Wedding Program Dos and Don’ts

Your wedding program should provide guests with the day’s itinerary. Not sure what to include in a wedding program? Follow along on our guide!

By The Zola Team

Wedding Program Dos and Don’t
Photo by Zola

The First Look ✨

Weddings are a bit like a puzzle. Different pieces come together to form one beautiful day of love. Weddings are also like a puzzle when it comes to confusion.

Your big day is no stranger to scene changes. From the ceremony to the reception, there’s quite a few steps, locations, and events involved in a wedding. This is why so many couples incorporate a thorough and stylish program into their big day.

A program is basically an itinerary for your wedding.

This simple piece of paper keeps guests informed about each part of the service, the members of the bridal party, and any other important (or fun) details related to the celebration. If you want to know what to include in a wedding program, read on for some dos, don’ts, and even a few helpful tips from your friends here at Zola.

Is a Wedding Program Really Necessary?

Some couples may be wondering if a wedding ceremony program is really necessary, or if the whole thing is just a formality. The thing about wedding programs is this: they’re actually super helpful.

For an event as long and intricate as a wedding, you need to tell your guests what’s on the docket. In addition to the basic information that everyone should have, your wedding program is also a way to show off personal elements of your relationship. From professional photos to sweet messages, there are plenty of ways to make your program a unique aspect of the celebration.

The bottom line: Unless you’ve opted for a courthouse wedding, a program is going to be necessary. It may be a bit more work, but your guests (and your future selves) will thank you for it.

Part 1: Everything Your Wedding Program Needs

It never hurts to start on a positive note, so let’s break down our do list first. From the schedule to the sentimental, here are the most important things to include when crafting your wedding program:

Do: Create a Schedule for the Day

First and foremost, your wedding program should provide a schedule for the day. You’ll want to include all the necessary information to help guests go from point A to point B (and C and D, if applicable). This means including the address, date, and time for any and all portions of the wedding, such as:

  • The ceremony: This is typically the first event of any wedding celebration. The average ceremony may last anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, depending on the traditions involved. Whether your ceremony is held at a religious, secular, or outdoor location, it’s crucial to list the address and time for guests.

  • The cocktail hour: A cocktail hour is a popular event that often follows the ceremony. Your cocktail hour will typically take place at a different venue, and guests will need to travel there from the ceremony location. Your wedding program should list the address, start time, and end time of this portion of the wedding, to ensure that everyone knows where they’re headed and how long they’ll be there.

  • The reception: Your cocktail hour and reception may take place in the same venue, but oftentimes these events are split into different rooms. The reception is where you’ll eat dinner, cut the cake, and break it down on the dance floor. Be sure to include the exact area where the reception is being held, just in case your guests get lost.

If your big day is going to take place across multiple wedding venues, it’s crucial that this information is listed in the wedding program. A proper schedule will also help guests gauge the length of each event, too.

Do: Break Down the Ceremony

In addition to a basic schedule for the day, your wedding program should go into greater detail for the ceremony. Weddings across all cultures tend to incorporate different events into their ceremonies, and guests will have an easier time keeping up with a program on hand.

Examples of ceremony events that are worth listing include:

  • Seating of the guests
  • The processional
  • Officiant remarks
  • The vows
  • The ring exchange
  • Pronouncement of marriage
  • The first kiss
  • Closing remarks
  • Recessional
  • Specific cultural traditions, such as:

    • Signing the Ketubah
    • Breaking of the glass
    • The Vara Yatra
    • The burning of the Homam
    • The signing of the Nikah
  • The reading of any religious passages, such as:

    • The Fatihah for Muslim weddings
    • The prayer to Ganesha for Hindu weddings
    • The Misheberach for Jewish weddings
    • The Liturgy of Word for Catholic weddings

Do: List the Wedding Party

Your wedding party will play an important role in your wedding, during both the ceremony and the reception. When your guest list consists of blended family members and friends, there’s a good chance some people won’t know each other.

Listing the names of your wedding party gives guests a clear idea of who is involved, especially during speeches and professional events. Couples may choose to list the names of other important figures, too. Examples include:

  • The ring bearer
  • The flower girl
  • The couple’s parents

Do: Include Your Names

Okay, the guests at your wedding probably already know your names—but this is still a must-have for any proper wedding program. You’ll want to list your and your partner’s name directly on the front of the program, usually in the largest font. This is simply a way to signify that this is your day, and guests may also keep the program as a memento.

It may seem silly, but this is a detail you can’t exclude from your wedding program.

Do: Add Personal Touches

Your wedding ceremony program shouldn’t be all business. Many couples choose to add some funny, sweet, and sentimental touches to their design.

These elements may include messages from loved ones or stories about your relationship. Photos from the past or present will pair nicely alongside these passages and give guests something to read during the downtime between events.

Part 2: Everything Your Wedding Program Could Live Without

Now that you’ve got the dos under your belt, it’s time for some tough love. While everyone’s wedding program will vary, these are some key mistakes couples should avoid making:

Don’t: Write Too Much

Spacing is a vital part of any good wedding program, and there are two reasons why:

  • Photos: If you overload your program with text, or choose a template that’s too small, you run the risk of crowding the page. For couples who want to add photos to their program, this can quickly lead to a spacing problem. Avoid this issue by planning out your layout before you begin the actual writing process.

  • Legibility: This may seem like a no brainer, but your guests should be able to read your wedding program. If the text is jumbled, cramped, or too small, it may be difficult to follow. Leave enough space for a legible message and schedule.

Don’t: Confuse Guests

The information on your wedding program should be clear and concise. Steer clear of inside jokes, inappropriate stories, and unclear scheduling information. Otherwise, you run the risk of confusing your guests.

Basically, you want a wedding program that even a stranger will understand. Read through the program as if you didn’t know yourself, and make sure that it’s still legible and easy to follow. That’s how you know it’s complete.

Don’t: Forget to Print Extras

Wedding programs aren’t the easiest thing to hold onto. Even the most elegant program is still a lightweight piece of paper, and accidents can happen. Whether a strong gust of wind nabs a few programs, or a family member misplaces theirs, it never hurts to print some extra copies just in case.

If you end up with extras after the wedding, you can always keep them in a photo album or even get one framed as a reminder of your special day.

Don’t: Skip Proofreading

Save your guests the trouble of deciphering typos, and give your wedding program a thorough proofread before placing your order. Make sure that both you and your partner look over the final product to ensure that you didn’t miss anything (two sets of eyes is always better than one). Once you’re certain that there are no errors, you can go ahead and purchase your programs in bulk.

Part 3: How to Nail the Perfect Wedding Program

Listing the basics is simple: date, time, location, and names. Beyond these facts and figures, however, you may be wondering how to fit this information into your wedding program wording. For a perfectly worded message that your guests will love, here’s everything you need to know to nail your wedding program.

Keep It Simple

Your wedding program is a chance to express yourself, but don’t get carried away.

It’s crucial to remember that this is a small document, usually limited to one or two pages at most. If you try to fit too much in one section, you run the risk of illegibility.

You’ll want a font that’s large enough to read, but small enough to fit in a pamphlet. Make sure your lines are properly spaced, so that each segment is easy to read. List your schedule vertically, and incorporate longer paragraphs on the sides or on a second page. Your program should be simple, yet elegant—with the perfect balance of readability and style.

Use Loving Language

Your wedding is a day of love! These tender emotions should come through in your wedding program, even if the message is simple. Obviously, we don’t expect every couple to be the next Emily Bronte, but the words you choose can make a big difference.

To send a message with the right amount of oomph, utilize these tips when writing your wedding program:

  • Show your gratitude: It never hurts to thank guests when writing your program. Add a quick, but genuine, sentiment within the body of your program to show appreciation to your attendees. For example: “Thank you for joining us on our special day!”

  • Include dedications: If a loved one has recently passed away, you may want to include a small dedication within your wedding program. This is a sweet way to recognize relatives and friends who aren’t able to share your wedding day. For example: “In loving memory of the Bride’s grandfather, we would like to dedicate this celebration of love to (name).”

  • Don’t be afraid to get sappy: We know sappy can sometimes have a negative connotation, but this is your wedding day. If there was ever a time to get a little mushy, it’s now. Add a short, heartfelt story, let guests know how happy you are, and don’t be afraid of the word love. You want to keep your program brief, but that doesn’t mean it has to be boring.

Part 4: Unique Wedding Program Ideas

Now that you know what goes in your wedding program, it’s time to dive into the fun part: the outside.

Zola users have an advantage when it comes to wedding programs. Our site gives you access to hundreds of unique designs, colors, and even customizable options. Below are some great ways couples can personalize their wedding programs at Zola:

#1 Styles

At Zola, we have hundreds of program designs to fit any style of wedding. Users can filter their results based on style, with a variety of options including:

  • Elegant and classic: This style will incorporate traditional wedding elements, including muted colors, sophisticated fonts, and simple artistic designs.

  • Floral and botanical: If your wedding theme incorporates botanical features, these designs will fit in perfectly. Zola’s botanical wedding programs include earthy tones and floral designs that range from simple to extravagant.

  • Rustic and vintage: The perfect compliment to any countryside wedding—Zola’s rustic and vintage programs integrate the bold hues and natural beauty of the great outdoors.

  • Beach and destination: For couples who want a seaside ceremony or destination wedding, Zola has a wide selection of beachy and tropical designs. From palm leaves to seashells, these fun, yet formal templates add just the right amount of flair to any warm weather wedding.

  • Bohemian: Your bohemian style wedding isn’t complete without a matching program from Zola. We’ve got dozens of designs that incorporate pastel colors and gentle typography for an effortlessly boho look.

  • Romantic: What’s a wedding without some romance? Add an intimate touch to your wedding programs with our selection of romantic designs. From sprawling script to deep color palettes, these templates are perfect for an intimate celebration of love.

  • Minimalist: Sometimes, you just want to keep it simple. At Zola, we understand that not every couple needs an intricate wedding program. That’s why we created a selection of beautiful, minimalist designs in a variety of colors.

  • Modern: Millennial couples will love our take on modern wedding programs. With innovative layouts, unique fonts, and plenty of colors, we’ve got a style for any 21st century couple.

#2 Color

The right color palette can make or break your wedding program. Most couples want a design that matches their decor, and Zola makes it easy to search for designs by color. Zola users can filter their results based on a wide spectrum of tones, including:

  • Blue
  • Green
  • Black
  • Pink
  • Purple
  • White
  • Red
  • Beige
  • Grey
  • Orange
  • Yellow
  • Brown

#3 Custom Photo

We get it—even the most beautiful templates can feel a little impersonal. That’s why we offer a DIY option for our wedding programs.

With the DIY template, couples can upload custom photos to personalize their wedding program. Zola users can also select the typography, color palette, and paper type for a truly unique design.

#4 Foil

For an added touch of sophistication, Zola users can filter their designs based on foil details. Including these metallic elements makes your programs more eye catching and ties into your decor and place settings.

Zola offers foil options in the following colors:

  • Gold
  • Silver
  • Rose gold

Foil may be added to the text or parameters of your programs, depending on the template you choose. No matter where you put it, however, it’s bound to add some much-needed shimmer to this important document.

The Biggest Wedding Don’t: Not Using Zola

All these dos and don’ts are helpful, but the best wedding tip we can offer? Use Zola.

Zola is a one-stop-shop for all your nuptial necessities. We’ve got hundreds of beautiful designs for wedding programs, wedding invitations, and even thank you cards. Whether you want to match your paper goods or give each one a unique flair, we’ve got plenty of options to choose from.

Our hard work doesn’t stop there, either. At Zola, users can create a free wedding website, a virtual guest list, and even an easy-to-use wedding registry. No matter what style of wedding you’re looking for, Zola can help make it a reality. Start wedding planning today!

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