Print this page

Learn about Program Booklets

I really enjoyed writing about weddings and ceremony for the USA Today Network paper via The Pocono Record, for well over 10 years. I shared a lot and I learned a lot. As I retire from that work I’m pleased to share some of my favorite columns from years past. Here’s one any couple planning a wedding should find useful.

Do you need a wedding program?

Most people planning a wedding eventually come to this question: should I have a ceremony program? As the big day approaches, I sometimes hear from ‘my’ couples, asking for the ‘order of service.’ I immediately know why. They are creating a program and want to include an outline of what will take place.  This is a common practice, and in a religious ceremony it can help people get ready to find the page for the next scriptural passage or hymn. That’s ok – to a point.

But a program for your ceremony it isn’t always necessary or even desirable.

Do I really need to read ‘lighting of candles’ to know that the candles are being lit? When you think about it, the ‘order of service’ simply encourages people to anticipate what is happening next, distracting them from what is happening in the present. It becomes a checklist to be completed. I believe it is more enjoyable to allow the words and actions to unfold.

Instead, why not approach the booklet as a chance to expand and enhance the ceremony experience for your guests, rather than distract them? If you have the time and inclination, a wedding program can provide ‘added value.’

For more creative couples it can even become quite the art project!  And it can serve multiple functions.  Here are some suggestions to add content and value to a program:

When listing the wedding party – explain who they are, your relationship with them, or even where they live. People travel far to attend weddings. You can show your appreciation of their time and effort by making mention of it.

Use photos - of yourself, your family and friends. Even your pet who unfortunately, was unable to attend, but sends best wishes!

Get creative – the program can be made to look like a theater playbill, a menu, a newspaper, a fan, a passport, a map, a chalkboard, anything goes!

Explain rituals that are being performed. Give historical, cultural or religious background, and why it is being used. This is true for religious or secular ceremonies. Remember not everyone is versed in your traditions and will appreciate learning about them.

Give music credits – details on what songs or selections were played and what they mean to you.

If your ceremony is in a unique location – explain why you chose it. 

Readings, poems, lyrics – just as with rituals - explain why you are using them in your ceremony, especially if there is particular story to accompany it. Or, include a poem, song lyric, or other writing that you could not fit into the ceremony. But don’t include the work itself if someone is reading it.

Honor family members with a tribute to them by using a meaningful quote with their name – especially poignant for those who couldn’t attend or those deceased.

For multicultural or multilingual families, have translations of some or the entire ceremony.

If children are involved in the wedding party, they can create the cover or write something special. They might also help by assembling or distributing the booklet. Don’t forget to credit children for any role they play in the wedding and thank them for their support of the marriage. They will appreciate the sentiment, and love seeing their names in print. 

If you do decide to create program booklet, I hope you’ll make it special, but if you are stressed, too busy, or simply cannot take on one more task – don’t do it! While your guests may be delighted to find a program full of surprises, truly, no one will be disappointed that there is none at all.