If you are planning your wedding and wondering about the wedding ceremony order of events, we’re here to help. Here is a list of how things usually run at weddings. Use it as a foundation for your wedding ceremony even if you don’t follow it to a tee.

Whether have a casual wedding or a more formal affair, you want there to be some order to it. Choreographing the events in advance prevents you, your wedding party, and your guests from being confused or surprised about what is happening. It also lets you put your own personal touch on the ceremony without completely disrupting things or throwing the overall flow of the ceremony off-track.

Keep in mind the ceremony might differ a bit based on your religious traditions, but in general, most ceremonies run approximately the same. A traditional wedding ceremony order of events includes the following in the following order:

1. Guest Seating

Wedding guests arrive in the hour or so leading up to the wedding. It’s a good idea to have a few escorts nearby to direct them to their seats. Even without assigned seating – which is not the norm at wedding ceremonies apart from honored guests – escorts can help people wrap up their pre-wedding conversations and get to their seats in a timely manner. 

Guests should be seated from back to front so early arrivals get a better view of the ceremony. Make sure you instruct escorts where to seat honored guests and let them know what side the bride’s guests and the groom’s guests go if you are splitting up sides based on religious traditions. Modern weddings often don’t direct guests to sides and let everyone sit where they choose.

2. Seating of Honored Guests and Parents

Once all of the guests are seated, the special guests who are not officially part of the wedding party are next. This also serves as a notification to guests who have not yet found a seat that the ceremony is about to begin. Grandparents are seated first, usually with an escort, then the groom’s parents, then the bride’s parents or mother escorted by a sibling or special escort. 

With the modern-day family formations, you might need to customize how the seating of the parents is handled. The important thing is to do what makes you and your special guests comfortable so if you need to buck any traditions, don’t feel bad about doing so.

3. Processional

Now it’s time for the wedding party to walk down the aisle. This is the official start of the ceremony. The officiant usually takes the alter the groom and groomsmen join the officiant before and the rest of the wedding party walks down the aisle. In some ceremonies, the groomsmen walk the bridesmaids down the aisle coming and going. The processional starts with the youngest members (flower girl, ring bearer, junior bridesmaids) and ends with the maid of honor preceding the bride and her escort(s).

Again, you can customize the processional in any way you choose based on your families, friends, and special preferences. 

4. Officiant Speaks

Once the bride is delivered to the altar and pleasantries have been exchanged, the officiant speaks and welcomes guests to the wedding. There might be a brief story shared about the couple or religious scripture readings. You’ll discuss in advance what the officiant says as far as opening remarks.

5. The Vows 

The vows happen about mid-way through the ceremony. You decide in advance if you’ll be reciting the traditional wedding vows or if you’ll create your own. Brides and grooms can memorize their vows or read them. In rarer cases when a couple is adventurous, they speak their vows from the heart when they’re in the moment. 

6. Ring Exchange

Once the vows are complete, the couple exchanges rings. In most cases, the best man holds the rings until this time but you can each hold the other’s ring or let whomever you trust hold them. Most people don’t give the rings to the ring bearer, despite the name, because a little kid is likely to lose the rings before they’re exchanged.

7. Religious Traditions

There are a number of religious traditions you might choose to incorporate into your wedding. The timing varies based on the tradition but they tend to happen after the ring exchange and before the recessional. For instance, the lighting of a unity candle happens prior to being officially announced as married. The jumping of the broom tradition occurs immediately after you’ve been pronounced married.

8. Pronouncement of Marriage

At this point, the officiant pronounces the couple officially married and invites the happy couple to share their first kiss as a married couple. It’s one of the most celebratory moments of the entire day and will likely elicit a big round of applause from guests. 

9. Closing Remarks

If there is anything left to say or if the officiant is extending an invitation to attend the reception after the ceremony, this occurs before the recessional begins.

10. Recessional

The recessional marks the end of the wedding ceremony order of events and the time for the party to begin. Joyous music is played and the bride and groom walk arm-in-arm back down the aisle. The wedding party follows in the reverse order from which they entered. Groomsmen escort the bridesmaids back down the aisle and then guests exit behind the wedding party. If there is a receiving line, this is when the event takes place. 

Quick tip: If you happen to have an uneven number of people in your wedding party, you can make things seem more balanced by giving the odd party member a specific responsibility. For example, the extra groomsman might escort the groom or bride’s mother (if single) or grandmother (again, if single). Another option is to have a bridesmaid be escorted out by two groomsmen or two bridesmaids to a groomsmen. Finally, you could ask the extra bridesmaid or groomsmen to escort the flower girl or ring bearer.