Everything You Need To Know About Wedding Programs

Make sure your guests know what's up

Are wedding programs an absolutely essential part of getting married? Absolutely not. Are they a fun (and actually totally functional, sometimes very helpful) thing to have? Yes, without a doubt. Wedding programs can tell your family the name of your former college roommate bridesmaid they’ve never met. They can gently, but firmly, tell people to put their damn phones away during the ceremony. Or low-key brag about how cool you guys are for walking down the aisle to an instrumental version of Beyonce, instead of Wagner. More simply,  your wedding program can tell people what to do during your ceremony and when. This is super helpful if you’re having a religious service, or a service with traditions most of your guests don’t know. It’s all fun and games till nobody knows the words to the hymn, or that they’re supposed to put their hands on you during a blessing, or what the Jewish rituals you’re doing mean. The wedding program is a great way to help people feel informed (and let them know they’re not stumbling around).

And if, like me, you’re having a religious wedding with traditions that many of your guests are not familiar with, they can be downright vital. All that said….

Do You Need Wedding Programs?

You might, but also you might not. There are times when wedding programs make a lot of sense, but sometimes you really don’t need them. So before you add “design and make wedding programs” to your to-do list, think about how helpful they will be.

When You Probably Do Want Wedding Programs

  • If you are doing a religious ceremony and guests could use some guidance on how to participate.
  • If you need your guests to participate in your ceremony with a song, reading, or prayer many of them won’t be familiar with.
  • If it’s important to you that guests know who your attendants are.
  • You want to memorialize loved ones who you’ve lost, on paper.
  • You want to thank people or otherwise call out individuals who are important to you.

When You Don’t Need Wedding Programs

  • If your ceremony is super straightforward or short and does not involve any guest participation.
  • If the majority of your guests are familiar with your ceremony structure and won’t need instructions.
  • If your ceremony is in a public park or on a beach or another remote location and you’re concerned about clean up and or accidental littering.

What To Include On Your Wedding Programs

What goes on your wedding program? Well, here is a basic list that you can add and subtract from. (For more ideas, check out these comments.)

  • Your names
  • The wedding date
  • The order of the ceremony
  • Words and instructions for parts of the ceremony you want people to participate in (think hymns, prayers, ring warmings)
  • Readings or music that you want guests to have in front of them (or that you want to memorialize for yourself for the future)
  • Explanations of rituals that guests might not be familiar with
  • Names of the wedding party, ushers, readers, the officiant, etc.
  • Names of your parents, other important family members
  • A note of remembrance for family members that you’ve lost
  • Any special instructions you have for guests during the ceremony (examples: no phones please, please throw the flower petals during the recessional)
  • A short thank you

How Do We List OUr Parents Names (When It’s complicated)?

Not everyone is going to have the easiest time wording their wedding programs. If you’ve lost a family member, or your families are blended and it’s not as simple as just listing your parents, that’s okay. First, remember that you’ve probably already negotiated how to name and list your parents on your wedding invitations, so instead of trying to figure it out all over again from scratch, fall back on whatever decisions you made about your invitations, and use that as your guide. And if it gets too thorny, just don’t include family names at all: offer a note of thanks to your families and community, and call it a day. Here are some ideas for ways to tactfully welcome everyone on your wedding program:

  • Parents of Partner One:
    Parent A
    Parent B & Step-Parent
    Parents of Partner Two:
    Parent A and Step-Parent
  • Together with their families, Partner One and Partner Two are delighted to welcome you to their wedding ceremony
  • Just have your names and the dates. (It’s not particularly traditional to list parents on wedding programs, so if it’s complicated, feel free to just skip it).

In Loving Memory section of wedding program

How To Word AN “In Loving Memory” Section

Wedding programs can be a beautiful place to mention those who have passed away, but figuring out how to talk about a lost loved one can be really hard and emotionally complicated (trust me, I’ve been there). First, keep in mind that if you’re listing parents as “hosts”, that is not where you want to list the name of the deceased. The host line implies that those people are living, and inviting you to a party (and nobody wants to have to answer “Where is your dad?” questions at your wedding). Instead, it generally makes the most sense to have an “In Loving Memory” section. If you come from a religious tradition, this is a great place to use wording that’s specific to your practices (in the Jewish tradition we say “In Blessed Memory”, and add Z”L after the names of the deceased. Your traditions will vary).

Here is some sample wedding program wording to memorialize loved ones:

  • We are holding in our hearts those who are no longer with us, Robert Flynn, Partner One’s grandfather, and Chloe Edwards, Partner Two’s mother.
  • As we celebrate, we are also remembering Maria Vazquez, Partner One’s beloved aunt, with the lighting of a memorial candle
  • Today is dedicated to the loving memory of Alexis West, Partner One’s sister
  • We remember Josh Greenburg Z”L, may his memory be for a blessing

Wedding Program Design

In terms of design, your wedding programs can be as simple or as complicated as you want them to be. You can pick a great design off Minted, throw in your text, hit order, and be done (when we threw a ten-year anniversary party, that’s exactly what we did). Or you can come up with a beautiful DIY design that mixes form and function, like printing the text on a fan for a warm summer soiree. And just as there are as many options for program design as there are people, there are as many price ranges and designs. If paper is your passion, you could go for an expensive deluxe option, complete with embossing, luxurious linen stock, and custom illustrations. Or, you could make some copies at the local copy shop for a whopping thirty bucks, and call it done.

When it comes to actually whipping up the design, you can go complicated or simple. For the former, consider enlisting a designer to create a custom look, or get yourself a professional program such as Adobe InDesign. On the simple side, a basic word processor is totally possible! One hack with a simple, word processor-produced program is going for a heavy, statement-making cardstock or paper style (even Kraft brown for a rustic look works) and doing some simple post-printing embellishments such as a ribbon or wax seal. Having the local print shop print for you can save you a lot of hassles (hi, paper jams) but if you do want to get some miles in on your home printer, opt for a straightforward layout: think wide, spacious margins, a simple column format, and a size that just requires one cut down the middle (with a paper cutter, please!) on a standard letter-size paper.

And with that, here are some of our favorite wedding programs.

Wedding Program Ideas

Do It Yourself wedding programs
Stack of program flags on grey table.

Photo and Tutorial by Pipkin Paper Co.

These program flags are super excited to be here—just like your guests. This tutorial offers a free printable and instructions—but be warned: this is a slightly next-level DIY, so read all the instructions and get a team together to help (or just skip the fabric transfer and use the paper cheat at the end).

Stack of programs with photo strips pinned to them, in a basket.

Photo by Becca Howell via Becca Howell

Attaching photo strips of you two being your regular goofy selves isn’t just adorable, it’s as easy as treating yourselves to a trip to the photo booth. Just make copies on cardstock, cut, and attach with some mini clothespins or fun paperclips.

Elegant Programs

Woman holding stack of beribboned programs.

Photo: Jonas Seaman via Style Me Pretty

The silk ribbon copper statement bows on these programs scream all kinds of luxe. Keep it simple, but add nice ribbon, that’s our motto.

White, metallic program with ribbon on marble table.

Invitation Design: Old City Press /  Photo: Vicki Grafton Photography via Style Me Pretty

Soft blush. Subtle metallic details. This restrained program is pure simplicity, done well. To achieve this look, go for a few high-impact, luxurious elements like gold or embossing, and let them sing.

Overhead view of a white wedding program set.

Photo & Design: Simply B Prints

Like a cloud of angelic details, this simple white-on-white option is divinely chic. Plus, you and your beloved can enter married life with a wax seal—not the most practical, perhaps, but super fun for the occasional fussy, old fashioned handwritten correspondence.

Functional Wedding Programs

A selection of wedding programs

Invitation design: Maemae Paperie Via Grey Likes Weddings

These Wes Anderson-inspired fan programs are perfectly quirky, and will keep guests cool as they wait in the sun. Here’s a tutorial if you want to make your own!

Three confetti pouches with program text on them, sitting in pile of confetti.

Photo: That Party Chick on Etsy

How playful are these confetti pouches-meets-programs from Etsy? They’re your program, and your end-of-ceremony confetti!

Handkerchief on table with flowers.

Photo: The Polka Dotted Bee on Etsy

These functional little hanky programs from Etsy, are actually pretty darn elegant, as well. You can sob into them, wave them in a second line, or hold on to them for memories. Or all three.

A wood board with a wedding schedule printed on it.

Photo: Paige Jones Photo via Style Me Pretty

Think outside the paper ream. Beautiful reclaimed-wood textures, repurposed mirrors—even leaves!—can all make for eye-popping program media, not to mention its eco-friendly appeal. Here’s a general wood sign tutorial to start from. Plus: You only need to make one!

Woman holding wedding program with pocket for handkerchief.
Design & Photo: The Perfect Details

These pretty handkerchiefs double as favors. And, your guests will thank you when their mascara starts to run.

Hip, Modern, and Playful Programs

Watercolor programs designed by Kelly Fuad with illustrations by Shaina Jung

Custom watercolor illustrations beautifully explain the traditions of this Sikh ceremony, and make for a stunning keepsake of the wedding day.

A woman holding a wedding program designed to look like a newspaper

Photo: Creative Union Design Via Etsy

Breaking news: Your wedding programs are amazing, thanks to a cool, customizable template via Etsy.

Hand holding up see through menus.

Photo: Saffron Avenue

Angela at Saffron Avenue dreamed up these clear menus (printed on projector film) and the result is a modernist’s dream—that could work on programs, too!

Wedding weekend booklet on table

Photo & Design: Misty Manley Amizich

Adorable, vintage-look, camp-themed stationery suites, including matching-everything, from programs to invites to darling extras, are having a moment. Check out this designer’s wedding collateral for so much inspiration.

Obsess-able Details

Stacks of programs with fir sprigs in a box

Photo: Daring Wanderer, designed by the couple, via Junebug Weddings

Affixing twigs of seasonal, pretty botanicals gives an added au naturel flair.

Wax seals scattered on table

Photo: Sweet Ophelia Design on Etsy

One little on-theme extra, like these beautiful wax seals, can really take the impressive level up a few notches.

Did you do wedding programs? What did you learn? What information did you include on your programs? Photos or it didn’t happen!

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