So you want to craft a processional…

January 29 | Guest post by Jessie Blum
Jessie BlumThey ♥ OBB; we ♥ them is a New Jersey celebrant who specializes in crafting wedding ceremonies for nontraditional couples. She's also full of tips for those of you crafting your own wedding ceremonies from scratch. Here is some of her super duper helpful advice.

Entrance of bride
Photo by Huw Thomas

A processional is an important element of any wedding ceremony. We're creating a special moment that separates the mundane, everyday life from the extraordinary, ceremonial moment of your wedding. Most of us don't often get grand entrances, with carefully planned out music choices, escorts, and flowers. Processionals are also great ways to honor special guests who have contributed and supported you, by giving them a special entrance, too.

I'm going to talk through a fairly traditional processional. Although I'll be using the terms "bride" and "groom," this doesn't mean that ANY of these positions and traditions can't be used by anyone of any gender in any way they want… [Note from editors: we firmly believe that "bride" is a state of mind, not a set of genitals.]

Outlining the processional

Typically, anyone who you would give flowers to (corsage, boutonnieres, etc) is involved with the processional. This usually includes:

  • Grandparents
  • Parents
  • Bridesmaids
  • Groomsmen
  • Ring Bearers
  • Flower Girls
  • And, of course, the folks being married

It does NOT usually include readers or ushers (which isn't to say it can't).

Sometimes, the officiant is part of the processional as well, either entering with the groom or as the first person to walk in. With my ceremonies, I prefer to enter to already be at the front, entering prior to the music beginning, so I can easily make any announcements (like for an unplugged wedding ceremony!), thus cueing the actual processional to start.

In more traditional ceremonies, the groom, best man, and groomsmen are already standing at the front, having entered from the side with the officiant, or they were already milling around prior to the ceremony, greeting guests and perhaps acting as ushers, and casually make their way to the front, prior to the music and seating of honored guests.

And then the music begins…

If the groom is planning to enter as part of the processional, he can enter at this point and stand at the front and watch the rest of the processional. If the bride and groom are not seeing each other before the ceremony, I recommend the groom enter now, so there's not a chance of them spying each other.

The honored guests are seated next…

They're usually seated in the following order:

  1. Groom's grandparents
  2. Bride's grandparents
  3. Groom's parents
  4. Bride's parents

Usually, any women without an escort can be walked down by an usher or a groomsmen. Often times, the bride's mother will not have an escort, because the bride's father will be entering with the bride — an usher, groomsmen, or sibling of the bride and groom can escort her, or she can walk by herself.

Next, comes the bridal party…

  1. Groomsmen, with the Best Man last (if not already standing at the front)
  2. Ring Bearer
  3. Bridesmaids, with the Maid of Honor last
  4. Flower Girl

Sometimes, my couples will choose to have the bridal party walk in together — bridesmaids and groomsmen paired up, to escort each other down the aisle. This is an option as well, and one that I really love. I think it shows how your friends are there to support you, since it's the two sets of friends coming together. If you choose to go that route, you can also have the ring bearer and flower girl enter together, or separately, if you choose.

I almost always recommend that kids, when they get to the front, are seated with their parents or reliable friend/relative. Have them sit in the first or second row, so they can easily get there, with a little prompting from the officiant. Kids wiggle a lot, and you want to make sure they're comfortable and not distracting during the ceremony. If the kids in your bridal party are under two, I highly suggest having a grown-up escort help them down the aisle.

And then, the music changes…

There's a moment, and the guests usually stands up (with or without my prompting!), and the bride enters, either escorted by her father, her brother, her mom, her children, someone else equally important, or not escorted at all.

Once she comes to the front, her escort (if she has one) lifts her veil up (if she has one), gives her a big kiss and hug, and greets the groom. Her escort is then seated, the groom takes her hand, and they walk towards the officiant together.

Now, of course, there are near ENDLESS variations and tweaks and changes that can happen with the processional. Let me try and focus on a few of my favorites, as they can easily become overwhelming…

I LOVE when the groom gets a big moment in the processional

My favorite is borrowed from the Jewish tradition: after the bridal party enters, the groom is escorted to the chuppah by BOTH of his parents, followed by the bride, also escorted by both of her parents. I think this is a great way to incorporate your parents into this important moment in your lives, as well as make sure that the groom gets a bit of the spotlight on HIS big day, too!

Can't decide between two escorts?

Maybe your dad and step-dad? Divorced parents that don't want to walk you in together? This usually works if there's a bit of a walk to the actual aisle, but can be adapted easily. Have one of them walk you from your entrance point, to the beginning of the aisle, where the other is waiting for you. They swap, and the second escort walks you to the groom.

This can also work with the groom acting as the second escort — have him enter just before you, and wait at the beginning of the aisle. Your first escort will walk to the groom, give you a kiss, and the groom and the bride will then walk up the aisle, together. I love that.

My favorite entrance is to have the couple enter together

This is especially popular with same-sex couples. To me, this symbolizes entering into marriage as partners and equals, and really sets the tone for the rest of the ceremony, too.

I've also had same-sex couples who will create more than one aisle, so each partner gets their own special moment to walk in. Would you rather walk in by yourself, without an escort? That's okay, too. You want to do what feels the most appropriate for you and your partner.

Don't be afraid to get creative with what works for you!

When I was married, my husband was escorted down the aisle by his mom and his grandma, two very important women in his life, and I was escorted by my mom and stepdad. My husband walked his mom and grandma to their seats, then took his place at the front. I, on the other hand, walked with my mom and stepdad to the beginning of our aisle. They walked the rest of the way together, and took their seats at the end. I then walked down the aisle myself.

Your officiant will probably have some suggestions and ideas for you as well. If it helps, you can always sketch out ideas and plans to have a better understanding of the order you'd like everyone to enter.

Taking time to think and plan your processional out can help to set the tone for the rest of your ceremony, and is an important element to not overlook.

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  1. I feel like this is so timely for me! We're having our vow renewal/getting weddinged ceremony this summer and I have no clue how I want to go about the processional. We're getting married outdoors, so everyone has to walk in at some point. But, it's really important to my spouse that they get to wait at the front for me. I don't feel right being escorted in by my Dad, because this is happening on my fourth wedding anniversary. Yet, I don't think I want to walk in alone either. I'm not sure what to do, but this definitely has me thinking through some different options.

  2. This was very useful! We're planning on going off the beaten path, but this really helps to get a better idea of where the beaten path is in the first place! I really like the advice-type posts written by wedding pros, and the editors do a very good job of matching the posts to the open, non-judgmental tone of the site.

    11 agree
  3. My sister had an outdoor wedding on a rainy day. It was nice to have the bridal party walk in in pairs so that the bridesmaids didn't need to manage a bouquet and an umbrella. Just something to consider.

    Also the pictures of the best man squarely holding the umbrella over himself instead of over me are hilarious.

    7 agree
  4. We don't have any wedding party, so we're doing it this way:

    Grandparents
    Siblings/Niece
    Parents
    Him alone
    Me alone

    No one will be standing up near us so it's really just people in their honored seats, and I like that we'll both get a moment walking down the aisle, instead of him sneaking in and waiting up there for me like I've seen at so many weddings!

    3 agree
    • Oh my gosh. I am so glad I found your comment, Jaya. We've known this whole time that I would be walking myself down the aisle since no one is giving me away and I'm making the decision to get married myself. But we couldn't figure out what to do with my fiance. Seemed still too rooted in tradition to have him waiting up there for me like he's a destination or goal I'm reaching. We also didn't want to walk down together because we wanted to show our individuality coming into the marriage and exiting as a joined pair. I think this is the best idea! Thank you!

      1 agrees
  5. We haven't decided whether or not we're having attendants, but we've firmly decided to walk in together.

    I read somewhere (either here or on the Tribe, can't remember) about someone having both sets of [still-together] parents walk in together, as a way of symbolizing that your parents go before you as examples of love and marriage. I really like that and we will probably do it that way.

    • I REALLY wanted to walk in with my husband-to-be when I got married, but my mom really wanted to walk me down the aisle – I guess it was only fair since I walked her down the aisle when she married my stepdad!

      Great idea about the parents walking down the aisle first – lovely symbolism that could be tied into the wording of the ceremony too!

  6. This is what I love about OBB: anything goes! I have a weird mix, and I was thinking of doing my processional thus:

    Officiant enters, stands at the front.
    Groom and Best Man enter (they're brothers) and stand at the front.
    Groom's father escorts Groom's mother to first row and seats her, stands next to Best Man (he's also a Groomsman).
    Bridesmaid #1 enters, escorting Flower Dog, stands at the front.
    Bridesmaid #2 enters, escorting Ring Dog, stands at the front.
    Maid of Honor enters, escorted by her husband (Bride's brother), she stands at the front, he stands on Groom's side (he's also a Groomsman).
    Bride enters, escorted by both of her parents.

    Is this too convoluted?? Thanks for any advice you all can offer!

    3 agree
      • In my opinion, like bride not nesc being define by gender, I think terms like "Maid of Honor" vs. "Matron of Honor" are self-identifying choices. You could call your Maid of Honor a Best Lady or have a married Maid of Honor or call your Best Man a Man of Honor, or really whatever really works for you and your attendants.

        1 agrees
        • Yup–my sister, who's taking that role, is married. But neither of us really care for the word "matron," so we're still referring to her as a maid of honor.

          1 agrees
    • This sounds like a great plan! Everyone gets their moment, I love that you've paired people with partners that are relevant to them. You may want to think where the Flower and Ring Dogs are going to go once at the front – you may want some pup wranglers in the first row, and it may be a good idea to practice, either before the ceremony on the day off or in a more traditional rehearsal setting the day befoore. This is a great example of taking the traditional elements and making it work for you and your wedding.

      2 agree
      • We will DEFINITELY be rehearsing with the pups! They're actually eight pound chihuahuas, so most likely they'll end up in my girls' arms, but I might make sure my mum has some bully sticks or something in case they get antsy. She's on doggy duty during the reception anyways because she doesn't like large groups of people, so we're making a little lounge off to the side where it's quieter, then she can sit and hang with the little ones and socialize on a smaller scale 🙂

        7 agree
  7. What an AWESOME post! Hurrah! I'm particularly happy that entering together is your favorite – since we're having the ceremony outside, Partner and I plan to come to the space from separate directions, join hands, and come to the officiant together. Thank you for the validation!!

    2 agree
  8. We had the chuppah carried in by those chuppah holders first, then the kids waving ribbon wands, then groom with parents and bride with parents. If the chuppah is being held, you will need someone to walk it in and set it up. I've seen chuppah set up by one set of people, then handed off to others (parents). Holding the chuppah, even with the poles resting on the ground, takes some focus and stamina.

  9. I had never even heard of parents and grandparents etc walking down the aisle seperate from the bride! Usually downunder the processional is: flowergirl/kids, bridesmaids, bride with her parent/s or whoever she walks 'with'. I remember growing up I found this weird enough as on my mums British side of the family, the Bride and her father walk before bridesmaids 🙂

    3 agree
  10. This is good info, thank you. I have to ponder this a bit because we were just planning to have me walk with his 8 yr old daughter from one side, and my fiancé walk in from the other side, with his 4 yr son and the 4 of us will walk down together. I think we'll stick with that but add in the parents and his Aunt and Uncle too who are coming in from Chile.

    1 agrees
    • Great article. I came across it last night after a ceremony planning session. The processional is a difficult part of the day for me to get my head around – I hate being the centre of attention, and I wasn't sure what symbolism would work for us. As it happens, our chosen venue has two side-aisles as well as the central aisle, so we can walk in together from opposite sides, meet in the middle, and leave together. We like that a lot 🙂 Still figuring out what to do with the rest of the (small) wedding party, but we'll get there…

  11. thank you! this is so helpful and I am so grateful you've laid out clear, non-traditional options.

  12. Thank you for this article Jessie. I am part of a bridal party and may also serve as an officiant during the ceremony. Any recommendations on how the logistics may look to avoid an awkward entrance?

  13. Oh good lordie Jessie… I love every word you write! As a new celebrant (still awaiting appointment – we have quite a process in Australia)… You are my new go to blogger and I gotta tell you I am loving every bit of you and your blog. Keep it up Jessie Girl! x

  14. I love the idea of the couple getting married walking down the aisle together. Considering that we're planning a pretty small wedding, approx. 30 guests, having a traditional bridal party walk down an aisle doesn't really make a lot of sense (that would be probably more than a third of the guests). So just the two of us walk in together toward the officiant at the front – does this make sense?

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