The Wedding Processional: Who Walks When?

Flower girl walks down aisle


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One of the grandest parts of any wedding ceremony is when the wedding party makes its entrance. Every part of a wedding is customizable to suit the wishes of the bride and groom and the order of the processional is no different. Whether you're going for a traditional look or want something more offbeat, these wedding processional ideas will help you pick one that's right for you.

Types of Religious Wedding Processionals

The order of wedding processionals follows a general pattern but varies according to religious traditions. Be sure to speak to your religious leader about what's allowed in your house of worship. For a non-denominational ceremony, a secular ceremony, or a non-traditional ceremony, you can either borrow one of these traditions or make up your own rules. In this day and age, anything goes.

The bride traditionally stands on the left and the groom on the right. This dates back to medieval times when the groom might have needed to defend his bride in the middle of the ceremony and wanted to leave his right hand, his sword hand, free. While most grooms don't carry swords nowadays, the tradition has carried on.

Catholic Wedding

  • Priest, groom and best man enter through a side door and wait at the altar
  • Groomsmen
  • Mothers and the groom's father
  • Bridesmaids
  • Maid of honor, alone
  • The ring bearer and/or flower girl
  • The bride, escorted by her father or another close family member to the bride's right
illustration of a traditional wedding processional
Illustration: Theresa Chiechi. © The Spruce, 2019

Jewish Wedding

  • Rabbi and/or cantor
  • Grandparents of the bride, who are then seated in the first row
  • Grandparents of the groom, who are then seated in the first row
  • Groomsmen, in pairs
  • Best man, alone
  • The groom, escorted by his parents with his father on his left and his mother on his right
  • Bridesmaids, in pairs
  • Maid of honor, alone
  • Ring bearer and/or flower girl
  • The bride, escorted by her parents with her father on her left and her mother on her right

Protestant Wedding

  • Mothers of the bride and groom are seated after all guests are seated
  • Officiant, groom and best man enter by a side door and wait at the altar
  • Groomsmen enter through a side door or can escort the bridesmaids
  • Bridesmaids
  • Ring bearer and/or flower girl
  • Maid of honor
  • The bride, escorted by her father or other close family member or friend on her right

Wedding Processional Using Two Aisles

People tackle the problem of two aisles in a variety of ways. You can use only one aisle, but many guests might feel far from the action. In this case, you may want to do the processional down one aisle and the recessional down the other.

Another alternative is to have the bridesmaids walk down one aisle and the groomsmen down the other. The bride and groom can choose an aisle to enter through.

Wedding Processional With a Small Bridal Party

If you only have a few people in your bridal party, you might want to send them up one by one. For example, if your wedding party is made up simply of a best man, a maid of honor, a flower girl and a ring bearer, consider this order:

  • Groom takes his place at the front
  • Best man
  • Maid of honor
  • Ring bearer
  • Flower girl
  • Bride with an escort to her right

With such a small wedding party, it's probably not formal enough to warrant a proper seating of the mothers and grandparents. However, if you still want to do this, let the best man seat the grandparents and the groom seat the mothers as part of their entrances.

It's a good idea to have either a coordinator or a friend with a written list helping to line up the bridal party and telling each person when to go. They can stand just beyond where the guests can see them. They should also remind each person to smile when they're walking down the aisle.