Jessie Blum 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.
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:
- 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:
- Groom's grandparents
- Bride's grandparents
- Groom's parents
- 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…
- Groomsmen, with the Best Man last (if not already standing at the front)
- Ring Bearer
- Bridesmaids, with the Maid of Honor last
- 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.