Most people who get ordained online have no idea how to officiate a wedding and this outline and process is an excellent guide.
The main elements of a contemporary ceremony are:
1) Welcoming Guests (thank everyone for coming and let them know how important they are)
2) Opening Commentary (speak to the couple about their relationship and marriage)
3) Reading #1 (can come from anywhere)
4) Imagery (unity candle, blending sand, letter box, champagne toast, etc)
5) Reading #2
6) Exchange of Vows (only around 10-15% of couples write their own)
7) Exchange of Rings (find a tradition that’s meaningful to the couple)
8) Reading #3
9) Pronouncement (send them off smiling!)
There’s no right or wrong way to officiate a wedding, but this outline works well and naturally flows from one part of the ceremony into the next.
Couples are welcome to add or remove readings to play with their ceremonies length, and sometimes have more than one piece of imagery. Interfaith Jewish and Christian couples often light the unity candle and also stomp the glass at the very end of their ceremony. Couples have even jumped the broom (African tradition) and then both stomped on a glass as their guests yelled, “Mozel Tov!” It can be great fun.
If the ceremony is not a religious ritual, there’s no right or wrong way. Weddings don’t have to be somber or follow any ancient format. If the couple wants their dog to escort their rings down the aisle, let them! If they’d like one of their grandpas to be their flower girl, awesome! People love it and it makes for great photos. If they’d like to have friends or family members come up to read during their ceremony, that’s okay too.
The fewer rules officiants have, the more fun couples have. I dressed up as Julius Cesar and wore a laurel and toga for one wedding and have been asked to dress like Elvis. You got it! Those are amazing life experiences to put on a resume and life is short so I try not to take myself too seriously. I encourage you to do the same. Have fun!