Wedding Planning Guide

wedding processional order

A handy guide to help you figure out who walks down the aisle and when.

Once you've figured out the order of events for your wedding ceremony, it's time to start thinking about how everyone will enter the ceremony and take their places up front. The processional (a.k.a. the entrance of the wedding party) marks the start of the ceremony and is a highly anticipated moment, so it's important to get the wedding processional order down.

Some couples choose to have an intimate processional and walk down the aisle, just the two of them, hand in hand. Others, depending on the size of their wedding party, might have an entire posse of people coming down the aisle. There are many ways to go about the wedding processional. Below, we outline the most common processional orders: for a Christian ceremony, a Jewish ceremony, a Catholic ceremony, and a same-sex ceremony. We also go over the traditional ceremony processional order in the United Kingdom, which is different from processionals in the United States, if you're thinking of a destination wedding in the U.K.

But, it's important to note that you do not have to follow any of these processional orders exactly. Use them as a starting point and then customize and personalize your wedding processional order however you like so that it's meaningful to you. We've also outlined some creative and unique ways to adapt the entry formation.

bride walking with parents

Photo: Jose Villa

TRADITIONAL CHRISTIAN CEREMONY

The wedding party should enter the ceremony venue in the order listed below, with men on the right and women on the left when walking down the aisle together. At the altar, the groom and groomsmen stand on the right side while the bride and her bridesmaids stand on the left, with the officiant positioned in the center.

Right before the ceremony is about to begin, the parents of the groom and the mother of the bride should take their seats. The groom's parents can take their seats in the first row, on the right side. The mother of the bride, escorted by an usher or family member, can take her seat in the first row, on the left side. Her entrance officially marks the start of the processional.

1

Officiant

The officiant is traditionally honored with the opening spot in the processional. However, some couples prefer a more subtle approach with the officiant entering the ceremony from the side of the venue, leading the groom and groomsmen, to take his/her place at the altar.

2

Groom

Traditionally, he walks down the aisle solo but some grooms prefer walking down the aisle escorted by both parents. Other grooms prefer a more subtle approach by entering the ceremony from the side of the venue (following the officiant and followed by the groomsmen) to take his place at the altar.

3

Best Man

He walks down the aisle solo, following the groom, and stands to the right of the groom during the ceremony. He may also hold the couples' rings.

4

Groomsmen

They follow the Best Man and walk down the aisle solo or in pairs. They take their places up front, on the right side, with the first groomsman taking his place farthest from the groom. The groomsmen might form a diagonal line so they all get a good view of the couple.

5

Bridesmaids

They walk down the aisle solo or in pairs. They take their places up front, on the left side, with the first bridesmaid taking her place farthest from the bride. The bridesmaids might form a diagonal line so they all get a good view of the couple.

6

Maid of Honor/Matron of Honor

Before she walks down the aisle, she should do a final check to make sure the bride's veil, dress, and train look perfect. Then she walks down the aisle solo, following the rest of the bridesmaids, and stands at the bride's side during the ceremony. She might hold the bride's bouquet during the ceremony and then return it to the bride after the kiss. Read through our complete lists of maid of honor duties.

7

Flower Girl and Ring Bearer

The littlest attendants signal that the bride is about to walk down the aisle. The children can walk together or the ring bearer can enter before the flower girl. Traditionally, the ring bearer carries the wedding rings tied to a pillow (or decoys, if he's too little to be trusted with the real things; then the best man would hold the actual rings). The flower girl might carry a basket of flower petals, which she scatters as she walks, or a small bouquet of flowers. The children may then be seated with their parents.

8

Bride and Father of the Bride

The bride is escorted down the aisle by her father, who stands on her right side. Traditionally, after he gives her away, he lifts her veil, gives her a kiss, then takes his seat in the first row next to the bride's mother. The bride can give her bouquet to the maid/matron of honor once the ceremony proceedings begin (this way, she'll have both hands free for the exchange of rings and reading of the vows).

TRADITIONAL JEWISH CEREMONY

For a Jewish ceremony, the wedding party should walk down the ceremony aisle in the following order, with men on the left and women on the right when walking down the aisle together. Beneath the chuppah (traditional Jewish wedding canopy), the groom and his parents stand on the left side while the bride and her parents stand on the right, with the rabbi and/or cantor in the center. Wedding-party members stand to the sides of the chuppah (groomsmen on the left, bridesmaids on the right) or they can be seated in the first row.

1

Cantor and/or Rabbi

Their entrance signals the beginning of the ceremony. They take their places beneath the chuppah, standing in the center.

2

Grandparents of the Bride

They walk down the aisle and take their seats in the first row, on the right side.

3

Grandparents of the Groom

They walk down the aisle and take their seats in the first row, on the left side.

4

Groomsmen

They typically walk down the aisle in pairs and take their places up front, on the left alongside the chuppah, with the first groomsman taking his place farthest from the groom. The groomsmen might form a diagonal line so they all get a good view of the couple.

5

Best Man

He walks down the aisle solo, following the rest of the groomsmen, and stands at the groom's side during the ceremony, either beneath or alongside the chuppah.

6

Groom and Parents

He walks down the aisle escorted by his parents, with his father on his left and mother on his right. It is customary for the parents of the groom to stand with the couple under the chuppah, on the left side, for the duration of the ceremony.

7

Bridesmaids

They walk down the aisle one by one or two by two. They take their places up front, on the right alongside the chuppah, with the first bridesmaid taking her place farthest from the bride. The bridesmaids might form a diagonal line so they all get a good view of the couple.

8

Maid of Honor/Matron of Honor

Prior to walking down the aisle, the maid of honor should scan the bride's wedding dress, train, and veil to assure they are in place and make any necessary adjustments. Then she walks down the aisle and stands to the right of the bride during the ceremony, either beneath the chuppah or right alongside. During the ceremony, she might hold the bride's bouquet.

9

Flower Girl and Ring Bearer

The children can walk together or the ring bearer can enter before the flower girl. Once they've reached the front, they can be seated with their parents.

10

Bride and Parents

She walks down the aisle escorted by her parents, with her father on her left and mother on her right. It is customary for the parents of the bride to stand with the couple under the chuppah, on the right side, for the duration of the ceremony.

TRADITIONAL CATHOLIC WEDDING PROCESSIONAL ORDER

For a Catholic wedding, the wedding party should enter the ceremony venue in the following order, with men on the right and women on the left when walking down the aisle together. At the altar, the groom and groomsmen stand on the right side while the bride and her bridesmaids stand on the left, with the priest positioned in the center.

1

Priest, Groom, and Best Man

The Catholic priest, followed by the groom and best man, enter the ceremony from the side of the venue and take their places at the altar. The priest is positioned in the center, with the groom on the right. The best man stands to the right of the groom.

2

Bridesmaids and Groomsmen

In a Catholic wedding processional, the bridesmaids and groomsmen walk down the aisle in pairs, with the groomsman on the right and the bridesmaid on the left, starting with the attendants who will stand farthest from the bride and groom. Once the pair reaches the end of the aisle, they part ways. The first groomsman turns right and takes his place farthest from the groom and the first bridesmaid turns left and takes her place farthest from the bride. Once all of the attendants have reached the front, they might form a diagonal line so they all get a good view of the couple.

3

Maid of Honor/Matron of Honor

Before starting down the aisle, she should take a moment to look over the bride's wedding gown, dress train, and veil to see that they are perfectly in place. Then she walks down the aisle, after the bridesmaids and groomsmen, and stands next to the bride, on her left. She might also hold the bride's flower bouquet during the ceremony. She should return it to her right after the kiss.

4

Flower Girl and Ring Bearer

The children can walk down the aisle together as a pair, or the ring bearer can enter before the flower girl. Traditionally, in a Catholic wedding processional, the ring bearer carries the couples' wedding rings tied to a pillow (they can be faux rings, if he's too little to carry the real things. The flower girl can carry a basket of petals, which she tosses as she walks down the aisle. Once they've reached the front, the children may then be seated with their parents.

5

Bride and Father of the Bride

The bride is escorted down the aisle by her father, who stands on her right side. Traditionally, the father escorts her to the end of the aisle and then takes his seat in the first row next to the bride's mother.

SAME-SEX CEREMONY

The wedding party should enter the ceremony venue in the following order, with Partner #1's attendants on the left and Partner #2's attendants on the right when walking down the aisle together. At the front, Partner #1 and attendants stand on the left side while Partner #2 and attendants stand on the right, with the officiant positioned in the center.

1

Officiant

The officiant can be given the opening spot in the processional and walk down the aisle first. Alternatively, the officiant can enter the ceremony from the side of the venue to take his/her place at the altar.

2

Wedding Party

Wedding party members—one attendant from each side—walk down the aisle in pairs, with Partner #1's attendant on the left and Partner #2's attendant on the right, starting with the attendants who will stand farthest from the couple. Once they reach the end of the aisle, Partner #1's attendant will take their place farthest from Partner #1's position and Partner #2's attendant will take their place farthest from Partner #2's position. Once all of the attendants have reached the front, they might form a diagonal line so they all get a good view of the couple.

3

Best People

Partner #1's Best Person and Partner #2’s Best Person walk down the aisle together, with Partner #1's attendant on the left and Partner #2's attendant on the right. Alternatively, each person can walk down the aisle solo. Once they reach the end of the aisle, Partner #1's attendant will take their place next to Partner #1's position and Partner #2's attendant will take their place next to Partner #2's position.

4

Flower Person and Ring Bearer

The littlest attendants can walk together as a pair or one by one. Once they've reached the front, they can be seated with their parents for the duration of the ceremony.

5

Partner #1 and Parent(s)

Partner #1 walks down the aisle escorted by their parent(s). Partner #1 takes their position up front, to the left of the officiant. The parents will then take their seats in the first row, on the left side.

6

Partner #2 and Parent(s)

Partner #2 walks down the aisle escorted by their parent(s). Partner #2 takes their position up front, to the right of the officiant. The parents will then take their seats in the first row, on the right side.

Couple getting married

Photo: Erich McVey

TRADITIONAL CHRISTIAN CEREMONY (U.K.)

During wedding ceremonies in the United Kingdom, the bride and her father traditionally walk down the aisle first, leading the procession of bridesmaids, flower girls, and pageboys.

1

Officiant

Once the ceremony processional is ready to begin, the officiant will take his or her place at the altar, usually entering from the side.

2

Groom and Best Man

Following the officiant, the groom and the best man will enter from the side and take their places at the altar. The groom stands on the right side at the altar, with his best man on his right, who is holding the rings. The groom traditionally faces away from the bride until she gets to the altar.

If the groom has additional attendants—in the U.K., they are called ushers (not groomsmen)—they should help seat arriving guests. In particular, ushers should escort the mother of the bride and the mother of the groom to their reserved seats. The bride’s mother is the last to be shown to her seat by the ushers, which signifies the wedding is about to begin.

3

Bride and Father of the Bride

The bride is escorted down the aisle with her father, who stands on her left side. Together they process down the aisle towards the groom. Once they have reached the altar, the groom turns around and takes a step forward to greet the bride. The bride takes her place next to the groom, standing on his left. The bride’s father stands to the left of the bride. After he gives her away, he takes his seat in the first row next to the bride's mother.

4

Bridesmaids, Flower Girls, and Page Boys

The rest of the wedding party walks down the aisle in pairs, following the bride and her father. Either the page boys or the chief bridesmaid might help straighten or carry the train of the bride's dress before she begins walking down the aisle. Once they have reached the altar, the wedding attendants will all take their seats in the front and second rows on the left side. The bride gives her bouquet to the chief bridesmaid.

In the United Kingdom, the youngest male attendants are called "page boys" while they are called "ring bearers" in the United States. Also, the bride's honor attendant is called the "chief bridesmaid" in the U.K., while the role is called the "maid of honor" or "matron of honor" in the U.S.

NON-TRADITIONAL CEREMONY PROCESSIONAL IDEAS

If none of the processional orders outlined above are quite right for your ceremony, use one as a framework and starting point, but adapt the order (or toss the rule book out completely!) to create a wedding ceremony that is unique and meaningful to you and your families. Here are some creative, non-traditional ways to personalize your wedding processional:

  • Grandparents don’t always walk down the aisle, but it’s a lovely gesture if they're able. The groom's grandparents can go first (parental side followed by maternal side) and take their seats in the first row or second rows on the right side. Then the bride's grandparents can go next (parental side followed by maternal side) and take their seats in the first row or second rows on the left side.
  • Both sets of parents or parental figures escort their children down the aisle.
  • Wedding attendants walk down the aisle in pairs, with one attendant from Partner #1's side walking alongside an attendant from Partner #2's side. Then, Partner #1 enters, escorted by parent(s), followed by Partner #2, escorted by parent(s).
  • Parents of Partner #1 walk down the aisle, followed by parents of Partner #2; then, Partner #1 and Partner #2 walk down the aisle together.
  • Partner #1 waits at the altar/chuppah and meets Partner #2 halfway down the aisle; then they walk the rest of the aisle together, arm-in-arm.
  • Each person in the couple walks down the aisle solo.
  • Invite grandparents to stand (or sit) underneath the chuppah along with parents at a Jewish wedding (if there's room).
  • Invite your wedding attendants to walk down the aisle but ask them to sit once they’ve reached the end of the aisle.
  • Skip the walk down the aisle entirely and enter the ceremony space from the side or backdoor once the ceremony begins. Or you could mingle with guests and then make your way to the front once the ceremony begins.
Wedding party

Photo: Jose Villa