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From the Moment You Say “I Do”: Planning a Joyful Wedding Ceremony

Updated: Feb 14, 2023

Hey there!

If you clicked on this article, chances are that you’re a newly engaged bride who is planning her dream wedding- ah, yes- you’ve come to the right place!

We’re also willing to bet that you’re probably a bit overwhelmed with all that needs to be done, and the endless options can seem like a looming mountain in the distance. Even if we narrow it down to only the ceremony part of the day, there’s a lot to consider- programs, florals, music, the arbor, writing your vows, etc. (Yikes.)

The Barn at Aspen Acres
Photography by Cadey Reisner

Hold up- -it doesn’t have to be stressful or chaotic! We encourage you to take a deep breath, focus on the beauty that will eternally surround the moment you say “I do!” and dive in to this article to explore some innovative ideas to make your wedding ceremony unique. After all, you probably put as much attention into the ceremony as you do deciding what everyone should wear- might as well make it fun!


outdoor ceremony
Photography by Cadey Reisner

A while back, we had the opportunity to sit down with the lovely Mary Maisey-Ireland, a wedding officiant and ceremony planner in the Black Hills who we’ve had the honor of working with multiple times at the Barn. As the owner of Your Joyful Wedding, Mary offered some of her genuine advice on crafting a personal, memorable, and meaningful one-of-a kind wedding ceremony; and we can’t wait to share it with you! Mary has done over 600 weddings and one-of-a-kind ceremonies over the past 20 years. She says, “I love being married and that shines through what I do. I’ve been married to my best friend for over 30 years, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.” So sweet!

When it comes to planning your ceremony, Mary likes to say that “we are only limited in our creativity and comfort zones.” You don’t have to light candles or mix sand (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) in a unity ceremony; feel free to think outside the box! Consider incorporating traditions that represent your individual backgrounds or cultures. Your wedding guests will love watching this special moment because (as the ones who see your relationship on a regular basis from the inside out) they can also see how much it reflects you together. Doing something fun and representative of you will help you feel more at ease as well- no pressure, seriously!

Here are some ideas for unity ceremonies that can be adjusted to represent your unique relationship as a couple:

  • Whisky/wine blending

  • Planting a tree together

  • A pinata (commit to taking out your frustration on that pinata rather than your partner in marriage!)

  • Using feathers representative of different cultures

  • Blending moonstones (or another special item you like to collect together)

Throughout the whole ceremony planning process, couples work one-on-one with Mary through Your Joyful Wedding. She’s careful to take delicate family dynamics into consideration, and is intentional in looking for ways to include parents into the ceremony (if desired) as well. For example, she suggests assigning each parent an item to bring for the unity ceremony- one can bring the sand, the other can bring the jars; or each can bring a type of wine or whiskey; etc. Another idea is to have both parents walk the bride down the aisle- remember, you’re not obligated to keep it traditional if there’s something that makes you happier! No matter what you decide to do, preparation is key- as long as family members know exactly what is expected of them, things will run smoothly! There are small, simple ways to make your parents feel included in a day that probably has many emotions attached to it for them as well. In the end, your wedding day is truly such a beautiful opportunity to celebrate two families coming together, and Mary has found that regardless of background, most of the time parents will rise to the occasion to love and support you both! (Love always wins, huh?)

outdoor wedding ceremony
Photography by Cadey Reisner

Finally, some last-minute tips to consider when it comes to your marriage ceremony:

  • Take photos ahead of time. Mary says this “makes you feel more relaxed and connected to each other. You’ve had intimate connected moments together before you see everyone else, and it helps make the timeline more relaxed!”

  • Plan a moment alone. “After the ceremony, it is lovely to have a few minutes to yourselves- share a glass of champagne and have a little time together before you go party so that you can truly soak up the moment!”

  • Don’t be afraid to cry. If it happens, it happens! Mary told us that “people are worried they will cry, so they hesitate to do a moving part of the ceremony. But tears say that this is a big moment and that you are aware of how big this moment is! So wear waterproof mascara, and I’ll have tissues ready to discreetly offer you.” Now that’s a great officiant!

  • Take your time with your vows. Look each other in the eye, and don’t worry about messing up. This is one of the biggest moments of your lives- don’t rush it!

  • Have an unplugged ceremony. Make an announcement or put up a sign if you have to! Encourage your guests to put their phones down and enjoy the moment with you. After all, we’re guessing you hired your wedding photographer for a reason, right?

  • Have a designated point person. Mary expertly pointed this out. “When someone gets upset or something goes wrong, you go to the appointed person that will solve the problems. As far as the couple is concerned, there are no problems! Everyone else’s main job is to focus on the couple as the center of attention.”

  • Remember that it’s not a performance. Mary says, “We will roll with whatever hiccups there are!” It probably won’t go perfectly, but it will be beautiful. Do what you can to make children who are involved in the ceremony comfortable, and have a rehearsal to prevent any major mistakes, but embrace the real, raw moments that will naturally come.


Hopefully you gained some inspiration or found some helpful tips while reading this! Ultimately, whether big or small, the ceremony is such a beautiful, intimate part of your wedding day. You can choose to take it in so many different directions, so go for whatever feels most representative of you and your future spouse. Just like Mary’s business name implies, your wedding ceremony should be JOYFUL!

Here’s to forever- the fun has only just begun!


The Barn at Aspen Acres

Mary Maisey-Ireland
Photography by Cadey Reisner

To learn more about Mary Maisey-Ireland, visit her website: She’s also on Instagram @marymaiseyireland.

Thank you so much for sharing your passion and ideas with us, Mary!

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