The Procession Explained
The procession is the pre-start of the wedding ceremony. This is where all the guests are seated and the wedding party enters. Before any words are spoken, this parade lets everyone get into place, so that the oral part of the ceremony can begin.
The procession has evolved to include rituals and traditions of its own, however the main purpose is to get everyone seated in the room.
If the wedding were a stage play, the procession would be the part where the house lights are dimmed and everyone is seated so that the show can start.
- Traditionally, the officiant is already standing at the altar before the ceremony begins. If this is how the ceremony you will be officiating is structured, make sure to be ready well in advance of the ceremony. Since you aren't technically in the "wedding party" you might want to enter from the side. Then, once you are in place, the wedding party can begin making their way down the aisle.
- As the officiant, you should be the first person to enter and the last person to leave, unless you and the couple have specified a different order.
- Before you begin the invocation, you may be required to tell the wedding reception to sit once the bride is at the altar.
- Music is often used to signal the procession and beginning of the wedding ceremony. Think, "Here Comes the Bride".
- The guests are seated. Usually the elder guests are seated first by the ushers, followed by the rest of the wedding reception.
- Once the guests are seated, the wedding party enters in a prescribed order - groom, bridesmaids and groomsmen, maid of honor and best man, all prior to the bride. The specific order of entry should be decided in advance of the ceremony.
- The bride traditionally enters last, often times accompanied by her father. This ritual is called the Giving of the Bride.
- Traditionally, everyone stands as the bride enters and are seated again once the bride is at the altar. The officiant may be responsible for telling the wedding reception to sit.
GENDER NEUTRAL WEDDINGS
Many wedding traditions are based around heterosexual marriage. As a result, the language used to describe certain roles and events are intrinsically gender based.
For same-sex weddings, it can be useful to use the existing gender based terms to assign roles to the bride, groom, wedding party members, etc. In other words, by designating one partner to stand in the traditionally "male" side and one in the traditionally "female" side. It really doesn't matter who takes what role, but it helps determine an order so there isn't confusion about who enters when and who stands where.
Alternatively, same-sex weddings open up many opportunities to create new wedding traditions. If you are planning on officiating a same-sex wedding, make sure to work closely with the couple to tailor a ceremony that is respectful of their values.