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When you walk down the aisle to your ceremony, who should be part of this? What order should you come out in?
These are common questions. The correct answer is “That depends on what you want for your wedding!”
I know retro cakes are in, but this isn’t 1985 and there isn’t a right way or a wrong way to enter your wedding, nor does your wedding party and honored guests need to consist of specific genders or even include family unless your family is something you define as greater than the people who gave you a name. So instead let’s talk about the different ideas of things you may want to do so you can figure out what works for you.
Long ago in a far away land a traditional processional existed to prop up the idea that marriage was a gendered sport and the goal was to pass off our daughter’s to another, often for financial reasons.
If you understand that in the 80s people rarely had or attended “non traditional” weddings, you’ll maybe be ok with this but if you are anyone born after the 60’s, you probably look at this and think about the fact that this is odd behavior.
So if you like and want to uphold traditions we can discuss the ways to do that, they often depend on your religion and beliefs. Otherwise what matters is that you seat honored guests right before the wedding party comes out. After that, either you will have the officiant already upfront (having announced to put away phones, etc.) or your officiant will walk out followed by one spouse to be who can be accompanied by a parent/s or walk with the officiant or walk alone. Next comes the wedding party. The old school way was one spouse’s side walked down the aisle one at a time, followed by the other spouse’s side one at a time – ending with the witness for each partner on each side.
Over time people decided they wanted people to couple up walking in, in which case your best people walk together last just before any flower children (or adults) and ring bearers. Last is the second spouse with or without a parent/s or person of honor.
If all of your attendants are non-binary or of one gender, ask yourself – who cares? Probably not your loving wedding party. You can still group people in twos down the aisle in a way that makes sense for your group. Or one at a time starting with those standing on the right followed by those standing on the left.
Which brings us to a frequently asked question? Which is the bride’s side and groom’s side. That depends on the type of ceremony and obviously if there is a bride and a groom. Most Christian weddings are bride on the left, groom on the right (facing altar). Jewish weddings are traditionally reversed. And for all weddings outside of a house of worship, my answer is – what is each of your preference, go with that. I had a fairly traditional wedding last year where a bride wanted to stand on the right to show the guests her favorite view of herself. This pleased me so much – please do that! Because it’s not important you stand on a made up “correct side”.
Next what if you don’t have supportive family or you don’t have a traditional wedding party – there are multiple options and you should decide what is best for you. You can choose one partner to walk in first followed by the next partner (each alone) or you can have one walk up front with the officiant and one walk alone to meet the other upfront. You can walk together as a couple down the aisle. You can enter from different sides, meet in the middle at the back of the aisle or just walk out together to start. It’s truly up to you.
At the end you walk back down the aisle in a recessional. The couple leaves first next comes your best people (two official witnesses) followed by the rest of the wedding party in pairs.
What if you have an unmatched number of attendants? Have one group of three, or one person walk alone.
Young attendants (flower children and ring bearers) typically do not stand up front through the ceremony. They also can just walk back with family they’ve been seated with through the ceremony. You can have them rejoin at the end but it is unnecessary and sometimes not practical because they just don’t want to.