thing and right up my alley. Typically, I recommend appointing two people to distribute the programs at the entrance of your ceremony. They can be cousins, neighbors, whatever – as long as they can show up 30-40 minutes before the start of the ceremony and are able to stand there until 5 minutes before the ceremony begins. Advise them to distribute one per person or per family (depending on how many you have) and encourage them to smile and be as welcoming as their personalities will sincerely allow. Once the ceremony is almost ready to begin, your coordinator will excuse them from their post and allow them to take their seat before any formalities begin. From there, your coordinator should assist any late-arriving guests (gasp!) and help them from there.
Another option is to place them on each individual’s chair prior to the arrival of any guests. Keep in mind, this will not work as well if your ceremony is outside and there is even a small hint of wind. They will blow away if they are too light (most are, it’s just paper) and you don’t want them turning into garbage blowing around everywhere. There is also a small possibility that they’ll be sat on, but that’s not really a huge problem (unless they have spikes on them).
A final option (besides not having them at all) is creating one large sign to be placed at the entrance. This works well if your cocktail hour is before the ceremony and/or guests have time to linger and read it. If you don’t, most guests won’t stop to read it in it’s entirety and it will not be as impactful, in my opinion.