The order of a wedding typically depends on where the ceremony is taking place as well as who is officiating. Religious ceremonies, in particular, can vary significantly as each religion has different rituals.

However, several parts of the order of a traditional wedding ceremony are the same regardless of where it is taking place and who is officiating.


Before the Ceremony

Your big day won’t begin at the wedding venue. Instead, you will probably get together with your groomsmen to get dressed and have some last-minute fun. If this is the case, you’ll need to consider what type of transportation you and your groomsmen will use to get to the ceremony venue and factor the cost and the travel time into your wedding plans.

You and your partner will likely arrive separately, and the first time you see them should be when they walk down the aisle. Once you and your guests are at the venue, the entry processional will begin.

Order of a Wedding Ceremony-Info-01

Processional Order or Seating Arrangements

The first thing that will take place at the location of the ceremony is guest seating. This can be as formal or as laid back as you would like, but typically you’ll enlist two or three trusted friends or family members to act as ushers and direct everyone to their seats inside the venue. 

Once the guests are seated, the processional order traditionally follows this format:

  • Bride’s grandparents
  • Groom’s grandparents
  • Bride’s mother
  • Groom
  • Best man 
  • Groomsmen
  • Bridesmaids
  • Maid of Honor
  • Flower girl and ring bearer
  • Father of the bride with the bride

Bear in mind that this is a traditional processional order for a wedding ceremony, and you should feel free to make adjustments as needed. You should also consider where these guests will be at in relation to the venue. 

The bridesmaids and groomsmen will normally be on the altar or stage with the bride and groom. The bride should be escorted by her father down the aisle. Immediate family should be seated in the first row, including parents and grandparents.

Opening Remarks From the Officiant

Once everyone is seated, and the bride is given away, the officiant will begin the ceremony. Usually, the officiant enters before the processional, so they are already at the podium and ready to start once everyone is seated. They usually begin by saying a few words about why everyone is there.

In a religious service, the minister begins the ceremony with a prayer, while a civil ceremony starts with the officiant saying a few words about the importance of the gathering.


Next in the order of a wedding ceremony are the readings. During a religious service, the minister will read a few passages from the bible. In a Catholic ceremony, a full Mass will take place. In some cases, the couple will have a choice between readings.

If you have a civil service, there is more room for flexibility. You can still choose to incorporate a religious reading, but you would have to get a guest to do the reading as the officiant is unlikely to do so. This is also an excellent option for couples of different religions as it will allow you to have a reading from each. 

If you prefer not to have a religious reading, consider other options. One popular one is reading a favorite passage or quote from a poem, novel, or film that you and your fiancée enjoy. You could even write a poem to have read during this time.




After readings are complete, you and your fiancé will exchange vows. You can either write your own vows or use the “…sickness and in health, for richer or poorer…” vow, which is equally good. 

According to Nina Larsen Reed, a professional elopement photographer based in Colorado, “many couples are choosing to share their personal vows in a private elopement without any guests, followed by a more traditional ceremony and celebration at a later date.”

This is a decision that will have to be made by you and your future spouse before the ceremony.

Ring Exchange

Next in the wedding order of ceremony is the exchange of rings. This part is pretty straightforward, but you may be asked to recite a few lines before placing the ring on the fourth finger of your fiancée’s left hand (though in some cultures, the couple wear their rings on the right hand.) This can differ between types of ceremonies and even officiants. Either way, someone will present the rings, usually the maid of honor and best man. 


First Kiss

After the rings are exchanged, the officiant will announce you as husband and wife. Finally, you have your first kiss as a married couple. Typically, the bride, groom, officiant, and witnesses will sign the marriage certificate after the completion of the ceremony. 

However, if you are in a hurry to get the party started, you have between 30 and 60 days to sign and file your marriage license in most U.S. states. 

You will then lead the procession out of the venue. The bridesmaids, groomsmen, and others will file out in the opposite order that they entered.

After the Ceremony

What happens after the conclusion of the wedding is entirely up to you, although it is customary to have a reception of some sort. If your reception is not held at the same location as the ceremony, you will need transportation to that venue. 

The reception is when things begin to get lively. Toasts will be made to the bride and groom, and you will cut the wedding cake. Food should be served along with beverages. Depending on your preferences, you can opt for an open bar or no alcohol.

Music and dancing are also customary. This includes the bride and groom’s first dance together as a couple and a father-daughter dance. At this time, it has also become customary for the groom to dance with the mother of the bride. If you need any dance tips, we’ve got your back!

Religious Ceremonies

The order of the ceremony may be slightly different in religious ceremonies. For instance, some religions will hold a full church service with the wedding. Some religions will also allow participation in these services.

You should discuss any questions or concerns with your church leader before they conduct the service. Depending on the religion, they may also require you to partake in pre-marital counseling before they officiate the service. Some religions require the couple to sign a license or documentation before the day of the ceremony

There are a few things you should also consider when it comes to religious ceremonies. Some religions require services to take place inside of a church. In many cases, this means no outdoor venues. 

Another thing to consider is that some religions require your future spouse to be the same religion as you. If they are not, the two of you may need to consider conversion or opt for a non-religious ceremony.

Civil Ceremonies

The good thing about a civil ceremony is that it provides more flexibility. You could still incorporate religious aspects such as a bible reading, but you would not be tied to the rigid structure of a traditional religious service.

A civil ceremony may have a courthouse sound to it, but you have a number of options for officiants. Also, consider finding someone you know or a family friend who is qualified to officiate the ceremony. 

Don’t Worry About the Order of the Wedding

Unlike nearly everything else associated with the wedding, the ceremony should be one of the easiest things to plan. This should be easier because the officiant should do most of the work. 

They may allow some input on readings, and you may even decide to write your own vows. But, the officiant’s job is to oversee all of the parts of the wedding ceremony, and they will know just what to do on the big day. If you’re looking for more advice on wedding photographers or learn more about elopements, we’ve got your back at The Groom Club!

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