Wedding Planning Guide
wedding ceremony order
Photo: Cassidy Carson
Whether you’re dreaming up your own ceremony from scratch or using your house of worship’s standard format, becoming familiar with the order of a typical wedding ceremony is very helpful. Most ceremonies follow a similar order, so if you’ve attended (or been in) a couple of weddings, then you’ve probably got an idea of how things will happen.
Of course, different cultures and religions will incorporate other elements or have a specific order of events; also, you can personalize the proceedings with your own touches—songs, readings, prayers, vows you’ve written yourselves, etc.—to put a meaningful and memorable stamp on the ceremony. That said, what you’ll find below is a traditional wedding ceremony order of events to serve as a framework for your own wedding ceremony, but don't feel like you need to include every step or stick to a certain time frame.
This is the part of the marriage ceremony where wedding-party members walk down the aisle and take their places up front. You and your fiancé can each make your way to the altar separately, with your parents, or even hand-in-hand together. For a traditional Christian procession, the bride is traditionally escorted by her father, while the groom waits up front. For a Jewish procession, the groom’s parents walk him down the aisle, followed by the bride escorted by her parents.
Once everyone is in place, the officiant will say a few words of welcome to kick off the ceremony. Think: “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today…” or something along those lines to welcome guests to the celebration.
Charge to the Couple
Next, the couple will offer an introduction and some thoughts on marriage and the significance of the vows you are about to exchange to one another. 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. Any readings or prayers being read by family or friends should happen right before this part of the ceremony, if you wish to include any.
Exchange of Vows
The vows are the promises you make to one another. You may want to recite the traditional vows—“to have and to hold, from this day forward”—or write your own. (If you’d like to write your own, follow our tips and tricks to writing the perfect wedding vows.)
Exchange of Rings
Now’s the time to exchange the rings. Typically, the groom puts the ring on the bride’s finger first, followed by the bride putting the ring on the groom’s. As you exchange rings, the traditional saying is, “With this ring, I thee wed”.
Pronouncement of Marriage
It’s official! The officiant will say: “I now pronounce you husband and wife.” Followed by…
… “You may now kiss the bride.” Seal your marriage with a kiss! Make it a good one and don’t rush it—you’ll want your photographer to capture this one!
The officiant will wrap things up with a few last words and, for a religious wedding, a blessing.
This is the grand exit and the wedding recessional order is basically the reverse of the processional. The bride and groom exit the ceremony together as newlyweds, followed by the wedding party. Once the wedding party has exited the room, then guests exit the ceremony row by row to make their way to the reception.