When browsing wedding planning forums I often run across questions from brides about the processional. What order is everyone supposed to walk in? Who seats the mothers? Can grandparents participate in the processional? Is the Maid of Honor the first bridesmaid down the aisle or the last?
As I am fond of saying, weddings have traditions and superstitions, they do not have rules though some religious and cultural traditions do determine the order of the processional. If this is the case, your officiant should provide you with that information. If you do not have religious and cultural traditions to give you a little guidance, take heart that you simply cannot screw up a processional if everyone eventually makes it to the front where the guests can see them.
There are some general rules of thumb, not hard and fast rules, that seem to be standing up to the test of time though. When including family members such as the mothers and grandparents in the processional, they enter first and are seated before the bridesmaids start down the aisle. Adult attendants come next followed by children and then the bride.
You can change the music between the family and the bridesmaids or have them all walk in to the same song. Usually the bride and her escort, if she has one, wait until the rest of the wedding party are all the way at the front and in position before starting down the aisle, and there is typically a change of music for the bride. An instruction for the guests to rise for the bride is always a nice touch in my opinion.
Traditionally, the groom and groomsmen begin the ceremony up front and the bridesmaids process in single file. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the groomsmen escort the bridesmaids back down the aisle in what is called the recessional.
There is a symbolic reason for this as it reflects the single status of the bride and groom as they arrive for their wedding and their status as a married couple when they depart. However, many weddings today have the groomsmen escort the bridesmaids at both the beginning and the end of the ceremony. It really is a matter of personal preference.
If you are including grandparents and/or mothers in the processional they can be escorted by anyone of your choosing, and does not have to be someone in the wedding party. It can be a groomsmen who simply takes his place next to the groom after he has seated the family member or he can swing back around, rejoin the processional, and escort a bridesmaid.
In some regions of the United States, it is not unusual for the groom to escort his mother to her seat and then take his position next to the officiant. In other areas it is considered bad luck for the groom to participate in the processional in any way and he is expected to enter from the front and side.
Sometimes the venue itself can affect the processional. Is the aisle long or short? Will the wedding party have a nice wide center aisle or is it a little narrow? Is there a center aisle or will the wedding party be entering from an odd angle?
We have a beautiful and popular wedding venue in Cocoa, Florida where it just makes more sense for the Maid of Honor to enter first and the bridesmaids fill in from the inside out rather than the Maid of Honor being the last bridesmaid and the attendants filling in from outside in. Do what works smoothly rather than what is customary when the situation calls for it.
If you are experiencing angst about the processional, you are honestly sweating the small stuff. Partner with your officiant or wedding planner. That individual should be able to help you construct a processional that makes sense for your particular ceremony. Don't think you have to go it alone. That is one of the things we are here for!
Ring Bearer photo courtesy of Buds Etc. Floral Studio
Flowers Girl photo courtesy of Florida Beachside Weddings
Groomsman photo was taken by a wedding guest
Side aisle photo courtesy of Beverly Bennett Photography