In many ways, a wedding ceremony is a show. There is a cast, lines that must be recited and a captive audience. As such, the ceremony needs a program to guide friends and family through the ceremony.

“The purpose of the wedding program is to welcome your guests to your wedding ceremony, to explain to them what will be happening during your ceremony, and to introduce them to the key players of your wedding party,” explains Katie Cochara, owner and lead designer of Bluebird Paper Company in Chicago. “The goal is to take the guesswork out of everything so that your guests don't feel the need to make guesses or ask people around them ‘What the heck is going on?’”

Like other stationery, programs are completely customizable to match the couple’s taste, personalities and overall décor, but there are a few essentials according to Cochara.

On the front of the program, she recommends starting with the couple’s names, the data and location. For single page programs, she also advises including the order of the ceremony on the cover. “This is where you outline what will be happening during your ceremony, including readings or songs that will be sung,” she says.

For the back or remaining pages, couples should list key players, such as parents, grandparents and the bridal party in the order of how they’ll enter the ceremony. Cochara also seems many couples include a quick thank you to friends and family as well as an “In Memoriam” section for loved ones who have passed.

While couples are free to break with tradition as they see fit, Cochara strongly recommends avoiding overcrowding. “As far as mistakes go, one thing I absolutely hate is when couples try to squeeze too much information or verbiage in a small area. If a standard program size (4.75 by 9.25 inches) won't suffice, let's explore a bigger program size, perhaps even a program booklet,” she says.

Planning to tie the knot soon? Here are a few trendy program design ideas to consider for your program.

1. Timeless elegance

One of the biggest wedding trends recently has been a return to traditional styles, especially for stationery. “The great thing about classic and traditional pieces is that they never go out of style. You can look back years from now at wedding program and still be absolutely in love with it,” says Cochara. “That's always the goal for me when it comes to stationery design.”

2. Custom stamps

In another nod toward classic design, personalized monograms have been extremely popular on wedding blogs and Pinterest. Create a stamp of your joined initials or custom motif to brand your programs, favors and other little wedding day details.

3. Double duty programs

Show your guests how much you care with programs that serve multiple purposes, like fans to keep guest at an outdoor ceremony, or contain small surprises, such as tissues (for when emotions spill over) or confetti to toss as you exit.

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