Anyone who’s seen an American chick flick knows the scene where the bride walks down the aisle, father by her side and romantic string music swelling. But what about everyone else? Do the bridesmaids and groomsmen enter together, or separately? When do the ring bearer and flower girl come in?
In U.S. weddings, there are three common orders for the processional (the ceremonial entrance of all the people). The standard processional derived from non-Catholic Christian tradition is the most common, and then Catholic and Jewish weddings have their own practices.
Now, if certain members aren’t present — like if grandparents or a parent has passed, or the couple chooses not to have a wedding party — you just skip over that bit to the next member.
The usual American pattern for the processional, originating from non-Catholic Christian practice, for formal ceremonies:
- Officiant (sometimes already standing at the front)
- Grandparents escorted by ushers, to their seats
- Parents of the groom, to their seats
- Mother of the bride escorted by usher, to her seat
- Groom, to the officiant’s left (the audience’s right)
- Groomsmen with bridesmaids in couples/pairs (to lines behind their respective side of the couple)
- Best man and maid of honor, together (to spots closest to their respective person)
- Ring bearer
- Flower girl (the kids can either stand on each side of the couple with bridesmaids and groomsmen, or return to their seats with their parents)
- Bride escorted with her father, who “gives her away” before returning to his seat by the mother
For more casual ceremonies, the grandparents, groom’s parents, and mother of the bride may start out in their seats rather than being formally escorted in the processional.
For a formal Catholic ceremony:
- Officiant, either entering at the start of the processional or standing at the foot of the alter. Groom and best man do the same with the officiant.
- Groomsmen enter in order
- Mother and groom’s father enter together, to their seats
- Bridesmaids enter in order
- Maid of honor
- Ring bearer and flower girl, together
- Bride escorted by her father
In Jewish weddings, when mixed-gender pairs enter (the grandparents, and the parents escorting the couple) the woman is on the right (facing the front) and the man on the left.
- Rabbi and/or cantor
- Grandparents of the bride, escorted and seated in front row
- Grandparents of the groom, escorted and seated in front row
- Best man
- Groom, escorted by his parents (one on each side)
- Maid of honor
- Ring bearer and flower girl
- Bride escorted by both parents (one on each side)
With LGBTQ+ weddings, the processional order — like many traditions — are a bit different. After all, there’s not one bride and one groom. There might be two grooms, or two brides, or two enbies (wedding term for nonbinary and genderqueer folks). There may be a groom and an enby or a bride with an enby. Or you could be planning a wedding for a polyamorous triad with three people. The possibilities are endless!
And so are your options for the processional. If you want to choose to each fill “traditional” roles, you can still use the traditional processional of your faith, or the standard American pattern for nonreligious couples. Another options is to enter together as a couple – perhaps after the wedding party enters in pairs as well. Or, if your venue is set up to make this possible, each of you can enter from different sides with multiple aisles that meet in the middle.
So there you have it! Each of the main wedding processional patterns in the U.S. I hope this is helpful as you prepare for your big day.