Weddings 101: The Ceremony

Exchange of Vows - Wedding Ceremony

The wedding ceremony is defined as the social event at which the ceremony of marriage is performed.  As such, it’s the most important part of the wedding day.  In fact, this portion of the event is the only component that matters legally.  The single requirement for a marriage ceremony is the “exchange of vows” which needs to meet religious or governmental requirements.  For example, the ceremony needs to be conducted by a clergyman, or officiant (someone who can be considered a formal witness to the exchange of vows).  This person also needs to be qualified, by law, to sign the marriage license.

Typical components of a ceremony are the prelude, processional, exchange of vows, and recessional.  The prelude is the time frame before the exchange of vows begins (typically 30 minutes beforehand).  Guests begin to arrive, ushers assist them to their seats, and soft background music is played.

Processional Infographic - Wedding Ceremony

Following the prelude is the processional.  The processional kicks off the exchange of vows.  During this time, the wedding party slowly walks down the aisle to the wedding alter.  A traditional processional line up is as follows:

  • Ushers
  • Junior Ushers
  • Junior Bridesmaids
  • Bridesmaids
  • Matron of Honor
  • Maid of Honor
  • Ring Bearer
  • Flower Girl
  • Bride & Her Father
  • Train Bearers
  • Pages

This procession line up can be modified as you wish.  Many couples are having the groomsmen escort the bridesmaids during the processional, or the groomsmen stand at the alter beside the groom.  Another processional trend is the bride having both parents walk her down the aisle.

The recessional is the conclusion of the wedding ceremony.  After the officiant announces the newlyweds, the bride and groom lead the exit followed by the processional line up (but in the reverse order).  As a sweet gesture, it is courteous for the bride to give each mother a flower from her bouquet and for the groom to kiss each mother on the cheek.  The groom should also shake hands with each father.

Now that the ceremony has ended, the cocktail hour typically commences for the guests and formal photos are taken of the family and wedding party. Simple as that!

Depending on the type of ceremony and religious backgrounds of the couple, the above components can have many modifications.  The ceremony could last much longer, be much shorter, include more people, include only two people–the options are endless.  Most importantly, the ceremony should be the most memorable part of your occasion.  Feel free to customize it as you please and really make it yours!


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