The music starts playing. You take your dad’s arm. You head down the aisle…then what?
We’ve seen so many movies, watched a ton of shows, and read so many books about weddings — we’ve even been to quite a few — but when it comes to planning your own wedding ceremony order, the nitty-gritty details can be overwhelming to nail down.
There are about a zillion different ways to arrange your wedding ceremony order depending on religion, culture, venue, or a host of other factors. For example, an intimate mountaintop elopement probably won’t look exactly the same as a traditional Greek Orthodox wedding ceremony order. But if you’re looking for a template to start building your wedding ceremony order from, this is the basic template for most Christian or non-religious American ceremonies.
1. Seating of the Guests
Before the ceremony begins, music plays while guests make their way to their seats. Oftentimes, members of the bridal party or ushers will escort important or elderly family members to their seats. This can include everyone from your great-grandma to your mom’s best friend.
2. The Procession
The ceremony officially begins with a procession down the aisle, but this can look very different from wedding to wedding. Some couples choose to have their parents escort each other to their seats to begin the procession, followed by honored family members, like grandparents. Next comes the bridal party, sometimes in couples or sometimes the groomsmen stand alongside the groom while only the bridesmaids process in. Then the flower girl and ringbearer make their grand, adorable entrance.
That’s when the music swells and the bride is escorted down the aisle.
3. Opening Remarks
Generally, the wedding officiant says some words addressing the gathered guests to welcome the amazing celebration about to take place and to prepare the bride and groom for what is about to happen. These statements often help set the tone for the wedding ceremony order, remind the couple of the roles they are about to take on as spouses, and the significance of the covenant they are about to enter into.
During a religious wedding ceremony order, this is a chance to hear readings from a couple’s faith. During a non-religious ceremony, poems, favorite quotes, or beautiful passages may be read. Some ceremonies will skip this altogether or substitute something else.
5. Exchange of Vows
Whether you’ve written your own vows or you’ll be, “Repeating after me,” this is when the couple makes promises to each other about their married life together for better or worse, ‘til death do you part.
6. Exchange of Rings
After making their vows, the couple then exchanges rings as a symbol of their love and fidelity.
7. The Pronouncement
Now, the officiant presents you to your guests as a married couple! “I now pronounce you…”
8. The Big Kiss
As a room full of loved ones cheer, the officiant says those six magic words: “You may now kiss the bride.”
9. The Final Blessing
For a religious wedding ceremony order, this is when the officiant would ask for a final blessing upon the couple, and during a non-religious ceremony, the officiant may offer final words of encouragement and celebration.
SEE MORE: How to Figure Out Your Wedding Seating
10. The Recessional
After being introduced as a married couple for the very first time, the members of the processional now exit in reverse order with the happy couple leading the way! Now, it’s time to party!
No matter what kind of wedding day you’re planning, these are a few of the essential pieces and a great framework around which to build your wedding ceremony order.
And if you’re ever unsure when something should happen, don’t be afraid to ask! Your venue coordinator, wedding planner, and photographer are incredibly valuable resources when it comes to planning a smooth wedding day.