Different Types of Wedding Processionals

The order of wedding processionals follows a general pattern, but varies according to religious traditions.

 

Catholic Wedding Processional

The priest, groom, and best man enter through a side door and wait at the altar.
The groomsmen and bridesmaids walk down in pairs, starting with the two who will stand farthest from the bride and groom, and ending with the best man and maid of honor.
The ring bearer and/or flower girl
the bride and her father, or other close family member. The bride walks on the left side. If the bride’s escort is her father, he leads her to the front of the aisle, then takes his seat next to the bride’s mother.
 

Jewish Wedding Processional

The Rabbi and/or cantor
Grandparents of the bride, who are then seated in the first row
Grandparents of the groom, who are then seated in the first row
Groomsmen, walking in pairs
Best man
The groom, who is escorted by his parents.
Bridesmaids
Maid or Matron of Honor
Ring bearer and/or flower girl
The bride, escorted by her parents
 

Protestant Wedding

The mothers of the bride and groom are seated after all guests are seated, and immediately before the start of the processional music. They are usually escorted to their seats by a brother of the bride or groom, or by another usher.
After they are seated, the officiant, groom and best man enter by a side door and wait at the altar.
Groomsmen may also enter by a side door, or can escort the bridesmaids.
Bridesmaids
Ring bearer and/or flower girl
Maid or Matron of Honor
The bride, escorted by her father or other close male family member or friend. At the front of the aisle, her escort can remain standing with her until the minister asks “Who gives this woman in marriage?” to which he responds “I do,” or “Her mother and I do.” However, some people feel this tradition is old fashioned and sexist, and choose to forgo it. In such a case, her escort walks with the bride to the front of the aisle, and then takes his seat in the front row.
 

Non-Denominational Ceremony, A Secular Ceremony, or a Non-Traditional Ceremony

You can either borrow liberally from one of these traditions, or make up your own rules.

In all cases, the bride traditionally stands on the left, and the groom on the right. This dates back to medieval times when the groom might need to defend his bride in the middle of the ceremony, and wanted to leave his right hand, his sword hand, free. While few grooms even carry a sword anymore, the tradition has lasted.
 

A Wedding Processional Using Two Isles

People tackle the problem of two aisles in a variety of ways. You can choose to only use one aisle, but this means that many of your guests will feel far from the action. I often advise couples to do the processional up one aisle, and the recessional down the other. Another alternative is to have bridesmaids walk up one aisle, and groomsmen up the other. The bride and groom can then each choose an aisle to enter through.
 

A Wedding Processional with a Small Bridal Party

If you only have a few people in your bridal party, it’s a good idea to send them up one by one. For example, if you had a best man, maid of honor, flower girl, and ring bearer this should be the order
Groom takes his place at the front
Best man enters
Maid of Honor walks up aisle
Ring Bearer
Flower Girl
Bride, with escort if she has one.
With such a small wedding party, it’s probably not formal enough to warrant a formal seating of the mothers and grandmothers. However, if you still want to do this, let the best man seat the grandmothers and the groom seat the mothers as part of their entrances.
 

Don’t Forget to Smile!

It’s a good idea to have either a coordinator, or a friend with a written list helping to line up the bridal party and telling each person when to go. They can stand just beyond where the guests can see them. They should also remind each person to smile when they’re walking down the aisle!