A processional is an important element of any wedding ceremony. We're creating a special moment that separates the mundane, everyday life from the extraordinary, ceremonial moment of your wedding. Most of us don't often get grand entrances, with carefully planned out music choices, escorts, and flowers. Processionals are also great ways to honor special guests who have contributed and supported you, by giving them a special entrance, too.
Let’s talk through a fairly traditional processional. We’ll be using the terms Partner 1 and Partner 2, with Partner 1 being the traditional cishet groom role, and Partner 2 being the traditional cishet bride role, but any of these roles and traditions can be used by absolutely anyone of any gender.
Outlining the processional
Typically, anyone who you would give flowers to (corsage, boutonnieres, etc) is involved with the processional. This usually includes:
- Ring Bearers
- Flower Kids
- And, of course, the folks being married
It does NOT usually include readers or ushers (which isn't to say it can't).
Sometimes, the officiant is part of the processional as well, either entering with the groom or as the first person to walk in. Many officiants prefer to enter to already be at the front, entering prior to the music beginning, so they can easily make any announcements, thus cueing the actual processional to start.
In more traditional ceremonies, Partner 1, the best man, and groomsmen are already standing at the front, having entered from the side with the officiant, or they were already milling around prior to the ceremony, greeting guests and perhaps acting as ushers, and casually make their way to the front, prior to the music and seating of honored guests.
And then the music begins…
If Partner 1 is planning to enter as part of the processional, they can enter at this point and stand at the front and watch the rest of the processional. If the partners are not seeing each other before the ceremony, we recommend Partner 1 enter now, so there's not a chance of them seeing Partner 2.
The honored guests are seated next…
They're usually seated in the following order:
- Partner 1’s grandparents
- Partner 2’s grandparents
- Partner 1’s parents
- Partner 2’s parents
Usually, anyone without an escort can be walked down by an usher or a groomsmen. In many traditional cishet weddings, the bride’s mother will often not have an escort, because the bride's father will be entering with the bride. In this case, an usher, groomsmen, or sibling of the bride and groom can escort the mother of the bride, or she can walk by herself.
Next, comes the wedding party…
- Partner 1’s attendants like groomsmen, with the Best Man last if not already standing at the front
- Ring Bearer
- Partner 2’s attendants like bridesmaids, with the Maid of Honor last
- Flower Kid
Sometimes, couples will choose to have the wedding attendants walk in together, paired up, to escort each other down the aisle. We love this option because it can show how the couple’s friends are there to support them, since it's the two sets of friends coming together. If you choose to go that route, you can also have the ring bearer and flower kids enter together, or separately, if you choose.
Let’s talk about kids
We recommend that kids, when they get to the front, are seated with their parents or a reliable friend or relative. Have them sit in the first or second row, so they can easily get there, with a little prompting from the officiant.
Kids wiggle a lot, and you want to make sure they're comfortable and not distracting during the ceremony. If the kids in the wedding party are under two, we highly suggest having a grown-up escort help them down the aisle.
And then, the music changes…
There's a moment, and the guests usually stands up (with or without my prompting!), and Partner 2 enters, either escorted by their father, their brother, their mom, their children, or someone else equally important. Other folks opt for no escort.
Once Partner 2 comes to the front, their escort (if they have one) lifts up their veil (if they have one), gives them a big kiss and hug, and greets Partner 1. The escort is then seated, Partner 1 takes Partner 2’s hand, and they walk towards the officiant together.
Ok, so that’s the traditional way… but let’s talk offbeat processionals!
Now, of course, there are near ENDLESS variations and tweaks and changes that can happen with the processional. Here are a few of our favorite twists:
- We LOVE IT when Partner 1 (traditionally groom or more masculine partner) gets a big moment in the processional. Our favorite is borrowed from the Jewish tradition: Partner 1 is escorted by BOTH of their parents, followed by Partner 2, also escorted by both of their parents. This is a great way to incorporate the couple’s parents into this important moment, as well as make sure that Partner 1 gets a bit of the spotlight often reserved for Parter 2.
- If Parter 2 can't decide between two escorts, (say, maybe their dad and step-dad or they have civorced parents that don't want to walk in together), they can have one of them walk them from the entrance point, to the beginning of the aisle, where the other is waiting for you. They swap, and the second escort walks Partner 2 to Partner 1 at the altar.
- This can also work with the Partner 1 acting as the second escort — have Partner 1 enter just before Partner 2, and wait at the beginning of the aisle. Partner 2’s first escort will walk to Partner 1, give Partner 2 a kiss, and then the couple can walk up the aisle together. We love that!
- Our favorite entrance is to have the couple enter together. This is especially popular with LGBTQ+ couples. To us, it symbolizes entering into marriage as partners and equals, and really sets the tone for the rest of the ceremony, too.
- We’ve also seen some LGBTQ+ couples create more than one aisle, so each partner gets their own special moment to walk in.
- Would the couple rather walk in by themselves, without an escort? That's okay, too. They want to do what feels the most appropriate for them. Don't be afraid to get creative!
Taking time to think and plan your processional out can help to set the tone for the rest of your ceremony, and is an important element to not overlook.