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A General Overview

The procedures of the wedding ceremony may differ from religion to religion, on the couple’s wants and needs, and on the Marriage Officiant’s practices. Within a given faith, traditions are varied and many couples write their own wedding vows and ceremony. The ceremony must be carefully planned and discussed with your Marriage Officiant. It must then be rehearsed prior to the wedding to ensure that everyone is comfortable with his or her roles.

There may be some variation to the ceremony, but it generally proceeds as follows:

Participants in the ceremony are asked to be at the ceremony site at least 15 minutes prior to the wedding and meet in their pre-designated areas. Usually the participants should arrive 45 – 60 minutes prior to the ceremony.

The bride, mother of the bride, and the bridesmaids will meet in one prearranged room (choir or bride’s room in a church for example) while the groom, groom’s father, the best man, and ushers will meet in a different prearranged area or room.

The ushers then leave to perform their duties of escorting all guests to their seats.

The wedding party meets in the front of the ceremony site approximately five minutes before the wedding.

The order for the wedding is generally as follows: 

The first solo.

The groom’s grandparents are seated.

The bride’s grandparents are seated.

The groom’s parents are seated.

The bride’s mother is seated.

The second solo.

If a white runner is to be laid along the aisle, the ushers should do this at this time.

The head usher signals the organist.

The ushers go down the aisle in pairs and take their places, the tallest going first.

The Marriage Officiant, the groom and the best man enter from the right and take their places facing the area where the bride will enter when the wedding march, or alternate bride’s entrance song/music, begins.

The bridal processional begins with the tallest bridesmaid going first and maid/matron of honor last, preceding the flower girl and/or ring bearer, if there is one .

As the bride enters the ceremony site, the mothers of the bride and groom stand. The guests will then automatically stand. The mothers and the guests should turn toward the aisle so that they can better see the bride as she comes down the aisle.

When the bride reaches the front, the guests may be seated.

The specific details of the ceremony can best be decided upon during the rehearsal.

Wedding Service if there is one

Wedding Vows

Signing of the Marriage Certificate – Bride, Groom, Witnesses (Maid/Matron of Honor & Best Man), and Officiant. Depending upon the tradition, this might already be taken care of in a civil ceremony held before the wedding day (some cultures have both civil and religious ceremonies). 

Presentation of the couple.

Couple exits the ceremony site followed by the Maid/Matron of Honor escorted by the Best Man and the rest of the bridal party similarly paired up .

After the Ceremony

Immediately after the bridal party exits ceremony site, the ushers return to the front to escort the parents of the bride and groom. The usher offers his arm to the bride’s mother while her father follows behind, and then similarly for the groom’s mother and father.

After having ushered the mothers out, the ushers return immediately to the front and indicates to the guests, row by row, that they may leave.

Photographers will need everyone involved to be ready for Pictures.

The Receiving line should not be in the entrance of the ceremony site, but rather in the lobby or the banquet hall before the reception.

Note: There are many different types and variations of ceremonies. The above Wedding Ceremony Order and Procedure is for informational purposes only. 

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Wedding Procession

Everything is now set for the procession.

In Protestant services, the congregation stands as soon as the wedding march begins; the Marriage Officiant enters and takes his place at the front of the ceremony site. The groom and the best man follow him to a position just in front of the first, right-hand row, and all turn to watch the procession.

The ushers enter from the back of the ceremony site in pairs according to height, followed by the bridesmaids. If there is an odd usher or bridesmaid, the smallest leads off first. The maid or matron of honor comes next, followed by the ring bearer, if there is one, and the flower girl. The pages, if any, follow the bride, carrying her train. Catholic brides and grooms may follow the same procedure. Jewish processions vary according to local traditions, whether Orthodox, Conservative, or Reform and according to the preference of the families.

In the simplest Reform service, the ushers lead the procession in pairs, followed by the bridesmaids in pairs. The groom comes down the aisle next, with his best man followed by the maid of honor, the flower girl, if there is one, and the bride on her father’s right. The groom’s parents and the bride’s mother may join in the procession and remain standing under the chupa or canopy during the service. The rabbi and cantor, followed by the couples’ grandparents, the ushers, the bridesmaids, the best man, the groom and his parents, the bride’s honor attendants, her flower girl(s), and the bride with her parents, may lead an elaborate procession. Ask your rabbi how he prefers to organize the procession, and take into account the amount of space available for the wedding party to stand in.

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Wedding Day – A Few Variations

The Military Wedding

Brides can have the fanfare and splendor of a military wedding when they marry military officers on active duty. The unique characteristic of a military wedding is the traditional arch of sabers (swords in the navy) under which the bride and groom walk at the end of the ceremony. The ushers who are all fellow officers of the groom in full dress uniform form this arch. The procession and ceremony follows standard procedures.

The Double Wedding

Good friends or close relatives may have a double wedding. The great appeal of a double wedding is the emotional as well as financial saving it offers families facing two successive weddings. Double weddings are usually formal and follow the same rules of dress as any other formal wedding.

The House Wedding

A house or home wedding may hold a sentimental attraction for either the bride or the groom. One’s own home or that of a relative or friend can provide a unique setting for a wedding.

For a religious ceremony at home, a substitute altar and a kneeling bench or cushions may be necessary. These could be set in front of any attractive background such as a fireplace or a floral screen. Ribbons or ropes of flowers and greens could form pathways to the altar. The procedures of a semiformal wedding are followed, however, there have been extremely well done formal affairs held at homes.

The Outdoor Wedding

In a formal garden wedding, the “altar” can be a beautiful canopy located in the most scenic spot. Tents can be erected for protection in case of bad weather. Some of the most beautiful weddings are conducted outdoors.

The Second Marriage

A second time bride may be married in a formal, religious ceremony if her faith permits, but older widows and divorcees often choose simple ceremonies attended only by relatives and a few close friends. It used to be a rule that a second time bride never wears white or a veil but today many girls will choose traditional wedding attire. Brides will wear what makes them most happy ignoring tradition.

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Wedding Day Timing

There are many types of ceremonies, traditions and customs. The majority of Christian brides use the following procedures, but you must determine with your family and Marriage Officiant what procedures you will follow on your wedding day.

The following schedule is recommended for a large formal wedding taking place about fifteen minutes from the bride’s home:

Two hours before the ceremony, the bride should begin dressing with her mother and her Maid of Honor.

One hour before the ceremony, the bridesmaids, all fully dressed, gather with their flowers and pose for pictures.

45 to 60 minutes before the ceremony, the ushers arrive at the ceremony site and put on their boutonnieres. They wait near the entrance for the arrival of the first guests.

30 minutes before the ceremony, the organist plays the introductory music while the ushers escort guests to their seats. The brides’ friends and relatives are seated on the left side of the ceremony site; the groom’s to the right.

At this time, the groom and his best man arrive. This is when the Marriage Officiant checks the marriage license, receives his fee from the best man and gives last minute instruction he may find necessary.

10 minutes before the ceremony, the Maid of Honor, bridesmaids, and other attendants arrive at the ceremony site. Followed by the bride’s mother, the groom’s parents and other members of both families. The bridal party and the parents wait in the entranceway while the other relatives are seated.

Five minutes before the ceremony, the mother of the groom is escorted to her seat in the first row on the right side of the aisle. The father of the groom follows a few feet behind the usher escorting his wife, and then takes his seat beside her. The bride and her father arrive in a chauffeured limousine about this time or stand inside at a back entrance of another room where the guests won’t see her. Her mother is escorted to her seat in the front row. If guests are waiting at this time, they should be seated first. The bride’s mother is always the last person seated by an usher. As she starts down the aisle, the bride and her father join the waiting members of the wedding party.

Just before the ceremony, two ushers walk in step to the front of the aisle to lay the aisle ribbons and canvas. The ribbons, used only at very formal weddings, remind guests to stay in their places until the parents and other relatives have been escorted out. At this time, the guests should all have been seated and the candles lit. The ushers can now pull out the runner if there is one. Care must be taken that the runner be secure if one is used and not cause the bridal party the chance of slipping.