Updated: May 4
It’s time to plan your wedding ceremony...now what?? Don’t feel badly...you’ve never had to do this before! I’ve outlined some of the most important aspect of a traditional wedding ceremony below.
Please note, I recommend strongly having a rehearsal of the ceremony before hand. In my years of wedding planning and photography I have seen so many beautiful ceremonies interrupted or distracted by people who didn’t know where to stand or groomsmen who make an inappropriate comment because they weren’t prepared. Please...for everyone’s sake, prepare your bridal party for this important event. I recommend 45 minutes for a rehearsal.
Start with everyone lined up at the front, where they will be during the ceremony. Then practice the recessional (when everyone exits the ceremony) in the order they leave in. Then, practice the processional (when everyone enters the ceremony) in the order they need to enter. That way, when they walk in, they already know where to walk to and stand.
Here is a diagram of where your bridal party typically stands during the ceremony:
This is the CliffsNotes “characters” section. In a traditional ceremony you will see:
An officiant (the person who is marrying you)
Maid of Honor (typically the one with most responsibilities, probably planned your bachelorette party)
Best Man (equivalent of Maid of Honor)
Ceremony Order of Events
There is no right or wrong way to do a ceremony! In fact, mixing it up a bit can be a nice personalization! Below is an outline of a standard ceremony. Most ceremonies last 15-30 minutes.
Audience is seated. Usually there is background music playing to keep the mood reverent. Once everyone is seated, or as people are filing in, the Officiant can move to stand at the front of the room. For all intents and purposes, the Officiant is the “host” of the event. The officiant and groom are in their positions at the front of the audience.
Officiant: “The audience may rise.” Everyone stands
For your groomsmen, you have two options: The groomsmen are either up front with the groom or the groomsmen escort in the bridesmaids. Either way, *please* be prepared to start the ceremony as soon as the groom walks to the front of the room. The worst thing you can do to your groom is keep him waiting and sweating in front of everyone for 5 minutes while you finish your makeup.
After the groomsmen walk in, the mothers are escorted to their seats. The groom’s mother sits in the front row, in the seat closest to the aisle on the right. The mother of the bride sits on the front row, in the seat closest to the aisle on the left.
Everyone walks slowly. This is a celebration, not a race. Also, the slower they go, the better the photos will be!
If the bridesmaids walk in with the groomsmen, the bridesmaid is on the left of the man. The bridesmaids and groomsmen walk to their places. The Maid of Honor and Best Man stand closest to the bride and groom.
Typically the bridal party enters with the people who will stand on the outside and ends with the Maid of Honor and Best Man entering together.
The bridesmaids and groomsmen who walk together split from each other after they pass the chairs and walk to their own spots. Each couple is a few feet away from the other couples so everyone gets their time in the spotlight.
The most common way to arrange your bridal party at the front is to have them stand in a horseshoe or a 45-degree angle so they can see the bride and groom.
RING BEARER AND FLOWER GIRL
This can be arranged however works for you. Generally it is adjusted to meet the needs of the children’s ages. Typically the ring bearer walks in front or beside the flower girl. The idea is that the flower girl distributes petals for the bride to walk on. She prepares the way for the bride.
If your child attendants are too young to stand quietly throughout the wedding ceremony next to the bridal party, it's fine to have them stop at the end of the aisle and sit with a waiting parent.
The bride enters on the left of her escort. They walk slowly toward the front, arms linked. They stop a few feet from the groom.
*This part is sometimes skipped: The Officiant asks the escort something like: “Who gives this bride to be married to this man?” The escort responds with “Her mother and I”. The escort can unveil the bride’s face.
At this point the escort is usually filled with emotion and hugs or kisses the bride. He then shakes hands with the groom and “hands off” the bride.
The escort can be seated.
Officiant: “The audience may be seated.”
At this point the bride and groom are facing each other, sometimes holding hands. The bride can hand her bouquet to the Maid of Honor. Music can still play, but keep it quiet.
THE OFFICIANT’S OPENING REMARKS
You've heard it a hundred times: "Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today..." Or som