A marriage needs the support and love of a community, cheering you on when you are doing well, and bolstering you when times are hard. This is part of the reason why we invite wedding guests to attend our wedding ceremony—as witnesses but also as our help in times of need.
To push this concept even further, you can plan to incorporate your guests to help during the ceremony by assigning some key roles. Look at five common wedding traditions that you give to your guests to manage as a meaningful part of the wedding ceremony.
Guest's Vow of Support
Just as the soon-to-be-married couple takes a vow, you can ask all of the assembled guests to take a vow, too. In the Episcopal tradition, this is called the community's declaration of consent. People of many faiths have used this tradition. What happens is the minister or officiant asks the assembled guests, "Will all of you witnessing these vows do all in your power to support these two and their marriage?" The wedding guests then respond, "We will."
An alternative wording to request this community vow is "Will the congregation please rise. A marriage needs the support of a community. Will you, as this couple's friends and family, promise to support them in their marriage, love them, and encourage their love for each other?" The guests can respond with "We will, we promise, or yes."
This community vow of support is a softer replacement to the traditional phrase in the ceremony "If any of you has a reason why these two should not be married, speak now or forever hold your peace."
Additionally, you can also use this group vow or blessing as a modern-day substitute for giving the bride away. Instead of a woman (or anyone about to be wedded) is "given away" by their family, instead, the family (or all guests) can give a blessing to the union.
Blessing of the Rings
If you have a small wedding, you may ask your wedding guests to bless your wedding bands or to imbue them with positive energy and love. Hand them to someone in the front row, and ask for them to be passed around until they come back to the front. It is best if this can happen during a musical interlude. This may not be practical if you have more than 50 guests. In that case, you may just want to just ask a few select people to hold the rings and bless them, as passing them around the room can take too much time, and you might run the risk of losing them.
A candle ceremony is another nice way of harnessing the love of your family and friends. It's like a unity candle ceremony, but instead of just uniting the two families, it unites the whole room.
Each guest is given an unlit candle as they enter the ceremony. At the designated time, the officiant or the bride and groom light the candle of someone in the front row. They, in turn, pass the flame to the person next to him or her, who in turn passes it to the next person. When everyone's candle has been lit, the last person passes the flame to the bride and groom, who use it to light a central candle.
It is wonderful to do this right before the procession so that your guests do not have to worry about fire danger and dripping candle wax for too long. And, if it is an evening event, then exiting the ceremony with the sight of all those candles in the nighttime will be breathtaking.
Standing and Giving a Wish
The officiant should inform the crowd that there will be 10 minutes of reflection and relative silence. During that time, if anyone is so moved, they can get up and give a wish for the couple's marriage or simply an observation. This custom was originally based on a Quaker wedding ceremony but has since become something unto itself. You can shorten the amount of time given to this activity, particularly if your guests seem particularly shy.
It is probably a good idea if you tell guests in advance about this portion of their ceremony, so some can prepare words to say or work up the courage publicly.
Exchanging the Peace
One of the simplest ways of involving your guests is also one of the nicest. Towards the end of the ceremony, each guest will turn to their neighbors, say hello and shake hands. They might say "Peace be with you" or "Peace and love."
Though exchanging the peace is not directly asking for their support, it is helping to form a community and human interaction. And ultimately, it is that community that will support you for many years to come.