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Do You Need Wedding Programs? [Are They Necessary To Have?]

A common theme that often arises during the wedding planning process is what is absolutely necessary. But what about wedding programs? Are they something that you should be looking to provide or are they in fact optional? In preparation for my own special day, I spent some time researching traditions, etiquette and modern trends to find out exactly how to approach them.

So, do you need wedding programs? You do not need wedding programs; they are in fact entirely optional. Although, there are benefits to providing them to your guests. The main ones including: giving your guests greater visibility into the ceremony and sequence of events, ensuring unfamiliar guests learn whom is whom, providing recognition for your bridal party and the ability to add your personal touch and style.

Just consider that programs are an additional expense and your guests will likely leave them behind, or even throw them away after the ceremony.

Whether or not wedding programs are suitable for you and your ceremony is going to depend a lot on context and the complexity of your ceremony.

Further still, it will also depend on your budget and your personal preferences.

Instead, a better way of looking at wedding programs is that they are preferable and a ‘nice to have’ if they are suitable and your budget stretches thus far.

Let us now take a closer look at the other similarly related and common questions asked around wedding programs.

We will be looking closer at the benefits and drawbacks of having them and the specifics if you did decide to go ahead.

We will be finishing up with some suitable alternatives if you did not want, or could not afford them.

So, be sure to keep on reading to get all the information you need!

Are Wedding Programs Necessary?

Wedding programs are generally not considered necessary. That is if we are using the ‘essential’ definition of the term.

Instead, wedding programs are considered a nice touch and something that you may want to do, given your particular context and preferences.

In other words, how effective or useful they will be will vary from wedding to wedding, and the truth is it entirely depends.

Here are some factors to consider as to their usefulness:

  • The complexity of the ceremony – Some ceremonies are short and simple, whereas others can be longer and more challenging to follow along with. For the latter, there may be specific readings, songs or there may even be multicultural or interfaith inclusions. For some guests, these parts may be somewhat confusing without some additional detail, context or translation that a program can provide.
  • The guests invited – How familiar the guests are to both the couple and bridal party should be considered. If you have several guests in attendance who are not familiar with those in the ceremony, then it can help them identify select individuals and help them navigate the day.
  • How you want to use them – Some wedding programs are short and list the basic information about the wedding couple. Whereas, there is definitely the option to include pictures, thank you messages, prayers, or acknowledgements for loved one who are no longer with us.

As you can see there are various things to consider. They are in fact very functional whether you decide to use them or not.

Let us now take a closer look at the benefits and drawbacks to help you decide as to whether or not they are going to be for you.

Benefits of Wedding Programs

  • They Are A Nice Touch – giving your guests direction along with setting their expectations,
  • Something For Guests To Dosome guests will not be familiar with other guests, and may in fact be in attendance alone. It will give these guests something to do before the ceremony commences.
  • Giving The Important Details – Programs typically include the full names and the address of the bridal couple. It can be helpful to guests to learn these details for future reference, the sending of cards/gifts etc.

Drawbacks of Wedding Programs

  • Can Be Expensive – We all have our tastes and preferences, and chances are you are going to want your programs to look a certain way, be of a certain quality and generally fit the theme. Unfortunately, if you did want programs more bespoke for your day, they are going to cost you.
  • Time Consuming – In regards to the entire process. From planning, to ordering, to picking up once they are ready etc. Equally, if you opt to make them yourself they are going to take you quite a bit of time!
  • Wasteful – While some guests will certainly keep your program for future reference, as a keepsake etc., the majority of your guests will either leave them behind or throw them away. Unfortunately, this is just the way it is. Therefore, you should expect a lot of waste no matter how nice they are, how much they cost or how much time went into them!

How Many Wedding Programs Do You Need?

It is generally advised to produce or order wedding programs for 75% of your ceremony guests. This is because not every guest you invite will be able to make it on the day, and not every single guest is likely to take a program.

It is a matter of balancing sufficient programs, without significant waste.

By ordering a wedding program for 3 out of every 4 guests, you should not have too many left over come the end of the ceremony. You’ll also likely have a few additional ones spare if there were to be any last minute guests whom RSVP with a yes.

Below, we take a look at how many programs to order per number of guests.

Wedding Ceremony Guest SizeWedding Programs To Order/Provide

Of course, we have needed to round up a couple on those marked with an asterisk, but this makes it average out at 75% of your total guests while still being a whole number!

Another important point to make, is that wedding programs should ideally be ordered 1-2 months before your special day.

Chances are you will be ordering your programs before you get the full list of confirmed guests!

So if the above method does not sit right with you or you want another way of calculating how many programs you will need you could always take a snapshot at the time of order.

Look at your confirmed guests at this time and then add 25. This should give you a rough idea of how many programs you will need, while giving some leeway for any late responders!

Read more: How Many Wedding Programs To Order [The Optimal Amount Is…]

What Should Be Included In A Wedding Program?

Wedding programs traditionally include all of the important details about your wedding day; from the general timeline to information on the individual members of the bridal party and the finer details of the ceremony .

However, wedding programs can include many other things, and what you choose to include is entirely up to you.

Ultimately, you want to ensure that your programs are helpful and useful to your guests.

So, at a minimum, you should include:

  • Full names of both Bride and Groom
  • Mailing Address for Bride and Groom
  • Wedding location,
  • Outline of ceremony proceedings.
  • Names of participants in the ceremony (Wedding party, officiant, parents etc).

From there, you may want to include any translations, added details or explanations as to any ceremony specifics your guests may require further information on.

Some couples also decide to include the following:

  • Insight into the couple, with meaningful details (how you met),
  • Thank you to guests,
  • Message in memory to family members and relatives no longer with us and whom could not attend,
  • After party details,
  • Pictures, illustrations, photopgraphs

It also comes strongly advised to use the back of your wedding programs, this is an especially good place to leave a thank you to your guests for instance.

Alternatives To Wedding Programs

Having wedding programs for your guests is not necessarily the only option, and there are some suitable alternatives that you may want to consider.

These include:

Wedding Website

You can build a wedding website, or hire a company to build one on your behalf. This will enable you to collect RSVPs, give important information about your wedding, and in fact have an online version of a wedding program.

Depending on your level of expertise and knowledge will depend on how you get this website made. You may have be able to make it yourself cost-effectively scratch or learn how to do so.

Equally, there are many easy to use use website builders out there, including some specifically designed for wedding websites.

Either way, websites can be a great place to put everything in one place, including photos of the day once the wedding is over.

Equally, people can use their phones to access the site and the program on the day of the wedding itself.

Board Outside The Ceremony

Another less techy option, is to simply provide one sign/board outside of the ceremony.

Here, you are essentially having one large program for all of your guests that they can freely see before they enter and take their seats.

This can work particularly well if your ceremony is short, or not overly complex.


In reality, wedding programs are one of those wedding expenses that couples look to save upon.

While they are nice to have, there are many reasons why you may decide against having them.

And while that is perfectly fine, just remember; they can really benefit your guests.

Besides, they do not need to be expensive!

You can either make them yourself at home, or even use free online software such as Canva to do this at scale.

From there you only need to print them and there are dozens of free templates to quickly use to save you a lot of time and effort, while still producing something entirely professional that will seem unique.

Ultimately, the choice is yours. Wedding programs are by no means essential.

But they certainly do serve a purpose and offer you the opportunity to add your mark to your special day. While helping your guests in the process.

Up next: Are Wedding Favors Necessary? [Should I Budget For These?]

Looking to purchase wedding programs? Then my following guides may be of interest:

My other wedding program guides you may want to read: