We’ve all been to a wedding where we are met by an usher who hands us a program for the ceremony. These programs provide a guide to the marriage ceremony; and some guests wish to keep these as a keepsake of the wedding. The program is especially useful if there are guests who are not of your faith. It will allow them to understand the sacred elements of your particular wedding service.

They say the devil is in the details, and there are many styles and thousands of ways to write the text.

I recently attended a wedding in which I thought the program so chic—not by what it had, but by what it didn’t. I am a traditionalist, so I’m not fond of cutesy bios, letters to parents and guests, and homages to relatives and friends who have passed away.

Let’s take that last item first. A wedding in most every culture is the happiest of all occasions. It is a rite of passage. A new family is starting out. We’re told, There is a time to sow and a time to reap. Adding the names of the deceased (while you think you’re honoring them) is not right for wedding programs. Sometimes, even lighting candles and prayer mentions make people sad. This is the happiest of occasions and nothing should ever take away from that happiness.

The program I loved was on good, quality paper and happened to be engraved (thermography is fine). There are very few who will notice the difference.

The cover has two block monograms about a 1/2-inch each, with the bride’s unmarried monogram, and the groom’s underneath it. I’m fond of monograms; and this young lady realized she was not yet married, and wisely used her unmarried monogram—adding the groom’s was a nice touch.

The program consisted of two, high-quality paper sheets folded vertically and caught in the middle with a ½-inch beige ribbon. It looked incredible on the ecru paper and matched the bride’s color palette for the wedding. Like a book, the inside left-hand page was blank. The inside right-hand page had ‘The Wedding Ceremony of Mary Margaret Jones to John Reynolds Smith III,’ along with the church and the date of the wedding. The third page was again blank, and the fourth page listed the celebrant and parents’ names (listing the bride’s first, then the groom’s). The maid of honor was listed next, with her title across from her name; followed by the bridesmaids names and their titles across the page. The same procedure was used for the best man, groomsmen and ushers. The last name listed was the flower girl’s and her title.

(Note that there were no silly bios like: I’ve known so-and-so since pre-K, or She’s my bestie or He’s my fraternity brother—a wild man.)

And the last page was intentionally left blank—no mushy thank you to the parents and guests, which should be done privately. This also is a good idea as it would give the couple something nice to say to the guests during the receiving line. For those not doing a receiving line, the couple may choose to go from table to table during the reception and thank their guests individually.

For this particular wedding program, editing it down gave it a chic and elegant appearance.

The last detail I loved from the first program was an insert: It was about the size of a business card and read:

At home after February 15, 2014

Mr. & Mrs. John Reynolds Smith III

109 South Fourth Street

Charlotte, North Carolina 61507

The card fit nicely into a pocket or purse and came in handy when sending Christmas cards or other correspondence for the new couple.

However, you may want your wedding to be fun and have more of a party atmosphere, in which you may use any wording you like. I saw one where it said, The Girls, with their names listed, as well as a few lines about each one. On the other side of the page, The Guys were listed, with equally adorable tales of shenanigans from years past.

In my opinion, you can always have a fun party, but you get only one chance for a first marriage. Being fond of things elegant and timeless, I would choose my first example. But you certainly can go with any program that represents you and your groom as a couple.

I happen to like black ink, but gold or silver also are very elegant. Colored inks such as lavender, green, blue, etc. tend to make the invitation less formal (or more casual, if that’s your intention for it). I always tell a bride, We will give you everything you want, but I won’t let you make a mistake. In this instance, there are no mistakes, just a matter of preference.

I’m not sure about you, but I’m tired of winter. I’m excited about all the spring weddings we have booked this year. So, c’mon spring!

Wedding expert John Sullivan has worked with partner Ken Miesner for 30-plus years at Ken Miesner's Flowers in Plaza Frontenac, where they have collaborated for some 1,200 weddings! 'Like' him on Facebook under 'Wedding Wisdom,' where guests are welcome to post pictures, and leave comments and opinions.

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