The Wedding Processional Order: Who Walks When?
Many couples today are choosing to have a non-religious wedding ceremony, or be married by a friend or family member. Yet an important role of the officiant is to give you guidance in crafting your wedding ceremony, often following a predetermined format. If you are going the DIY route, I want to give you advice on creating a memorable and personal wedding ceremony.
There is no standard wedding ceremony order, but they generally contain most of these elements:
Click here to read about correct order for the processional.
OPENING WORDS OF THE OFFICIANT
The wedding should begin by welcoming your guests. In movies, one often sees
Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today in the presence of these witnesses, to join ___________ and ___________ in matrimony, which is commended to be honorable among all men; and therefore is not by any to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, discreetly, advisedly and solemnly. Into this holy estate these two persons present now come to be joined. If any person can show just cause why they may not be joined together, let them speak now or forever hold their peace.
Another variation is:
Friends, we have been invited here today to share with ______ and ______ a very important moment in their lives. In the years they have been together, their love and understanding of each other has grown and matured, and now they have decided to live their lives together as husband and wife.
THE GIVING IN MARRIAGE (optional)
The traditional wording is "Who gives this woman to be wedded to this man" but in modern weddings many couples opt for something such as "Who supports this couple in their marriage?" or "Who supports this woman in her marriage to this man?" or choose to leave it out altogether. Giving Away the Bride: Traditional and Modern Alternative Wordings
AN OPENING PRAYER OR READING
This will generally set the tone of your wedding. It could be serious, humorous, sentimental, or elegant. Typically, it says something about love, relationships, or marriages. Here are some examples of wedding readings.
DEFINITION OF MARRIAGE
Here the officiant says some words about marriage in general. He or she will most likely talk about the seriousness of the solemn vow you are about to make, and the new life together you are creating.
click here for some sample wedding vow wording
SECOND READING OR SONG Ceremony music
EXCHANGE OF RINGS OR GIFTS
The bride and groom say something like "I (name) give you (name) this ring as an eternal symbol of my love and commitment to you." Sample ring ceremony vow wording
LIGHTING OF UNITY CANDLE OR OTHER UNITY CEREMONY (optional)
Many couples are choosing to add a unity ceremony. They may choose to do this in silence, with music playing or they may create vows to say about the joining of their families. Unity candle wording, and alternative unity ceremonies
This could be a poem, a prayer, or a sanctioning of the marriage. It is generally the "final thoughts" of the officiant.
DECLARATION OF MARRIAGE
The officiant typically says something akin to "By the power vested in me by the State of _______, I now pronounce you husband and wife" or for same-sex couples, "I now pronounce you married." This is followed by the first kiss of the newly married couple. The officiant traditionally says, "You may now kiss the bride". Modern couples often find it strange for someone else to be giving permission to kiss a grown woman. So now, either the couple kiss immediately after the declaration of marriage or the officiant says something like "you may now kiss each other."
INTRODUCTION OF NEWLYWEDS
The officiant says "I present to you Mr. and Mrs. ________" if they are changing their names, or "I present to you the newly married couple, Jane and John" if they are not. The guests stand and applaud, as the couple then lead the recessional out.
One of the grandest parts of any wedding ceremony is when thebridal party makes its entrance. The air is full of anticipation, and the groom anxiously awaits his first glimpse of his bride in her wedding dress. But do you know what order your bridal party should walk in? And who escorts the mother of the bride?
Different types of wedding processionals
The order of wedding processionals follows a general pattern, but varies according to religious traditions. For example, here is aCatholic wedding processional:
The priest, groom, and best man enter through a side door and wait at the altar.
The groomsmen and bridesmaids walk down in pairs, starting with the two who will stand farthest from the bride and groom, and ending with the best man and maid of honor.
The ring bearer and/or flower girl
The bride and her father, or other close family member. The bride walks on the left side. If the bride's escort is her father, he leads her to the front of the aisle, then takes his seat next to the bride's mother.
See a sample Catholic wedding program
However, for a Jewish wedding processional, the order goes something like this:
The Rabbi and/or cantor
Grandparents of the bride, who are then seated in the first row
Grandparents of the groom, who are then seated in the first row
Groomsmen, walking in pairs
The groom, who is escorted by his parents.
Maid or Matron of Honor
Ring bearer and/or flower girl
The bride, escorted by her parents
And for a Protestant wedding, this is the traditional order of a wedding processional:
The mothers of the bride and groom are seated after all guests are seated, and immediately before the start of the processional music. They are usually escorted to their seats by a brother of the bride or groom, or by another usher.
After they are seated, the officiant, groom and best man enter by a side door and wait at the altar.
Groomsmen may also enter by a side door, or can escort the bridesmaids.
Ring bearer and/or flower girl
Maid or Matron of Honor
The bride, escorted by her father or other close male family member or friend. At the front of the aisle, her escort can remain standing with her until the minister asks "Who gives this woman in marriage?" to which he responds "I do," or "Her mother and I do." However, some people feel this tradition is old fashioned and sexist, and choose to forgo it. In such a case, her escort walks with the bride to the front of the aisle, and then takes his seat in the front row.Read more about Giving Away the Bride Traditions and Modern Alternatives
For a non-denominational ceremony, a secular ceremony, or a non-traditional ceremony,you can either borrow liberally from one of these traditions, or make up your own rules.
In all cases, the bride traditionally stands on the left, and the groom on the right. This dates back to medieval times when the groom might need to defend his bride in the middle of the ceremony, and wanted to leave his right hand, his sword hand, free. While few grooms even carry a sword anymore, the tradition has lasted.
A wedding processional using two aisles
People tackle the problem of two aisles in a variety of ways. You can choose to only use one aisle, but this means that many of your guests will feel far from the action. I often advise couples to do the processional up one aisle, and the recessional down the other. Another alternative is to have bridesmaids walk up one aisle, and groomsmen up the other. The bride and groom can then each choose an aisle to enter through.
A wedding processional with a small bridal party
If you only have a few people in your bridal party, it's a good idea to send them up one by one. For example, if you had a best man, maid of honor, flower girl, and ring bearer this should be the order
Groom takes his place at the front
Best man enters
Maid of Honor walks up aisle
Bride, with escort if she has one.
With such a small wedding party, it's probably not formal enough to warrant a formal seating of the mothers and grandmothers. However, if you still want to do this, let the best man seat the grandmothers and the groom seat the mothers as part of their entrances.
Don't forget to smile! It's a good idea to have either a coordinator, or a friend with a written list helping to line up the bridal party and telling each person when to go. They can stand just beyond where the guests can see them. They should also remind each person to smile when they're walking down the aisle!
Components of a Wedding Ceremony
Generally a wedding ceremony consists of several parts beginning with the Entrance of the Wedding Party usually to music then:
1. Welcome or Introduction done by the Officiant.
2. Presentation of the Bride to the Groom by either the parents or special person.
3. Reading of a Poem or Bible verse by Officiant or special person.
4. Recitation of the Wedding Vows either traditional or words written by the couple.
5. Exchange of rings and/or giving of gifts to children of the couple.
6. Any special event like lighting candles, drinking wine, or other special ceremony addition.
7. Declaration of Marriage where the Officiant declares the couple married and closing remarks.
8. The First Kiss as a Married Couple.
9. Exit or recessional usually to music.