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Ceremony Order

Whether you're planning your own wedding or just curious about what that of a friend's will be like, you're in the right place. There can be a great amount of variance in the length, order, and kinds of activities that comprise a wedding service, and it all depends on the religion or culture that the marriage is performed in.

The Traditional Wedding Service

This is the one you most often see in movies and on TV, and will probably be performed in a Christian church.

  • Ushers seat guests as music plays.
  • A special music change will indicate the beginning of the official ceremony.
  • Special participants in the ceremony, such as parents, will enter and be seated, usually with the bride's mother last.
  • The groom and officiant (the person who will be performing the marriage) enter and take their places.
  • The bridal party enters and takes their places.
  • The ring bearer/flower girl/etc. enter and take their seats. 
  • There is a pause in the proceedings as the prelude music ends.
  • Professional music for the bride's entrance begins and the audience rises to welcome her.
  • The bride enters with her escort, usually her father, and they meet the groom at the altar.
  • The music ends, and the officiant make opening statements.
  • The bride and groom make their declarations of intent.
  • There is a reading, either of religious or romantic content, such as poetry.
  • A musical interlude, performed by a solo singer, a string quartet, etc. 
  • There is a second reading.
  • More music.
  • Exchange of vows (this is obviously the highlight of the ceremony).
  • The rings are blessed by the officiant and exchanged.
  • The audience recites a prayer, usually the Lord's Prayer.
  • The officiant says a prayer for the bride and groom and makes final commentary.
  • The bride and groom kiss, and are introduced as a wedded couple by the officiant.
  • Recession music plays and the bride and groom exit with the bridal party following.
  • A reception line is formed and the bride and groom greet the audience and receive congratulations.

Related Guides

Ceremony Checklist

Readings

Ceremony Decorations

Writing Your Vows

Ceremony Music