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Wedding Planning Tips — How to Structure the Wedding Ceremony

Updated: Jan 3

So, wedding planning is almost complete, and the next task on the list is structuring your wedding ceremony.


Are you plagued with questions such as:

  • When does the Officiant take his place?

  • When does the Groom take his place?

  • When do the parents walk?

  • Do the bridesmaids walk alone or with the groomsmen?

  • What order should the wedding party walk out?

  • Do parents and grandparents walk in the recessional?


Today I will walk you through how to structure your wedding ceremony.


Let’s start with defining some terms:

Pre-Processional - the time in the ceremony where honored family members and guests walk down the aisle and take their seats. These guests usually sit in the first and second rows. Anyone can be in your pre-processional, but typically it includes grandparents, and parents.

Processional - the time in the ceremony where the wedding party walks down the aisle to take their places.

Recessional –the conclusion of the ceremony when the wedding party (including the bride and groom) walk back down the aisle.


Now that we know the basic terminology, we can begin structuring the wedding ceremony.


Your officiant will kick things off by taking their place at the altar. They are the cue that the ceremony is about to begin. Having your officiant out first also gives him a chance to make any announcements such as “this is an unplugged ceremony”.


Once the Officiant takes his place and makes any relevant announcements the pre-processional can begin. When determining the order of the pre-processional start with the groom’s side first for each grouping and always end with the mother of the bride being seated last.


For example:

  1. Abe/Joann – Groom’s Grandparents

  2. Bill/Ashley – Bride’s Grandparents

  3. Jack/Lisa – Groom’s Parents

  4. Mary escorted by Wayne – Bride’s Mother/Father


You may be wondering who walks the bride’s mother down the aisle. The mother of the bride can be escorted by her husband (if this is also the father of the bride, he would then loop back to escort her), one of the groomsmen, or another family member.


Once the honored guests participating in the pre-processional have been seated the processional begins. To structure your processional properly you need to decide if the bridesmaids and groomsmen will walk together or separately.


If you want them to walk separately start with the groomsmen first. They can either walk out as a group or individually. Then switch to the bridesmaids who will walk individually ending with the Maid of Honor.


For example:

  1. Groomsmen – Ben, John, Max (Best Man)

  2. Kelly (Bridesmaid)

  3. Lilly (Bridesmaid)

  4. Megan (Maid of Honor)


If you want them to walk together each bridesmaid will be paired off with a groomsman. The best man and maid of honor will walk together.


For example:

  1. Ben & Kelly

  2. John & Lilly

  3. Max & Megan (Best Man/Maid of Honor)


Always have the wedding party line up from farthest out moving in towards the bride and groom.


Once all bridesmaids and groomsmen have taken their place, the ring bearer and flowers girl will make their entrance. If due to their ages it is easier for the ring bearer and flower girl to walk together that is totally acceptable. If you want them to walk individually you will start with the ring bearer.


You will have to decide if you want the ring bearer and flower girl to remain standing with the rest of the wedding party or sit in the front pews. If they are not going to remain standing, have their parent or trusted guardian usher them to their seats once they reach the end of the aisle.


It is now time for the bride’s entrance. Traditionally the bride is escorted by her father, however she can be escorted by any person of her choosing, or even both her mother and father. The bride reaching the altar marks the conclusion of the processional.


You may have noticed that the groom has not been mentioned yet and that is simply because there are a few options as to when he takes his place at the altar.

  1. The groom walks out with the officiant.

  2. The groom walks out with the groomsmen.

  3. The groom escorts his mother or grandmother down the aisle and then takes his place.


Typically, the groom simply takes his place with the officiant, but depending on circumstances one of these other options may better suit your needs.


At the end of the ceremony the recessional occurs. It always begins with the bride and groom and is the reverse order of how the wedding party walked in the processional; meaning that the maid of honor and best man walk before the rest of the bridesmaids and groomsmen. In essence you are working from closest to the couple out.


For example:

  1. Jim & Pam (Groom/Bride)

  2. Max & Megan (Best Man/Maid of Honor)

  3. John & Lilly

  4. Ben & Kelly


The honored guests from the pre-processional can also walk out in the recessional if you would like. In this case they would walk out after the wedding party. They can go in groups by pew starting with the bride’s side or coupled off as during the pre-processional.


For example:

  1. Bride’s Side – Mary, Wayne, Ashley & Bill

  2. Groom’s Side – Lisa, Jack, Joann, & Abe


OR


  1. Mary & Wayne (Bride’s Parents)

  2. Lisa & Jack (Groom’s Parents)

  3. Ashley & Bill (Bride’s Grandparents)

  4. Joann & Abe (Groom’s Grandparents)


If you do not want to have the honored guests walk in the recessional, they can simply remain in their seats as family pictures are typically taken at the altar. This is often the best option for elderly grandparents and makes everything simpler when working to corral family members for photos.


As always remember that this is simply a guide to help you structure a wedding ceremony that best fits your needs. Keep in mind that no wedding is the same. Structure your ceremony to fit your needs and the members of your wedding party.


Happy Wedding Planning!

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