The processional is a key element of the wedding ceremony and understanding the correct order for attendants helps couples plan a flawless wedding day. All the attendants typically take part in the processional though the exact order and length of the lineup may vary.
Traditional Order of a Wedding Processional
The wedding processional order often varies depending on a couple's religion, their personal preferences, and the formality of the wedding. The correct order of the wedding processional may often have groomsmen escorting the bridesmaids, but it is also common for the bridesmaids to walk unescorted. To ensure a proper processional, the couple should always consult their priest or wedding officiant before finalizing how attendants will walk down the aisle.
Officiant and Groom
The officiant and groom enter the ceremony area, typically from the side or front, and take their places.
The groomsmen enter the area, either by walking down the aisle or more commonly from the front, taking their places near the groom. The best man should be closest to the groom.
The bridesmaids walk down the aisle to a slow and stately tempo, beginning with the attendant who will be furthest away from the bride. The maid of honor should be the last bridesmaid down the aisle.
Ring Bearer and Flower Girl
The ring bearer and flower girl are next down the aisle. They may walk together, or if they will walk separately, the ring bearer will be first, followed by the flower girl.
Bride and Her Escort
The bride is the last person to walk down the aisle. She may walk alone, though many brides choose to be escorted by their father, grandfather, brother, parents, or another significant individual. After the bride has reached the altar, her escort may raise her veil if desired, or they may respond to the officiant's question of "who gives this woman" if it will be part of the wedding vows. Once the escort is seated, the primary part of the ceremony can begin.
Alternative Processional Orders
While you may find that a traditional order suits your wedding best, there may be other circumstances that require shaking up that order. Consider the following:
Order Without a Main Aisle
If there is no main aisle in the ceremony location, and you have two side aisles, you may want to come up with an alternative so everyone has a good view. One option might be:
- Groom and officiant walk down the aisle sides and meet in the middle.
- Bridesmaids walk on one side, groomsmen on the other, and meet in the middle.
- Have the ring bearer and flower girl escorted by junior bridesmaids.
- Maid of honor and best man walk together and meet in the middle.
- Bride is escorted down the left aisle; for the wedding recessional, she can walk on the right aisle.
Uneven Number of Attendants
When you have an uneven number of attendants, it makes sense to have an alternative to the traditional line up. In this instance, you may want to do the following:
- The groom escorts the mother of the bride and takes his place next to the officiant.
- Attendants can walk down the aisle unescorted in a male-female pattern that works with your numbers. Examples include:
- Junior bridesmaids can walk as a pair, or if you have an uneven number, one can walk with the ring bearer and flower girl.
- Honor attendants can walk up together or separately.
- The bride walks down the aisle, alone or with her escort.
Male Bridesmaids or Female Groomsmen
In ceremonies where you have male bridesmaids or female groomsmen, you can choose to have everyone walk down the aisle separately using the traditional order. However, if you prefer to have escorted pairs walking down the aisle, then simply place the bride's attendant on the left and the groom's on the right.
The wedding processional music helps set the mood for the ceremony. Instrumental background music is often used while the guests are being seated, with a more solemn piece played while the mothers take their seats. In general, one piece of music is play while the attendants arrive, with another piece played to signify the arrival of the bride. Popular choices for the bride's walk include Canon in D, the Wedding March, Ode to Joy, and Ave Maria, but couples can choose any music that suits the mood and tone of their wedding. If couples are to be married in a church or temple, however, music selections may need to be approved by their officiant prior to the wedding.
Tips for Your Processional
The processional may only last a few minutes, but it can seem much longer for an anxious, nervous couple. To make the most of your processional, remember:
- Timing - Keep attendants spaced out by approximately three seconds for the proper solemnity and timing, building anticipation as everyone arrives.
- Photos - Many guests will be taking photos during the processional, as well as the professional wedding photographer. Be sure to keep your posture in good form, and smile appropriately.
- Shoes - Choose suitable shoes for what may seem like a very long walk down the aisle. Be sure they will not slip and that they will provide secure footing for every step. Similarly, be sure your dress is hemmed to the proper length so it will not be an obstacle for these important steps.
- Breathe - It is very common for brides to be nervous when all eyes turn to them as they walk down the aisle. Take deep, steady breaths to remain calm and collected without feeling faint or unwell.
- Eye contact - You will want to remember every moment of this walk, and one of those cherished moments is when your fiancé sees you for the first time. Make eye contact with him, as well as with other significant people who are witnessing the ceremony, such as parents and your closest friends.
Practice Your Processional
The wedding processional marks the beginning of a couple's most sacred wedding moments and planning a proper processional ensures that this walk is a flawless one. Practice at the wedding rehearsal and the processional will go off without a hitch.