The Ultimate Guide to Wedding Processionals

So you've planned the reception (it's going to be totally awesome!) and now it's time to think about your ceremony. You probably have a good idea of what you want for your vows, the readings, and your walk down the aisle, but what about everyone else's? You'd think getting those other important people (like the bridal party, the mother of the bride, and officiant) to where they need to be would be easy, but in reality? There's a LOT to consider in order to ensure the ceremony starts off as smoothly as possible. Here's everything you need to know about the wedding processional process.
Photo by Keenan Barber on Unsplash
Photo by Keenan Barber on Unsplash
The first order of business to discuss? Whether you're having a religious, civil or military service. Family traditions and the formality of the ceremony will also influence the order of the processional. In a Christian ceremony, the bride is escorted by her father while the groom waits for her up front with the officiant (he doesn't process). In a Jewish wedding, both the groom's parents escort him down the aisle (dad on the left, mom on the right), and then the bride's mom and dad walk with her. Here's a rundown on some of the most common religious ceremonies go.
Civil Ceremonies: There are no set rules on how the processional has to play out for non-religious nuptials, so it's up to you to decide how you want your VIPs to walk into the ceremony. Some couples borrow from religious procedures or come up with a completely new structure. In these types of weddings, the most important thing is that the couple feels like the ceremony represents them and their relationship. If the groom doesn't want to process, he doesn't need to!
If the bride wants Military Matrimonies: Since military weddings can be either civil or religious in nature, the order of proceedings at those ceremonies will vary from couple to couple. The only real difference at these weddings (other than the to-be-weds attire) will be during the recessional, when the just-married couple makes their exit under an arch of drawn swords. However, regardless of whether you're having a religious or civil wedding, most ceremonies follow the same basic order:
Photo by Redd on Unsplash
Photo by Redd on Unsplash
Grandparents: If your grandparents are still in the picture, they usually kick off the proceedings. The groom’s paternal grandparents enter first, followed by the groom’s maternal grandparents. Next comes the bride’s paternal grandparents and then her maternal grandparents. If one of the grandparents in a couple is deceased, the single grandparent can either walk down the aisle alone or can be escorted by a family member of the opposite sex who is not in the wedding, such as a single male cousin walking widowed grandma down the aisle.
The groom’s parents: Next up are the groom's parents. If the mother of the groom wants her son to escort her down the aisle, then his father will follow right behind. The mother of the bride: If the MOB is not escorting her daughter down the aisle, she comes next in the processional order. Her son or another male family member (like her brother or favorite nephew) can walk with her. The father of the bride may also escort his wife, before returning to the back of the ceremony site to usher in the bride.
Divorced parents: If the bride and/or groom have parents that are divorced and are making an entrance, the mother of the bride or groom will enter after the father of the bride or groom and the stepmother. If the parents get along, they may choose to sit together.
The groomsmen: If the guys are proceeding (they don't have to — they can enter from the side of the ceremony site instead), they walk in the reverse order of how they’ll stand during the ceremony. The best man walks in last, as he'll be standing closest to the groom. The groom: The groom doesn't always walk down the aisle either; he can enter from the side right before the processional music starts to play along with his guys. If he does choose to walk, he makes his entrance right after his best man gets to the front of the ceremony site. Often the groom’s parents will escort him if he walks.
The officiant: Often the officiant does not process, entering from the side of the ceremony site before the processional music begins to play. But sometimes couples choose to honor their officiant with a spot in the wedding processional, right after the groom takes his place.
The bridesmaids: Next up? The 'maids. The lovely ladies walk in the reverse order that they'll be standing during the ceremony. They can walk in pairs or alone, with the maid or matron of honor entering last (and typically alone).
The ring bearer(s) and flower girl(s): Any kids that are involved in the wedding enter the ceremony right before the bride. The boys and girls may walk together or separately, depending on the age of the kids and the to-be-wed's preferences. Sometimes the ringbearers and/or flower girls will even hold up a sign announcing the bride's big entrance.
Photo by James Bold on Unsplash
Photo by James Bold on Unsplash
The bride: And last but not least, the bride enters! She is usually escorted by her father or another chosen escort (a father-figure, her brother, her mom, whoever she wishes). Some brides choose to be escorted down the aisle by both her parents, as is typical of Jewish ceremonies. While the processional marks the start of the ceremony, the scheduled entrances of family, wedding party and the bride aren't steadfast rules. Instead, use these as guidelines for how to structure everyone's walk down the aisle and adjust as needed.  
About the author
Creative in New York City.