We didn't want any of the standard fare: "with this ring, I thee wed," "love is patient; love is kind." Since I got married at the ripe old age of 30, I figured most of my friends and family had already heard it. Plus, we aren't religious. Even though our families are, we wanted the ceremony to reflect us, not them.
Because we paid for the whole thing ourselves, we had a leg to stand on. We were able to select our own officiant (my best friend, Andy) and do things our own way.
I started by reading around on the internet (of course) just a little bit. I read about wedding traditions from other cultures and the ways people have adapted them to fit their own ceremonies. Then Matt and I did a rough outline of things we wanted to incorporate: other folks talking (inspired by Quaker ceremonies), a tree planting (inspired by our own environmentalism and poetic sensibility), a quilt wrapping (inspired by American Indian tradition), and the essential usuals (i.e., vows and ring exchange).
After the rough outline with time estimates assigned (we wanted the whole thing to be 30 minutes or less), I talked through the draft with Andy. He added his stamp of approval and I went back through to flesh it out more. Andy wanted it in bullet-point form so he could improvise; I wanted more of a script so I could control the exact wording (again, it's that poetic sensibility thing). We decided to see how it went.
In the end, we pretty much scripted the whole thing. I think it worked out best that way because I think it was easier for Andy to read something.
Here's the script in case you're interested. We tried to incorporate a mix of funny and serious elements. We wanted to drench the whole thing in sincerity (hence some of the cheesy language), but we also wanted to lighten the mood and make the experience more comfortable.
The five different speakers did an amazing job, and each one was perfectly unique. Their messages were so profound and touching. It was particularly cool to be both comforted by a script we knew well and surprised by the unknown element of their monologues.
In the end, I wasn't at all nervous. It was weird, really. I think my nerves were calmed by the fact that we mingled with our guests right before the ceremony instead of having a here-comes-the-bride moment. There wasn't the same build up and anticipation. It was just Matt and I and our wedding party talking with our friends and family. Then we started the cue song and assumed our positions. It worked well for us, but I think each couple has to figure out what makes them the most comfortable.