Your wedding ceremony will be the moment everyone’s been waiting for. Picture this: the music is playing, and the guests have been ushered to their seats. Your bridesmaids and groomsmen are lining up in order. You’re about to walk down the aisle and see the love of your life at the altar. You’ve likely dreamed about this moment for a long time.
That’s why lots of care and consideration goes into every wedding ceremony. Many details and decisions are required, such as, “What do we say?” “What do we do?” and “Who should officiate?” If you’re overwhelmed by this significant task, you’ve come to the right place.
Planning your ceremony is very personal and should reflect you as a couple. It’s normal if you find the wedding ceremony order overwhelming and have questions about which rites to include and when. Fortunately, most ceremonies follow a similar format. If you’ve attended (or been in) a few weddings, you’ve probably got an idea of how the order of service usually flows.
As you plan, look at traditional wedding ceremony events and timing. Then, you can insert your own personalities and desires into the mix.
Traditional Wedding Ceremony Order
A traditional wedding ceremony is ideal if you want a more conventional celebration. A pastor or officiant will typically provide a welcome or introduction, followed by the exchange of vows. The couple then exchanges rings, and after sharing a kiss, the officiant announces them as a married couple for the first time.
Traditionally, about an hour before the ceremony is scheduled to begin, your groomsmen will arrive. They should be given a wedding ceremony placement guide at the rehearsal dinner to know where to seat your guests.
Your groomsmen will greet your guests and escort them to their seats. They’ll also usher grandparents and other honored guests to their reserved seats. Finally, they will accompany the groom’s parents, followed by the bride’s mother.
Once guests are seated, the groom and best man enter at the top of the aisle from the right side and take their place. Next, the groomsmen enter from the beginning of the aisle, followed by the bridesmaids, maid of honor, and then the flower girl and ring bearer.
Now, that special moment when the processional music begins, and the bride makes her appearance, accompanied by her father. She will then slowly walk down the aisle to join her groom for the ceremony.
Words of Welcome
Once everyone is in place, your officiant will say a few words of welcome, and thank your guests for bearing witness to your union.
Next, the officiant will offer some thoughts on marriage. This could be a few words on what marriage means to you, a brief summary of your love story, or a statement about the upcoming ceremony and what it represents.
If you are including any type of readings in your ceremony, the readers will be invited to the altar to share a few words. Some couples ask their officiant to introduce each reading, while others prefer to have things flow more naturally between readers.
Officiant Addresses Couple
This is when your officiant addresses the two of you and talks about the responsibilities of marriage. They may also share about the sanctity of the vows you’re about to take.
Exchange of Vows
Truly, the most important part of your day will be now, the exchanging of vows. Whether your ceremony is longer and attached to a religious rite or is shorter and consists of the officiant speech, this is truly the magical time for you and your partner to express your love and commitment to each other.
After each of you recites your vows, you will put the rings on each other’s fingers. These rings are considered a symbol of your marriage. Some couples choose to exchange rings quickly without vows, but you may want to say a few words about what the ring represents before positioning it on your partner’s finger.
After you’ve exchanged vows and rings, the two of you will seal your marriage with a kiss. You’re now officially married!
If you’re planning on a unity ceremony, a good time to incorporate it into your ceremony is after your kiss. A unity ritual involves, the couple doing something to physically symbolize their union. For example, some couples bind their hands together with a ribbon or use two candles to light a single candle.
If you’re having a religious ceremony, it’s now time for a final prayer. Closing prayers are typically similar to final blessings after a church service. Your pastor may ask your guests to lift their hands to join in blessing you.
If your ceremony isn’t religious, your officiant might bless you in your union, provide words of encouragement, or read a prayer or poem aloud. Standard wedding ceremony prayers involve asking for faithfulness, prosperity, and a strong bond.
Your officiant will pronounce you married and turn to your guests to introduce the married couple for the first time. Your guests will be encouraged to applaud and celebrate the newlyweds. Then, you will head back down the aisle, followed by your bridesmaids and groomsmen, as guests cheer for your union. The wedding party will leave in the reverse order as they entered.
With the traditional ceremony as a base, you can now add your own flair. Let your personalities shine both as individuals and as a couple. Think of your style and the special moments you have shared. Are you more contemporary, bohemian, silly, or serious? How can you infuse who you are into your ceremony?
Music will really set the mood for your wedding. Three to four songs are played at most wedding ceremonies. The recessional and processional will require one song each, along with the prelude music. Some couples also choose a specific song for the bride’s entrance.
Your processional music can be traditional, such as The Wedding March, or you can choose a more modern and non-traditional song that better represents you as a couple. Explain your vision to your DJ, and they should have some creative ideas for you.
Get creative and gift your guests with wearable wedding favors before your ceremony starts! For example, you might ask for your florist to create boutonnières and fresh-flower hair clips. Set them on trays around the start of the wedding aisle. For weddings with a distinct theme, wearable favors are a wonderful way to set the mood.
Next, consider who will walk you down the aisle. Will it be your father, stepfather, or perhaps both? Or both your father and mother? Your mother, sister, or brother may walk with you, or you may want to walk alone. You may even want to walk down the aisle together as a couple. There are no rules.
Fun for the Kids
Let your flower girl’s imagination run wild and give her a fun activity to occupy her time while she’s waiting for the grown-ups to get ready. Get a sign or a scroll with a pre-printed message, like, “Just wait until you see her!” As the bridesmaids get their hair and makeup done, set up a table with crayons, stickers, markers, and glitter for your flower girl to decorate however she’d like. When she carries the sign down the aisle it will make your ceremony much more special.
Have your adorable ring bearer carry your wedding bands on something unique, such as a memento box, a personalized pillow, or even a pet. Also, consider his entrance. We’ve hosted a wedding where the couple decided to have their flower girl and ring bearer enter in style in a remote-controlled Jeep. Affixed to the truck was a sign that read, “Uncle Logan, here comes your bride.” The ring bearer wheeled down the aisle, and it was just the cutest!
Also, let your ring bearer have fun with his attire. You know this little guy will feel very cool in a bowtie and shades!
Are there any unique rituals that are part of your heritage? For instance, an old Irish tradition involves tying a fisherman’s knot with a ribbon, symbolizing the bond that becomes stronger under pressure rather than breaking.
In Spanish culture, unity is celebrated with a lasso ceremony. Once the vows are recited, a relative drapes two linked rosaries across the couple’s shoulder in a figure eight. These are just two of many wedding ritual ideas. Research your heritage ceremony rites for a ritual unique to you as a couple.
There are many beautiful, traditional wedding vows, and one may represent your feelings for each other perfectly. If not, you can use traditional vows as a starting point and revise them to represent you as a couple better. You may even decide to write your own vows to share your feelings and commitment in your own words.
Once the ceremony is complete, your recession is another opportunity to show your flair. Forget the tossed rice and have your guests blow bubbles, hold sparklers, or wave ribbon wands as you exit the ceremony.
The recession is going to set the stage for the reception. Choose your music with that in mind. You are about to walk down that aisle in front of friends and family as a newly married couple—time to start the celebration!
Pro Tips for Your Wedding Ceremony
Walking Down the Aisle
- Look up when walking down the aisle; don’t look down, as the photographer wants to see your beautiful face.
- It’s your wedding, and not everyone has to walk down the aisle. It’s okay to have the officiant and/or groom at the ceremony before starting. You can also have groomsmen escort parents, grandparents, and any other guests to their seats for the ceremony ahead of time.
- Don’t lock out your knees. Stand with a slight bend.
- Wedding party members stand at a 45-degree angle so that they are facing the couple as well as the guests.
- There’s no need to leave room between the two of you, so stand nice and close together for the ceremony!
- When placing the ring on each other’s finger, hold their hand.
- As part of your pre-ceremony checklist, find the person who is responsible for the rings and make sure they have the rings on hand.
- Make sure your ring bearer knows the cue for when to come forward with your bands.
- After the ceremony and walking back down the aisle, stop at the end of the ceremony chairs for a moment for a great photo opportunity.
- If you didn’t do a “first look” shoot with your photographer, have the groom stand with his back facing the guests. Once the officiant taps him on the shoulder to turn around, he’ll see his beautiful bride at the beginning of the ceremony chairs.
- Have your officiant take a brief pause before they ask you to kiss each other. During this pause, they’ll step away so they’re not included in photos of your first kiss.
- Be sure to enjoy your first kiss and let it last. If you only kiss briefly, your photographer may have a difficult time capturing that quick moment!
- When planning your wedding processional, don’t worry about the length of a song. The DJ is a professional and can transition well.
- Be sure to have a transition when the bride and her father walk down the aisle and he “gives her away,” a hug/kiss to the bride, and a handshake/hug to the groom.
- When creating your wedding day timeline, factor in a delay of five to 10 minutes at the start of your ceremony to prevent stress and keep your day on schedule. If guests hit traffic and arrive a few minutes late, they won’t be arriving as you’re walking down the aisle.
- Not everyone has to stand with the couple during the ceremony. Have your ring bearer and flower girl take a seat after walking down the aisle.
- When you’re standing at the altar, hold each other’s hands: it will look so much better in photos and from your guests’ perspective. It tends to look awkward if you don’t hold hands, and can even make it appear that you don’t really like each other.
- The officiant can make announcements before the ceremony starts if the couple chooses to have an unplugged ceremony. All guests are able to enjoy the special moment with the couple by having their phones and cameras put away, letting the professionals take care of capturing the moment.
Your wedding ceremony is, most importantly, the time when you voice your love and commitment to a lifetime together as a couple. Whether you choose a traditional or non-traditional ceremony, it will be a wonderful, loving memory that you and your guests will always share.
Mardie has been a successful businesswoman since 1981. The Rough & Ready Vineyards was created out of Mardie’s desire to contribute to the community. Mardie’s vision to serve the community is rooted in her love of Nevada County, and it provided her with the opportunity to revitalize an old Ranch property into a breathtaking wedding venue.
Her innovative mind and commitment to environmental accountability contribute in a positive way to our community and the surrounding area. With the Rough & Ready Vineyards, Mardie seeks to create the best wedding experience for our clients and their guests, creating memories that will last for generations.