By Panashe Ngundu
Even the most casual of wedding ceremonies require a little bit of choreography. And though there are many it’s important to remember that there are no real rules. While this guide outlines a traditional wedding ceremony order of events, keep in mind that it’s your big day, so start planning with your personal touches.
When planning your wedding ceremony order, you may even decide to take a page from another traditional’s book. In Jewish ceremonies, for example, the groom’s parents walk him down the aisle. Then, the bride’s parents walk her down. Perhaps you’ll use this processional even if you aren’t Jewish.
This general wedding ceremony outline will help you determine how to envision your big day. Then, meet with your officiant to discuss your ideas and be open to his/her suggestions. After all, this isn’t their first rodeo — unless, of course, you got your bestie ordained to conduct the ceremony. That’s the great thing about contemporary weddings.
Traditional Wedding Ceremony Order
Wedding ceremony traditions can vary widely across countries, generations, and religions. In the United States, the general ceremony order is similar. We’ve outlined the most common ceremony traditions here. If you’re adhering to a specific religious ceremony, you’ll want to consult with your place of worship for more details before planning.
Seating of Guests
Wedding guests will start gathering around the ceremony site up to 45 minutes before the ceremony begins. You’ll want to enlist some ushers for your big day. This can be groomsmen who can help before the ceremony. It’s also a great way to include a close friend or relative who may not be at the wedding party.
Ushers will help guide guests to their seats. They should seat people front to back, except for the first row or two. These should be reserved for immediate family. You may want to reserve some seats for the flower girl or ring bearer’s parents, or anyone participating in the ceremony as well.
For traditional Christian weddings, the bride’s family and friends are seated on the left. The groom’s family and friends are seated on the right. In the Jewish tradition, the sides are reversed, with the bride’s side on the right and the groom’s on the left.
Seating of parents
Parents and grandparents should be seated last. For Christian ceremonies, grandparents are seated, then the father and mother of the groom, and then the mother of the bride. In Jewish tradition, the parents walk in with the bride. They stand under the chuppah during the ceremony.
The processional can be arranged in several ways. First, the officiant takes their place at the altar. Typically, the groom will stand to their left. The best man may come out at this point, or you may have him enter with the rest of the groomsmen.
Then, the little ones enter, if you’re having them. The ring bearer and flower girl are the last to proceed before the bride. Last, and certainly not least, is the bride. Traditionally, Christian services have the bride escorted by her father on his left arm. Jewish parents both walk their daughter down the aisle.
Once the bride reaches the altar, the groom will typically hug or shake hands with her parents. The bride will hug and kiss her parents and give her bouquet to the maid of honor. Then, the couple will hold hands.
The Officiant’s Remarks
Once everyone has taken their place, the ceremony begins with the officiant’s opening remarks. They may lead with “we’ve gathered here today” or something else. Then, they will address the couple. Depending on the ceremony you have decided on with your officiant or place of worship, this can be brief or lengthy. Your officiant will probably reinforce the importance of the upcoming vows. They may also talk about love and the duties of each marriage partner.
Religious ceremonies typically include some scripture during this time. If you’re having anyone do a reading, this would take place at this point as well. If you’re doing a unity candle or sand ceremony, now is the time to do so.
After the officiant’s remarks, you will now exchange vows. These can be prepared by the officiant and read aloud. Or, you might decide to write your own. You can also choose to read your vows as well as reciting traditional vows. However you express them, these are the promises you are making to one another for your marriage.
The Ring Exchange
Figuring out your processional order can be hard. You’re probably worried about hurting feelings. Or, you might be stressing about an uneven bridal party. Don’t worry. This is common and there are many ways around these issues.
How Should the Bridal Party Stand?
From you and your groom, going outward, the maid or matron of honor and best man stand on either side of you. After that, the easiest way to avoid hurt feelings is to go by height. You can either do shortest to tallest or the reverse. This is an easy way to make your decision, and it has the bonus of being visually appealing.
What to Do if Your Wedding Party is Uneven
It’s much better to have an uneven wedding party than to cut a friend who is important to you. It’s also not much better to ask a friend to be at the wedding party who isn’t that close to you. It’s a huge honor, and you’re asking them for a big commitment of time and money.
Oftentimes, this may mean your bridal party is uneven. For this reason, you may decide to have groomsmen and bridesmaids walk separately. Or, there are many other clever workarounds. Here are some examples:
Have a bridesmaid or groomsman walk with the flower girl or ring bearer.
Wedding Ceremony Order: Many Ways to Say “I Do”
Announcing the bride and groom is the final part of the wedding ceremony order
The best thing to keep in mind when planning your wedding ceremony is that you don’t have to adhere to any one tradition. You can follow a traditional wedding ceremony in order to provide some structure and then make it your own.
No matter how you choose to arrange your ceremony, at the end of it you’ll be married and embarking on an exciting adventure with your life partner.