Photo: David Newkirk Photography
Whether you're writing your own ceremony or using your house of worship's standard format, getting familiar with the order of a wedding ceremony is super helpful. From writing your programs to picking readings and readers, knowing what comes next will keep you and your wedding party informed and make the process, from planning to rehearsal to the big moment, so much easier. So what format do wedding ceremonies usually follow? Our experts break it down for you.
The great news is, most ceremonies follow a similar order, so if you've been to (or been in) a few, you've probably got an idea of how things will happen. Of course, different cultures and religions will incorporate other elements or swap things around, but if you're planning to create a ceremony of your own, this is a great place to start.
First off, the processional. This is when members of your immediate family and wedding party head down the aisle and either find a seat or take their place on either side of the altar. The processional begins with the grandparents, flows through the parents, groom, officiant, wedding party, flower girl, and ring bearer, and ends with the bride making her entrance.
Once everyone is in place, the officiant will say a few words of welcome. He or she may thank guests for bearing witness to your union, as well as welcome everyone to your venue and your celebration.
Next, the officiant will offer an introduction and some thoughts on marriage. This could be a brief recounting of your love story, words on what marriage means to you, or a statement about the ceremony to come and what it represents.
From there, if you are including readings of any sort in your ceremony, readers will be invited up to share a few words. You could have your officiant introduce each reading and reader, or have things flow more naturally between readers.
After the readings have been shared, the two of you will exchange vows. You could opt to write your own vows, share personal statements and then exchange the same vows, or use traditional phrasing. This is also the part where you'll place rings on one another's fingers as symbols of your marriage.
Now, the good part! After you've exchanged vows and rings, the two of you get to seal your marriage with a kiss.
Depending on the type of wedding you're having, your ceremony may end with a closing statement or a blessing before your officiant introduces you as a married couple for the first time. Then, you'll lead the recessional back up the aisle and to the party!