The following steps below represent the most common elements of a wedding ceremony.
Procession / Entrance to Wedding Site
In what order do the members of the wedding party enter the wedding site? Where do they stand? In what order do they leave? The answer is: Any way you want them to. Here is the traditional entry order.
1. Guests are all seated
2. Mother of the groom is seated (Front row right--when facing the stage)
3. Mother of the bride is seated (Front row left--when facing the stage)
6. Best man (unless escorting the Maid of Honor)
7. Groomsmen (either alone or paired with Bridesmaids)
8. Bridesmaids (either alone or paired with Groomsmen)
9. Maid of honor (either alone or with Best Man)
10. Ring bearer
11. Flower girl
12. Bride (with or without an escort)
Where Does Everybody Stand? Again the answer is: Any where you want them to. Here are the traditional positions.
Minister---Front center facing the guests
Groom---On the Ministers left, facing guests
Best Man---Stands to the Groom's left
Groomsmen---The first to enter stands the furthest away from the Groom, the last to enter is the closest to the Best Man
Bridesmaids---The first to enter stands the furthest away from where the Bride will stand, the last to enter is the closest to where the Maid of Honor will stand
Maid of Honor---Will stand closest to the Bride
Ring Bearer---Will either stand between the Best Man and the closest Groomsman, or can take a seat
Flower Girl---Will either stand between the Maid of Honor and the closest Bridesmaid, or can take a seat
Bride---If being escorted, will stand facing Minister until her escort is acknowlegded, then stand to the left of the Minister facing her Groom
Bride's Escort---After being acknowlegded, will either take a seat or stand where agreed upon prior to wedding
In what order do people leave?
Again, the answer is any way you want them to. Below is the traditional way. Everyone walks out by going down the central isle.
Bride and Groom together
Ring Bearer and Flower Girl together (can also leave separately or wait and go with the rest of the guests)
Maid of Honor and Best Man together (or separate)
Bridesmaids and Groomsmen together (or separate)
Parents of the Bride ( either on their own or escorted out by ushers)
Parents of the Groom (either on their own or escorted out by ushers)
The remaining guests are either allowed to walk out on their own, or are released one row at a time by an usher
Look of typical wedding standings when facing the stage
Maid of Honor---------------Best Man
sit on the left
sit on the right
side of the isle
side of the isle
Entry of the Bridal Party
If possible the Minister and the Groom, and sometimes the Best Man, will enter from the right side of the stage. If this is not possible or desired then they will walk down the isle. Then the Groomsmen will follow either one at a time by themselves or will accompany the Bridesmaids down the isle. Next will come the Maid of Honor either alone or with the Best Man.The Ring Bearer, followed by the Flower Girl, or together, they can walk alone or be accompanied by someone, depending on their age. At this time the mother of the Bride should stand, this lets everyone know that the Bride is coming and they should also stand. Now it is time for the Bride to make her entrance with her escort or alone.
Greeting the Couple---Introduction
Once the bride is standing at the alter, the guests are invited to sit down, the bride's escort (if she has one) is acknowledged, the escort places the bride and groom's hands together, or whatever the bride and groom would like done, and then either sits in a front row seat or takes his place as part of the wedding party. The bride and groom stand facing each other, in profile to their guests, and in profile to the officiant. The couple is then welcomed to their wedding ceremony, and the purpose for their being there is briefly stated. If a platform or stage is used the minister may step down to the floor after greeting the guests and asking the question of intent, this gives the guests a better view of the groom and bride.
Greeting the Guests
At this point, the greeting is expanded and the guests are invited to participate in the ceremony by contributing their support and best wishes. They are told that they are here to witness the marriage and to celebrate with the bride and groom, as they become husband and wife in their presence. Occasionally, the minister is asked to share with the guests some personal informaion about the bride and groom. The minister is sometimes asked to acknowledge and say thank you to someone special, such as parents, the host or the person who introduced them to each other.
This is the first of three places in the cermony where the spiritual content is brought in. Like all other aspects of the ceremony, brides and grooms choose the spiritual content of their ceremony. Ceremonies can be anything from very religious to strictly civil and are commonly somewhere in between those two ends of the spectrum.
This is the first of the two aspects required by state for a legal marriage. Traditionally, the groom is asked to answer first. A statement of question can be asked something similar to: Do you wish to be joined to this woman/man in marriage? Answer I Do
Reading---Sharing---Words of Love
This is an excellent place to add a song, a poem, or words meaningful to the bride and groom. Usually the words are read by a friend or family member. The officiant may be asked to do the reading. This is also an excellent place to add a song, either recorded or performed live. Occasionally, the bride and groom may choose to speak words of love to each other.
Minister's words on marriage
This is a brief statement about love, nurturing, and sharing; focused on the bride and groom and designed to lead into the vows, which are the high point in the wedding ceremony. Occasionally this portion of the cermony may include special words or special themes, depending upon what the bride and groom desire.
What are vows? Vows are the high point of a wedding ceremony. This is where you, as a bride or groom, publicly state the promises, which you have already privately pledged to your partner.
Why are they important? Vows are the point within the wedding ceremony where you publicly declare your marriage in front of your community of family and friends. You are also declaring it to the world at large. In essence, it is the point where you create your marriage by public declaration. It is the point where you join the billions of others who over the centuries have done likewise. In spiritual terms, you are stepping into the global, energetic thought-form called marriage.
Blessing of the rings and or Exchange of the rings: Wedding rings are held by the bride and groom while the officiant briefly speaks about the meaning and symbol of exchanging rings. The officiant briefly holds the rings, the bride and groom place their hands over the rings, and the rings are blessed; this can be left out if desired. The couple then exchange rings.
Symbolic Acts: This is another optional portion of the ceremony. About fifty percent of brides and grooms choose to add something here. It may be any of dozens of symbolic acts such as; Lighting a unity candle; A rose exchange symbolizing the purity, the power, and the passion of their love; or something the bride and groom have uniquely created for themselves. This place in the ceremony is also commonly used to add another reading or a song.
Blessing or Prayer: This is the third of the three places in the ceremony where the spiritual content is brought in. It is often spoken as a prayer of gratitude for the blessings bestowed.
Pronouncement: This is the second of the two things required by the state for a legal marriage. The officiant acknowledges that the bride and groom are indeed married. The antiquated pronouncement language (By the power vested in me by the state...). Couples often ask about witnesses signing the marriage license. This is rarely included in the ceremony. It is normally done sometime during the celebration that follows the ceremony.
The Kiss: If you need an explanation of this step, you shouldn't be getting married.
Introduction: During the ceremony, the couple have been focusing their attention on each other and listening to the officiant. They are now asked to turn and face their guests. They are then introduced for the first time officially as husband and wife.
Recession/Exit: The bride and groom exit the ceremony site followed by the remainder of the wedding party.
We hope that this will help you in your understanding of the wedding ceremony and what generally happens and when it generally happens. As always, please remember that your wedding day is just that, Your wedding day. This is merely a guide to help you and in no way is it neceassary to follow these suggestions to the letter. Your officiant will be able to help you decide which parts you would like to include in your special day.