The Traditional Wedding Processional Order
First comes love, then comes the gaggle of loved ones grinning down the aisle, then comes marriage. You probably already know that traditional weddings always come with a processional (and recessional). But chances are, you may not know exactly how the whole thing goes down. Whether you're starting from scratch and want the full run-down or you'd just like a refresher to be sure you're following classic protocol, this guide will answer all of your questions.
Why is a pre-planned marching order important? Structured processionals help ensure that everything runs smoothly, and they make it easier to create your itinerary and time your ceremony's songs, among other things. Plus, there's the appeal of sticking to what's tried and true, which brides and grooms who like to honor the past will appreciate. That being said, feel free to make some modifications to your own processional. Not all wedding parties will look the same (some might not include all of the people listed here), and some ceremonies will divert from the norm. If so, that's perfectly okay—just use this advice as a jumping-off point for your own celebration.
Here's a list detailing the common processional order, which covers when everyone—from the mother of the bride to the bride herself—should walk. We've also thrown in some pointers about the duties of each important person involved to give you a bunch of useful information wrapped up in one go-to guide. After all, walking down the aisle to marry the love of your life should feel like a breeze.
Mother of the Bride
The mother of the bride's entrance marks the start of the processional. After she walks down the aisle, she takes her seat to the left of the aisle in the first row. Or, as in Jewish ceremonies, she and the bride's father escort their daughter down the aisle together, at the end of the processional.
Groomsmen often serve as ushers (as do bridesmaids, in some cases) on the wedding day. If so, they need to arrive early to help with any setup, distribute programs, and escort guests to their seats. They typically either walk in the procession just before the best man, or later enter later, arm-in-arm with the bridesmaids.
The Best Man
The best man is charged with getting the groom to the ceremony on time—marriage certificate in hand—and keeping him calm and relaxed. He stands at the groom's side during the ceremony and signs the marriage certificate. He may also hold the bride's ring (or both rings). He'll typically enter from the side, skipping the aisle entirely, or process in as the last groomsman.
Traditionally, the groom will walk solo down the aisle during the processisonal, but we've also seen grooms take a more sutble approach by entering the ceremony from the side of the venue to take his place at the altar.
An integral part of the ceremony, the officiant is also honored with a spot in the procession. And after he pronounces you man and wife? While there is no obligation to invite the officiant to the rehearsal dinner or reception, many couples choose to do so. If the officiant is included, be sure to send a formal invitation and invite his or her spouse as well; traditionally, they are seated in a position of honor at the parents' table at both occasions.
At the ceremony, bridesmaids precede the maid of honor in the procession. If you choose to pair the ladies with groomsmen for their walk, keep these rules in mind: If there is an odd number of bridesmaids, two women can walk together, or a groomsman can escort one on each arm.
The Maid or Matron of Honor
On the wedding day, the maid of honor sticks close to the bride, tending to her veil, train, and bustle, then walks in the procession and stands by her at the altar. During the ceremony, the maid of honor holds the bride's bouquet and sometimes the groom's ring; afterward she signs the marriage certificate as a witness.
The Flower Girl and Ring Bearer
The Father of the Bride and the Bride
The father of the bride has one of the most sentimental roles at the ceremony: He makes an entrance with the bride, accompanying her down the aisle at her right side. Traditionally, after he gives her away, he lifts her veil, seals his blessing with a kiss, then takes his seat in the front row next to the bride's mother.