Ceremony Order

They've cued the processional and you've walked your walk. Now what? If you are unsure about where the ceremony goes from there, then you've come to the right place. Whether you want a religious or civil ceremony, rest assured that there is a standard format that most marriages follow. But remember, standard doesn't have to be mundane. Let your ceremony reflect your personal style just like your dress, jewelry, decorations, flowers, readings, even menu choices. For example, if you are Christian you might want to include the unity candle ceremony or some variation thereof, while for a Jewish couple having the perfect alternative to the sheva b'rachot (seven readings) will be of the essence.

From the processional to the recessional, below you'll find all the areas that you'll need to consider when planning your ceremony. Take as much time as you need to figure out these details so that around four months prior to the wedding you can sit down with your officiant and tell him or her how you would like your ceremony to be.

Seating of Guests

The prelude is playing and guests begin to arrive. Escorts (one for every 50 guests) seat guests according to the seating chart assigned by the bride and groom. If no seating chart has been made, there are standard seating arrangements depending upon your beliefs. For a Christian ceremony, the bride's family and friends are seated on the left, and the groom's on the right. For the Jewish faith, it's just the opposite. The family of the bride and groom sit on their respective sides in the first one to three pews. Should there be any family discrepancies, be sure to create a seating chart so that there are no problems between divorced parents and step families, estranged siblings, etc.  You might also be interested in the Wedding Ceremony and Reception Seating guide.

Note that in Christian ceremonies, the bride's mother is to be seated last after she has been escorted down the aisle either by her son or another male family member. If there are no men to escort her, she can pick an escort of her choosing. The groom's mother is seated immediately before her.


Depending on if you are having a religious ceremony, the processional may take on a variant of one of the following forms.
* '''Christian'''
** The groom follows the priest to the altar.
** The parents, mothers, or other important individual lights the taper candles for the unity candle.
** The officiant may then announce the entrance of the bridal party.
** The groomsmen enter at the altar or escort each of the bridesmaids to the altar, in order from tallest to shortest.
** Then, the aisle runner is rolled out.
** The flower girl follows the bridesmaids or can be placed amongst them should the child need some encouragement.
** The ring bearer typically is the last to enter in the bridal party before the bride unless there are any honor attendants included in the processional, in which case they would be the last.
** Everyone stands and the bride's entrance music begins.
** The bride enters, accompanied by her father on the right who leaves her at the altar with the rest of the bridal party. If the bride does not feel comfortable with her father walking with her she may choose another close male family member or friend to escort her.
** The processional music concludes and everyone is seated.
* '''Jewish'''
** The rabbi enters.
** The grandparents enter, first the bride's and then the groom's. Both parties are seated on their respective sides.
** The groomsmen follow and go to stand under the huppah. The best man should enter last.
** The groom enters, accompanied by his parents.
** The bridesmaids enter and stand under the huppah.
** Honor attendants and the ring bearer and flower girl enter.
** Finally, the bride enters with her parents.
** Ohr Somayach is a very good Web site with a detailed description of the traditional Jewish ceremony.

The Ceremony Details

* '''''Christian'''''
** '''Opening Words''' -- Usually this is where the officiant welcomes the guests and talks about how they are gathered to witness the marriage of John and Jane Doe. It may go on to talk a little about the couple or just be short and sweet.
** '''The Giving in Marriage''' -- "Who gives this bride?" is a phrase not often heard anymore. Whether you choose to include it or not is entirely optional.
** '''Opening Prayer, Commentary, or Reading''' -- This may be a prayer, poem, or reading of the bride and groom's choosing and there may be more than one. The most important thing is to check with the officiant that the reading chosen will be suitable for the ceremony site and religious customs. Please see Ceremony Readings for more information about this portion of the wedding.
** '''Wedding Vows and Ring Exchange''' -- The officiant asks, "Do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband..." The exchanging of vows takes place, after which there is usually a reading or song played. Finally, the bride and groom exchange rings or gifts. Please see Wedding Vows for more details on this topic.
** '''Unity Ceremony''' -- In a Christian ceremony, this is when the unity candle should be lit by the bride and groom. However, this is an optional practice. Some choose more creative ways of showing that they have now joined in holy matrimony.
** '''Final Commentary and Closing''' -- The officiant takes this moment to conclude the wedding and shares a few words about the bride and groom.
** '''Declaration of Marriage''' -- This is the, "By the power vested in me..." statement. It finishes with, "I now pronounce you husband and wife..." The bride and groom then kiss and the recessionals begin.
* '''''Jewish'''''
** '''''Kiddushin'''''''' (betrothal ceremony)'''
*** The bride and groom are given a cup of ceremonial wine to drink. The rabbi says the betrothal prayer, after which they drink from the cup.
*** The rings are then exchanged (plain, gold, unadorned rings). In orthodox traditions it is only the woman who got a ring, but it is more frequent in less traditional circles for both the bride and groom to give a get a ring.
** '''''Ketubah''''' -- The ''ketubah'' is now read aloud and signed by the groom and his two witnesses, but also in less orthodox circles, also signed by the bride and her witnesses.
** '''''Sheva B'rachot ''''''''(seven blessings)''' -- The seven blessing are recited and then the bride and groom drink the wine for a second time.'''''''
** '''Glass Breaking''' -- The glass from which the bride and groom drank is placed on the floor and smashed under the foot of the groom, or by both the bride and groom.
** Everyone yells, "Mazel Tov!"


* '''Christian'''
** The bride and groom leave first.
** Flower girl and ring bearer follow.
** The maid of honor and the best man then lead the bridesmaids and groomsmen out of the church.
** Parents of the bride, then the groom.
** Grandparents of the bride, then the groom.
** Wedding guests are the last to leave.
* '''Jewish'''
** Bride and groom
** Parents of the bride, then the groom.
** Grandparents of the bride, then the groom.
** Ring bearer and flower girl walk out unless they are seated with their parents.
** The maid of honor and the best man.
** Bridesmaids and groomsmen.
** The rabbi is the last to exit before the guests depart.

Muslim Ceremonies

Wedding ceremonies in Muslim tradition are quite understated affairs when compared to a Christian or Jewish ceremony. The ceremony itself usually has several parts to it, and it's called ''nikah''. Two witnesses, one for the bride and one for the groom, go with the couple to the mosque to announce the marriage and to receive blessings from the ''imam''. They must then go to the the local town offices specialized in notarizing the formal nikah to conduct the legal portion of the marriage. This may be as low key as bringing only the witnesses, or as extravagant as bringing the entire bridal party and hundreds of wedding guests. It all depends on what the couple wants. Usually this ceremony is similar in format to a Christian wedding, with the opening and closing, but no religious prayers.