What Is an Order of Service for a Wedding Ceremony?

There are lots of different items of stationery you could to order for a wedding. Some are vital, some less so.

What about an order of service: what is it, and do you really need one? Read on to find out...

What Is a Wedding Order of Service? 

An order of service is something you can have printed for your wedding. It is a small booklet with a step by step guide to your wedding day that's handed to your guests. It lists everything that’s going to happen, and roughly what time it’s going to happen too. They let guests know what to expect from your wedding ceremony, which can be long and complex (depending on what kind of wedding you’re having).

In terms of layout and format, an order of service is a small booklet or card. So, the more things taking place, the more pages you’ll need to print on. They’re often left on each seat in your wedding venue, so that each guest gets one, or handed out by the door.

The order of service has more than one name. You might be more familiar with the term ceremony programme; these two terms refer to the same thing.

Order of service aren’t just produced for weddings. They’re made for all kinds of large scale services and ceremonies. So, for example, you might expect to see an order of service at a funeral too. But in this context, and this guide, the term ‘order of service’ only applies to those produced for a wedding ceremony.

What’s In an Order of Service?

In the context of a wedding, an order of service can contain several things. There are usually two parts, the outer cover and an insert. The outer cover can have anything from a simple design, just the words Order of Service or your names date and venue details.

The insert is where you put the content of the order of service. Here, your guests can find everything they need to know about what’s actually happening on your big day. If the ceremony isn’t too complex, then all of this may fit onto one page, if you want to go into detail about the day or add prayers, readings and hymns for your guests to follow during the ceremony then you will need to use all 4 pages of the insert or even add more.

Order of Service Front Page

The front page of the order of service will normally have three things on it. They may be arranged in different ways, but this is what is usually on there:

  • The name of the wedding venue in full.
  • Who’s getting married (the names of the couple). You can have either just your first names, or your full names, depending on how official you want the order of service to look.
  • The time at which the ceremony will take place. This looks best when formatted as “11am” or “1pm”.

So, for example, the front of your order of service might say:

Order of the Day

for the wedding of
Alexandra Jones
Steve Smith

Saturday, 1st August 2020
at 1pm
St Anne's Church, Padiham.

This tells your guests everything they need to know at a glance.

You can also have a design on the front of your order of service. Borders are a classic choice, but you can have any design you like. The Bride & Groom Direct online wedding stationery store has dozens of designs available for you to choose from, so you shouldn’t have a problem finding something you’re happy with.

Order of Service Inside Page

On the inside page, there’s more important information. Here is everything your guests can refer to when they don’t know what’s going to happen next in the ceremony. So, an example order of service might look like this:

  • Entrance of bride with music details
  • Hymn (including words so that people can sing along)
  • The marriage ceremony
  • Prayers (if you’re having a religious wedding)
  • Reading (the name of the text, and the name of the person doing the reading)
  • Blessing (if you’re having a religious wedding)
  • Signing of the register
  • Exit of couple with music details

If you have enough space, you can include the words/lyrics to your reading and song. Doing so makes it clear that the guests are intended to sing along, so bear that in mind!
And if you do plan on doing that, you’re supposed to check that you aren’t breaching anybody’s copyright. Many hymns and older songs are ‘public domain’, meaning they’re allowed to be used by anybody, anywhere. But other songs aren’t, and your venue might take issue with that. So, check with the venue owner before you start your sing-along.

Wedding Party Details

Many (but not all) order of service detail the wedding party, too. It will list them by role, not by name. So, for example, your order of service could feature the following headers:

  • The officiant
  • The ring bearer
  • The parents of the bride
  • The parents of the groom
  • The maid of honour
  • The best man
  • The bridesmaids
  • The ushers
  • The flower girls

...Underneath or beside each of which are the names of the guests fulfilling those roles. You can choose to format this section any way you like. You might want to have bold headers with the names underneath them; underlined headers work well, too. You can figure this out as you’re designing your order of service.

Thank You Message/Credits

The thank you is an optional-but-advised section that sits at the bottom of the order of service, underneath everything else. The point of it is to thank all of your guests for coming to your wedding. So, it might say something like:

Thank you for coming, thank you for helping,
and thank you for making our special day that much more special.

You can also be more specific in your credits, thanking the parents of the couple (especially if they helped pay for the wedding), the best man or bridesmaids, or whoever else you might like. In religious order of service, often the officiant is thanked specifically as well.
As stated above, this thank you is at the bottom of the page. If there’s no room, then you may want to put the message on the back page of the order of service.

Do You Include a Picture in Your Order of Service?

If you would like a picture on your Order of Service this can go in several places:

  • Above or below the text on the front of the order of service
  • On the first inside page of a gatefold-style order of service
  • Printed on any of the pages of your insert
  • On the back page

If you do plan on including one, make sure that there’s still enough room for your text. After all, it’s this that your guests really need to see.

You could pick a picture of the venue, or of the couple. Including a picture like this increases the memento-value of your order of service for obvious reasons!

If you want an elegant-looking design, it can be a better idea not to add a picture. What looks better in that instance is a tasteful border design with understated fonts. That said you can be the judge of what looks best.

Religious Order of Service vs. Civil Order of Service

The order of service you have for a religious ceremony may be slightly different to that of a civil ceremony. A “civil order of service” is usually called an “order of the day”, because it’s not a religious service.

Aside from that, the religious venue you’re marrying in may have its own rules and conventions, this differs from church to church, so this is something you have to clear with the venue beforehand. You don’t have as much freedom as you do with a civil ceremony.
If you are having a civil ceremony as many couples do these days, you can format your order of service any way you like. You’re even free not to have one if you like.

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