For most of your wedding guests, the processional and recessional will be the most entertaining part of the ceremony. The processional is where each group of groomsmen and bridesmaids walk down the aisle, followed by the bride. The recessional is the opposite, and often times it will be an exact reversal of the processional. However, there are different customs for wedding ceremonies depending on your religion or personal preferences, so there isn’t really one hard and fast rule. Family traditions can also play a role in this matter, so it may be different for you. Here are some example of who walks down the aisle and when they do it for a variety of the most common groups of people.
Christian Wedding Ceremony
Though there are other factors to consider, most Christian ceremonies follow a similar formula for their processionals and recessionals. There is one obvious exception to the previous statement, and that is in Catholic weddings because the father of the bride escorts her to the altar but then takes his seat without “giving her away” to the groom. Here is the basic structure and order for a Christian wedding ceremony:
- Officiant is already standing at the altar waiting.
- The groom and best man stand at the altar after entering from a side door or entrance.
- Each group of bridesmaids and groomsmen walk in pairs of two unless you have an odd number; then someone can walk alone.
- The maid of honor walks alone since the best man is already at the altar.
- Both the ring bearer and flower girl walk alone, and in that order. Optionally, they can walk together if you prefer.
- The bride walks down the aisle accompanied by her father on her right arm.
Once everyone has arrived at the altar, the bride will stand on the left and the groom will stand on the right. The bridal party will stand with the bride on the left as well as the flower girl, and the groomsmen and ring bearer will be on the right with the groom.
Jewish Wedding Ceremony
There is a little more variety with Jewish wedding ceremony order versus Christian wedding ceremony orders because they are influenced by local practices and religious sects. However, most Jewish ceremonies follow a similar order such as:
- Rabbi and cantor are already standing at the altar waiting.
- Bride’s grandparents walk down the aisle.
- Groom’s grandparents walk down the aisle.
- Ushers walk down the aisle in groups of two.
- Best man walks down the aisle by himself immediately following the ushers.
- The groom walks down the aisle with his parents; his mother on the right and father on the left.
- Bridesmaids walk down the aisle in groups of two.
- Maid or matron of honor walks down the aisle by herself immediately following the bridesmaids.
- Ring bearer proceeds down the aisle.
- Flower girl proceeds down the aisle.
- Lastly, the bride walks down the aisle with her parents; her mother on the right and father on the left.
A Jewish wedding ceremony occurs in a chuppah, which is essentially a wedding canopy. The entire wedding party stands underneath it for the ceremony, and if there is enough space the parents can stand there too.
Civil Wedding Ceremony
Since there isn’t any type of religious tradition to guide a civil ceremony, most couples choose to borrow traditions from one of the ceremony practices described above. Generally, the groom is standing at the front of the room, the wedding party enters, and the bride comes in last.
Military weddings can be either religious or civil, so the exact order of will vary depending on the couple’s wishes. However, in almost all military weddings, the couple will walk under a “saber arch” as they exit the ceremony venue which is literally an arch made of swords held by other military officers.