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It’s the big moment – your walk down the aisle. Whether you love it or not, all eyes will be on you, so it’s important to plan ahead and make sure your processional goes smoothly. Follow our simple tips to ensure a memorable processional (for the right reasons!).
Practice Makes Perfect It’s essential to do a run-through of the ceremony beforehand. Usually, this occurs before the rehearsal dinner, but some couples choose to hold a cram session on the wedding day before guests arrive. Either way, gather your wedding party, family members, and your officiant to practice the order of the processional and recessional, as well as where everyone should stand or sit during the ceremony.
Order, Order While you can switch things up based on your religious or cultural traditions, family structure or your preference, this is the traditional order of the processional:
Mother of the Bride
Groomsmen (The groomsmen can also serve as escorts for the bridesmaids. The best man should be last).
Groom (Sometimes the groom doesn’t walk down the aisle, but emerges through a back or side entrance so he can immediately stand at the altar.)
Bridesmaids (maid of honor is last)
Ring bearer and/or flower girl
Photo by IQPhoto Studio
Assign a Stage Manager Whether it’s a wedding planner, family member, or friend, make sure you assign someone to cue the ceremony music and then signal for each person to walk down the aisle. The “stage manager” should wait until the wedding party member has taken his or her place at the altar before cueing the next person to begin his/her walk.
Walk This Way We’ve all seen Father of the Bride and know the whole “left together, right together” routine – but that’s a pretty old-school technique. Encourage your wedding party to walk normally, just a teeny bit slower than usual so it doesn’t look like you’re racing down the aisle. Your stage manager should emphasize this point before each wedding party member starts to walk.
Photo by Retrospect Images
Keep The Path Simple Sure, it may look really cool to enter your ceremony from the top of a grand staircase, over a narrow bridge, or down a cobblestone path, but consider your dress, your shoes – and your sanity. Try to keep your aisle as straightforward and simple as possible to avoid every bride’s worst nightmare – tripping and falling. If your ceremony site does have a tricky aisle setup, be sure to practice (in your dress and shoes!) beforehand.
Your Escort, Your Choice The tradition is for a bride to walk down the aisle with her father. However, you don’t have to do it this way. Depending on your family structure, you can walk down the aisle with just your mother, both parents, a grandparent, sibling or other close relative, alone, or even with your soon-to-be spouse. If you’ve been raised by several people (stepparents, etc.), you can have one person escort you partway down the aisle, and another bring you the rest of the way.
Photo by A Blake Photography
Pick the Right Songs Of course, there are some classics (Pachelbel’s Canon in D, anyone?), but there are a wide variety of both traditional and contemporary songs that would work for a processional. Just make sure that the tempo isn’t too fast or too slow – try walking to the beat of the music to make sure it has the right rhythm. Instrumental versions of songs usually work best, but if a song has lyrics, listen to them carefully to make sure they are, ahem, wedding-appropriate.
Change the Mood After the flower girl and ring bearer have walked down the aisle, take a few-seconds long pause before you begin your processional to add a bit of suspense (your guests are excited to see you!). And be sure to change the music – you should walk down the aisle to a different song than your wedding party members.
Photo by Nadia D Photography
Take It All In Many brides focus squarely on their grooms during the processional, but try to glance at your guests as you walk down the aisle. This is one of the only opportunities you’ll have to gather all of your nearest and dearest in one place, so take mental pictures to remember this important moment.
Relax Try your best to smile and stay cool and calm while you walk. Many brides tense up their shoulders and hold their bouquets too high, almost blocking their face – so relax your shoulders and arms and hold your bouquet low.
Your ceremony is the central focus of your wedding day. Adding some unique touches will make your ceremony feel more personal and special. Check out these five ceremony rituals that you can include in your special day.
Knot Tying Ceremony
In this ceremony, the couple takes two ropes and ties them together to represent their new life.
Photo by Wren Photography
This ceremony is a tradition in several cultures, including Celtic. During this ritual, ribbons are tied around the couples hands and wrists to literally “bind them together.”
Photo by Ryan Dearth Photography
Two vessels of sand are poured into one vessel, signifying the couple’s union. We’ve seen this done a few different ways—each person has a different color of sand, or each provides sand from their favorite beach.
Photo by William Innes Photography
Tree Planting Ceremony
The couple plants and waters a tree together, which is symbolic of new life and the cultivation of their marriage.
Photo by James Stokes Photography
During this ceremony, the couple places a bottle of wine and love notes to one another into a wooden box. The box can be opened when the couple is facing difficulties in their marriage, or on a special anniversary.
Photo by Simply Couture Photography
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Photo by Emily Takes Photos
Your ceremony is the most meaningful part of your wedding day. Depending on how traditional your ceremony will be, there are ways to personalize your nuptials to ensure that the experience feels true to you and your future spouse. Check out some of our favorite ways to personalize your wedding ceremony.
Check with your ceremony venue to see if you can incorporate non-classical music into your ceremony playlist. Whether it’s an instrumental version of your favorite pop ballad during the prelude or a cheeky pop tune as a recessional, selecting music that you love will give your ceremony a personal touch.
Depending on your ceremony traditions, you may be able to include a few readings into your ceremony. From Shakespeare to religious texts to more modern-day literature, pick a few passages that speak to you. You can ask close friends or family members who would feel comfortable speaking in front of a crowd to perform the readings.
Many couples prefer to write their own vows. Work with your officiant to come up with a general template to help you get started.
Include personal touches to your ceremony program. Design the program using colors and fonts that you like, and write a note thanking your guests for attending. Check out some of our favorite ceremony programs here.
Be sure to meet with your officiant several times before your ceremony. It’s important that your officiant gets to know you as a couple, so that he or she can create a ceremony that includes anecdotes and details about your relationship.
Incoporate flowers and other decor items that are meaningful to you - whether it's including your grandmother's favorite flower in your altar arrangements or including a family quilt in your chuppah or ceremony canopy. Find more ceremony decor here.
You and your betrothed should have already discussed your wedding vows and decided to use prewritten vows or to write your own. Time is counting down and the big day is approaching fast - it's time to make your final arrangements and decisions about the vows so get together with the groom-to-be and discuss it over lunch - and don't forget your laptop.
Choosing the Right Words
If you're using traditional vows, decide on the version you both prefer or select a standard format that you both can personalize. If you've decided to write your own, are you each writing separately or will you write them together? If you still haven't finished writing or personalizing your vows, set a deadline for the very near future and stick to it.
Wedding Vows Checklist
Be sure you and your future husband have your vows ready by the agreed date. Print out copies and ask your maid of honor and best man to read over them for mistakes. Unless the vows are a surprise for the ceremony, read what your groom has written and hand him a copy of your vows.
Make any necessary changes and print out your final copy. Give one to the wedding officiant, one to your maid of honor or best man, tuck a copy into your wedding day bag, and keep a copy for practicing.
Practice, practice, and practice some more. Read your vows aloud, say them in front of a mirror, and recite them with your future husband. The more you practice, the easier it will be on your special day.
Read, Recite, or Repeat
Most traditional wedding vows are either answered with a simple, ‘I do,' or the bride and groom repeat the vows to one another after the officiant reads them. A lot of couples prefer to say or repeat the vows as they look into one another's eyes - it seems to have a lot more meaning than just ‘I do'.
If you've written your own vows, you still have a few different options when it comes time to make your promises.Memorization. Reciting your vows from memory is usually the ideal method, but not always the most realistic. Nervousness, emotions, and anxiousness can all make it easy to forget - you may want a cheat sheet just in case! Notes. It's okay to make yourself a few notes for your wedding vows. Keep it brief, on a small index card, and only glance at it as needed. Remember to keep eye contact with your new spouse, not your notes. Repeat it. You can also provide your officiant with a copy of the vows to read so you and your spouse can repeat them. This saves you from forgetting what to say and also allows you to concentrate on the meaning of the words you're promising rather than remembering their order.