First, decide what type of program you need for your wedding. For a large, religious wedding, the program can help guests follow the traditions of your faith by listing the order of rituals such as candle lighting, special prayers or blessings, and devotions. If most of the guests will not know the attendants, the program is an excellent place to list them. Include helpful information such as that the best man is the groom's brother and the ring bearer is the bride's nephew.
The wedding program can also be used to restate the name of the reception location, its address and directions if it is more than a block away. Also list what time the reception will start and a description of what will happen there. Some of your guests will surely be from out of town and they may not be familiar with a large city such as Spokane or Seattle. Even smaller towns, like Port Townsend or Ellensburg can be troublesome if you are looking for a rural lodge or inn. Don't assume everyone knows where the only dance floor in town is located. If you are serving cocktails and finger foods in a restaurant two hours after the ceremony, guests need to know to feed younger children before the reception or to plan on having some time to wander the downtown area.
The wedding program can also be a thoughtful and symbolic way to honor family members who have passed away. If you are planning a special verse reading or blessing to remember a loved one, do list this on the program. Family members and friends might also be thinking of a missing parent or sibling. Your tribute might touch many hearts.
Wedding programs are not a required part of the ceremony, but don't overlook them because of the cost. The printer for your other items, such as invitations or napkins, should be able to help find a program to fit your budget. Programs don't have to be three pages long and covered in gilded artwork. Single page programs listing the couple's names, the parents' names, the date, and a quick overview of the ceremony are fine. Try to match wedding colors as far as the ink and graphics go, but you can certainly forgo heavy linen paper, and fancy lettering. A simple line drawing of leaping salmon can have as much impact as a three color, raised ink river scene.
Think about how you can use the program to help your guests feel comfortable with the flow of your ceremony and any useful details about the reception. While it is not a rule that everyone must have a wedding program, they are one of those special touches that impact the overall tone of your day.