Do You Need an Order of Service for a Wedding Ceremony?

An order of service is a piece of wedding stationery which lists everything that’s going to happen in a wedding ceremony. But what purpose does one really serve? Can you have a wedding without one?

If you don’t have an order of service, your ceremony may not run smoothly. Orders of ceremony are often printed with full hymns so guests can sing along or words to a prayer so everybody can join in. They also make good mementos of your occasion. But if you’re having a short and simple ceremony, you may not need one.

Ultimately, it’s your choice. While you may not think you need one, they do help, even with smaller weddings; and besides, they’re surprisingly easy and cheap to have professionally printed!

Do You Need an Order of Service at a Wedding?

An order of service may not be strictly necessary, i.e. mandated by either etiquette or your venue. But they are key to the well-running of your ceremony, so that everybody knows what they’re doing and when.

To understand why they’re so important, though, you need to know exactly what one is...

What Is an Order of Service?

An order of service is essentially a pamphlet or card handed out at the beginning of a wedding ceremony. It details what’s going to happen throughout the course of the ceremony: so, the bride will walk in, music will play, there will be hymns or readings, and so on. This is presented in order so that guests know what’s happening and when.

It may also list who is performing what functions in the wedding. So, it might list the officiant, the ringbearer, the bridesmaids, the ushers and so on.

None of this is strictly necessary. It’s possible to have a simple ceremony without one. But if it’s a particularly complicated ceremony with lots going on, then it would be beneficial for you to have one printed.

In some instances, the venue you’re getting married in may require one. They at least need to know what you want to do, and when. That’s because somebody will need to play music at certain points, perform readings, and so on. So, often, churches used as wedding venues will specify that they need an order of service printed.

If you’re not sure, consult your venue.

Do You Need an Order of Service for a non-Religious Wedding?

As you can see from the description above, many of the included items are from religious ceremonies. Prayers, blessings, hymns and religious readings are all unnecessary if you’re having a civil ceremony. So, does that mean you won’t need an order of service?

Truth be told, one would still come in useful. A non-religious ceremony can be just as complex and drawn out as a religious one; many couples replace the religious reading with poetry or some other non-religious text. The hymn can be replaced with a song, and prayers can still be said (because a civil wedding doesn’t have to be an atheist wedding!)

So, if there are still lots of steps in your wedding ceremony, you will benefit from an order of service. And here are all the reasons why...

Why Do You Need an Order of Service?

An order of service serves an important administrative function: it keeps the guests informed as to what’s going to happen. If you’ve never been to a badly organised wedding before, you might not know how stressful one can be; it’s only when you have that you appreciate what an order of service is for!

Here’s a basic list of what can go wrong if you don’t have one.

Your Guests Won’t Know What’s Happening

The basic function of an order of service is to inform your guests (and perhaps even remind yourself) what’s going to happen, and when. This might not sound too important; if you want to have a more relaxed wedding, you won’t care if everything is exactly on time.

But even if you aren’t timing things down to the minute or second, an order of service is still important. That’s because your guests play a vital role in proceedings, too: from handing you the rings to walking down the aisle and so on. If a guest doesn’t know when they’re supposed to do their bit, they might get their timing wrong and throw out the rest of your ceremony. So, an order of service helps them help you keep everything on track.

Your Guests Will Stress You Out

If your guests don’t know what to do and when to do it, things can and will go wrong. While you’ve been going over the ceremony in your head for months, bear in mind that your guests haven’t. While most wedding ceremonies are roughly the same, if yours is different in any way, this could throw them off.

If you’re fairly easy going, this won’t be an issue. But if people are missing their cues, and guests don’t know what’s supposed to happen next, this can stress you out. And that’s the last thing you want on your wedding day.

Are You Having a Sing-Along?

Most wedding ceremonies have music. The music in your ceremony might only play when you’re entering and exiting the venue. But many couples have music to sing along to at a point or points in the ceremony; others have readings.
If you are planning on doing so, it’s good form to print the words of the tune/reading in the order of service. If you do, it means that:

  • Guests can read or sing along together, even if they don’t know the words. This stops anybody from feeling awkward if they don’t know the tune.
  • With everybody singing or reading along, you create a fantastic atmosphere. Taking part in a communal song or reading is a memorable experience.

Even if it’s a particular long song or reading, that’s no problem. You can print it in its correct place in the order of events. If you have a gatefold order of service, there’s lots of room to print extra things like this.

Orders of Service Are a Way of Saying Thanks

Something else that’s usually included in an order of service is a list of members of the wedding party. It will list everybody from the officiant to the bridesmaids and best man, and everybody in between. Listing the names of everyone in the wedding party is a good idea because:

  • Everybody knows their role
  • Guests can learn who other guests they don’t know are from the order of service
  • It’s a simple way of saying ‘Thank you for helping with my ceremony.’

And that’s not all. At the end of the order of service, couples normally leave a message such as ‘Thank you all for coming today, and to everybody who helped us organise our special day.’ This is a more direct way of thanking your guests!

This isn’t something you need to do, and it isn’t something you can only do through the medium of an order of service. But this is an established tradition which is a small way of giving back to your guests, who may have travelled far and taken valuable time off work to attend.

An Order of Service Makes a Good Memento

Aside from being an administrative tool, an order of service makes a great memento. People, especially those close to the couple, love to keep mementos from weddings they attend. An order of service is a good choice because:

  • The guest will already have one to hand
  • It will be personalised with a pretty design
  • It will list each of the things that happened on the day, so will remind people of what they saw and did
  • If you’ve designed it to include one, it will include a picture, which makes a nice memento on its own

One makes a good keepsake for the happy couple, too. After your ceremony and reception are over, you’ll want to keep as many physical memories as you can.

All that being said, there are times when you can get away without having one. Depending on your circumstances, an order of service may not be necessary.

Can You Have a Wedding without An Order of Service?

If you are having a small wedding, you may not need an order of service. That’s because you won’t have many guests, so everyone can easily stay on the same page. You can talk to people in person so that they’ll know exactly what’s happening and when. 

Also, you may not have as much happening in your ceremony. If you prefer a short ceremony without things like prayers, songs, or anything else other than your vows, then you won’t need an order of service at all. That’s because the ceremony will be simple, and everyone will know that the reception will come soon after.

Even if you are having a small ceremony, you can still choose to have an order of service printed. They make great mementos, both for the couple and for the guests. They still serve a function, too, if a limited one.

But beyond that, they are surprisingly cheap and easy to print. Online wedding stationery stores like Bride & Groom Direct offer orders of service for as cheap as £1.99 each. Every one comes professionally printed with a design and in a colour of your choice, with everything from your names to the running of your ceremony detailed just as you’d like it.

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