Q. We want to design our own wedding programs but aren't sure where to start. How long do our wedding programs need to be?
The general rule is that brevity is best. But we've seen all sorts of wedding programs
-- from single sheets of paper outlining the ceremony events to pamphlets that include song lyrics and full reading passages to bound booklets with special notes to guests, maps, and pictures of the couple through the years. We love all of these ideas! However, keep this advice in mind: Guests should be able to read the program between the time they sit down and the time the ceremony begins, or they should be able to follow along as the ceremony progresses. You don't want people anxiously flipping through pages as you're trying to recite your vows -- that will be distracting for you, them, and everyone involved.
Q. I am having an outdoor, semiformal wedding. I am wondering if it is necessary (and proper) to have a wedding program. My fiance does not want one, and I personally don't care. What is the best thing to do?
A. It's not mandatory to have a program. They're nice mementos for guests and are good places to list who's in your wedding party, thank parents and other important people, and explain any ceremony traditions guests may not be familiar with. They can be as simple as one page printed from your computer if the time and effort involved is your hesitation. But they are not necessary, so the choice is yours. If you don't want one, don't worry about it.
Q. I love the idea of a program, but I don't know the first thing about what should be said in one. What are the more common uses and contents?
A. Your program can be whatever you want it to be. The opening page generally says something like "The wedding of Maria Jones and Brandon Sullivan, July 30, 2009." Most couples then list the names of the wedding party and any other ceremony participants (readers, ushers, and so on), sometimes including the relationships of these important people to the bride and groom ("Maid of honor: Jill Stevens, dearest, oldest friend of the bride"). The couple's parents and sometimes grandparents are listed as well. You may also want to print the readings as well as the names of the musical selections that will be performed. If your wedding ceremony comprises any ethnic or religious rituals that some of your guests may not recognize, consider explaining those customs in your program.
Other than these basic points, you can do whatever you want. Include pictures; the story of your proposal or how you two met; a thank-you to your families and your guests; a tribute to a relative who's passed away -- anything that's important to you. Remember that the program is a wedding keepsake, so really make it your own.
Q. My parents are divorced, and both are remarried. I am close to all of my parents and want them all to feel involved in the wedding. I want my dad to walk me down the aisle, and I asked both my stepdad and my stepmom to do readings at the ceremony. My stepdad said yes, but my stepmom is afraid of public speaking, and I would not want to make her uncomfortable. Can you suggest another way for the guests to know how important she is to me?
A. It's wonderful that you have such strong feelings for all of your parents and that they all get along and will be happily present at your wedding. If your stepmom is uncomfortable with the idea of getting up and speaking during the ceremony, you're right to respect her wishes. Make sure she gets an honorary "mom" corsage to wear and consider having her seated right before the groom's mother as the ceremony starts (traditionally the groom's mother and then the bride's mother are the last to be seated before the ceremony officially begins). If you're having a ceremony program, include something in it about how important all four of your parents are to you.
-- The Knot