Determine the Correct Order of a Wedding Processional

The wedding processional is a solemn and spectacular moment when the guests are seated and the members of the wedding party make their way to the proper places just before the ceremony. With so many different people involved, each with different roles, remembering the correct order of a wedding processional can baffle even the most prepared bride. While modern weddings allow a lot of leeway when it comes to the correct order of a wedding processional, knowing the more traditional order provides a place to start.

The Pre-Processional
As much as a half hour before the ceremony, the ushers should be seating guests in their proper seats. When it is time for the wedding ceremony to begin, the wedding officiant will enter through a side door, followed by the best man and then the groom. These three will stand at the front and face the guests.

It is at this point that ushers or groomsmen begin to escort members of the bridal party to their seats. Grandmothers of the brides should be escorted to their seats, followed by grandmothers of the groom. Then, the parents of the groom are escorted to their seats. Finally, a groomsman escorts the bride's mother to her seat. Because tradition dictates the mother of the bride is the last to be seated of all the guests, the wedding can officially begin.

The Wedding Processional
When the processional music begins, all the guests stand up and turn to face the aisle. First to walk down the aisle is a bridesmaid, generally escorted by an usher or groomsman. Each bridesmaid is similarly escorted down the aisle. Bridesmaids take their place on the bride's side of the officiant, while the groomsmen or ushers stand next to the groom and best man.

The maid of honor should walk down the aisle next, followed by the ring bearer. The maid of honor takes her place right next to where the bride will stand, while the ring bearer stands quietly near the groom. The flower girl is next to enter, and she is directly ahead of the bride. It is the flower girl's job to scatter flower petals on the path the bride is soon to walk. At the end of her walk, the flower girl should stand next to the bridesmaids if she is old enough. Many young flower girls are allowed to sit with her parents.

The wedding processional reaches its peak when the bride makes her entrance, usually escorted by her father. The processional music changes slightly as the bride walks serenely down the aisle. When the bride and her father reach the end of the aisle, the father of the bride hands the bride over to the groom. It is at this point that the wedding ceremony begins.

Tradition Meets Modern-Day Weddings
Because few family dynamics fit so neatly into a traditional package, the correct order of a wedding processional has been redefined to accommodate different situations. The goal of a wedding processional is to recognize the wedding party as they make their entrance, so different groupings can be made as long as the basic traditions are adhered to.

Generally, a variety of alternatives that may better suit certain families and situations are perfectly acceptable for the correct order of a wedding processional. Some wedding processionals have even included a beloved pet, so anything goes as long as the bride and groom are happy.

Bridesmaids. Sometimes there are more bridesmaids than ushers, so it's acceptable to have the bridesmaids walk down the aisle single file. Also, bridesmaids could be paired up during the wedding processional and make their way down the aisle in twos. For pre-teen girls who are too old to be flower girls but too young to be real bridesmaids, allow them to be junior attendants, and let them precede the bridesmaids.

Ring bearers. Some couples choose not to have a ring bearer at all, or else they pair up a little boy with the flower girl and bestow upon him the title of "page." In these cases, it's just fine to have the little boy and girl walk down the aisle together. If there are two little boys, consider pairing them up as well.

Flower girls. Sometimes several little flower girls are in a wedding party. They can walk down the aisle singe file, one after the other, in pairs or even in a group of three. With three flower girls, many brides choose to have one flower girl scatter petals while the other two pass out fresh flowers to seated guests along the aisle.

The Bride. Traditionally, the bride is escorted down the aisle by her father. However, it's acceptable for her to be escorted by just about anyone she feels deserves the honor. Many brides from blended families choose to have her biological father on one side and her stepfather on the other, giving both men the honor of giving her away. A grandfather, beloved uncle or even a grown brother can also do the honors. Some brides who are entering into a second marriage may choose to have an older son escort them down the aisle. Still others wish to proceed alone as the center of attention.

Interfaith and Intercultural Wedding Processionals
Because there is no universal way to conduct a wedding ceremony, the traditional wedding processional should be adapted to include elements from the bride's and groom's culture, religion and background.

For example, Jewish weddings traditionally have both the bride's mother and father give her away, while Westernized wedding processionals in Japan feature the groom bowing to the bride's father, who then returns the bow. In France, the bride and groom are seated in red velvet chairs under a silken canopy with laurel leaves scattered at their feet. In Poland, the bride and groom enter the church together, followed by their parents and two witnesses who are either family members or dear friends.

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