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Wedding Ceremony Rehearsal Guide

Our team of professional wedding officiants has performed over 5,000 wedding ceremonies, and our couples occasionally ask us to be a part of their wedding rehearsal. While some officiants offer “rehearsal coordination” as an integral part of their services, we have found that it’s typically unnecessary (and sometimes even counterproductive) to have the wedding officiant running the wedding rehearsal. We are perfectly happy to do wedding rehearsals for our couples for an additional fee, but the vast majority of our clients choose to do the rehearsal themselves.

The Free Guide to Running Your Own Wedding Rehearsal

We created this free wedding ceremony rehearsal guide as a way to help couples run their own wedding ceremony rehearsal, saving you time and money, as well as helping the ceremony run more smoothly on your wedding day. It’s important to note that there are many possible variations to the ceremony order, and this guide was created focusing on a straight, non-denominational wedding ceremony. Please see the “Variations” section of the guide for options for our LGBT couples, as well as common cultural, religious, and regional variations.

Who Should Be In Charge?

At the rehearsal, you are not practicing the ceremony itself – you are only practicing walking in and walking out, and making sure everyone knows where to stand. Since the officiant is one of the first people to enter at the beginning of the ceremony, it’s not possible for the officiant to “cue” each group and tell them when to start walking. This is normally the responsibility of the coordinator at your ceremony site, or your wedding planner if you have one. Many of our couples will also ask a friend or family member to help run the rehearsal and cue everyone for their entrance to the ceremony, which is a great option. You want the same person who is running the rehearsal to be in charge of the ceremony on your wedding day as well – that continuity will really help ensure that there isn’t any confusion on your big day.

Your wedding rehearsal should be a quick, easy, and straightforward process. If your ceremony venue doesn’t provide a coordinator, you should choose a friend or family member to help you. The best person for this job is, quite frankly, someone who is a little bossy. They will need to be assertive enough to get your group to pay attention, but not be so overbearing that it’s off-putting to your families and wedding party. Teachers are almost always the perfect choice for this because they are used to corralling large groups of unruly children. Give them this guide before you arrive, and also give them a copy of your ceremony draft that you have finalized with your officiant. They’ll have all the information they need to run your rehearsal quickly and efficiently.

Running the Rehearsal

Follow these easy steps to rehearse the wedding ceremony quickly and easily, your friends and families will thank you and you can get on to your rehearsal dinner!

  1. Start in the middle. Instead of starting with the processional (entrance), start by getting everyone into place where they will be standing during the ceremony. Remember that you are practicing walking in and out, so knowing where to stand is the first step. See the diagram below for the standard positions for your officiant, parents, and attendants. It’s important to have your wedding party evenly spaced and standing at a slight angle in relation to your wedding guests, with the attendants at each end a little more forward than the Maid of Honor and Best Man. This looks better for pictures, and helps the guests see each person in your wedding party better. Bridesmaids should hold their bouquets in front of them with both hands, and groomsmen should decide on clasping their hands in the front or the back of their body. It’s important that everyone do the same thing, if everyone is doing something different it looks awful in your wedding photos.
  2. Speak through the ceremony headings. Take a look at the ceremony draft and read through the headings aloud, so everyone knows roughly the order of the ceremony. Don’t read through the entire ceremony word-for-word or say the vows, save that excitement for your big day. Make a note of any wedding ceremony readings, candle lighting or sand ceremonies, and when the rings will need to be presented. Double check that any items needed during the ceremony like candles or a table will be there that day. No matter what, make sure that everyone (including the couple) knows that they shouldn’t stand with their backs to the wedding guests at any point in the ceremony. Even if people need to move around during the ceremony, for example to do a candle lighting ceremony, make sure that they always end up standing in a position where they still face the guests (and the photographer). The last item on the list will be the kiss and, if the couple has chosen to do so, the presentation of the couple.
  3. Practice walking out (the recessional). Since you have everyone in place already, practice the recessional as if the ceremony has just ended and you are walking out. Start with the kiss and/or the presentation of the couple, and exit in the proper order. The Bride will take her bouquet from the Maid of Honor and exit with the Groom. Typically, the wedding party will exit in pairs even if they enter separately, followed by the Flower Girl and Ring Bearer and then the parents and grandparents. It’s important to make sure that each couple that exits the ceremony leaves enough room between themselves and the couple in front of them. To do this, everyone should agree on a set distance they will wait for before walking. Most people choose to start walking when the couple in front of them is halfway back up the aisle. In general, it’s best to leave at least 20 feet between each couple for the sake of pictures, but not much more than that. Once everyone has successfully exited the ceremony, it’s finally time to practice walking in.
  4. Practice the processional last. Now that everyone knows where to stand when they enter the ceremony, practicing the entrance should be a piece of cake. Line everyone up in the order they will enter, for our clients this information is at the top of the ceremony draft. The Officiant, Groom, Best Man, and Groomsmen enter first, typically from the side of the ceremony site but sometimes up the aisle depending on preference. Following them are the grandparents, the parents of the Groom, and the Mother of the Bride. Finally, the Bridesmaids, Maid of Honor, and Flower Girl enter. While the Officiant, Groom, and Groomsmen normally enter together as a group in a straight line, everyone else needs to be spaced evenly. As with the recessional, it’s important to agree upon how much space to leave between people entering the ceremony – normally about 20-30 feet.The Bride and her escort (typically the Father of the Bride) should not enter until the entire wedding party has entered and is in place. Normally there is a separate piece of music for the Bride’s processional, and the officiant will usually say “If everyone will please rise,” in order to invite your guests to stand.
  5. The hand-off. The last item to practice is what happens when the Bride and her escort make it to the front of the ceremony and are standing in front of the Officiant and the Groom. If the escort is a parent of the Bride they should give her a kiss and congratulate her. The escort then typically shakes the Groom’s hand, the Bride hands her bouquet to the Maid of Honor and steps forward next to the groom, and the escort moves to where they will be seated. The Bride and Groom should then be standing facing one another, holding hands in front of the Officiants. At this point, the Maid of Honor can hand off both sets of flowers to one of the Bridesmaids and fix the Bride’s train, if necessary.
  6. Do it again. Now that everyone is in place, practice walking back out and back in one more time to make sure everyone knows what to do, then you’re done! The rehearsal should not last more than 20-30 minutes at most.
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Following these steps will ensure that everyone knows exactly what to do on the wedding day, and that you aren’t wasting a lot of time practicing unnecessary parts of the ceremony itself. Below is a helpful diagram of where everyone should be standing:


Many of our couples choose to forego the traditional wedding ceremony order and include cultural, religious, or regional variations in their ceremony. Our award-winning wedding officiants create a fully customized ceremony for each couple, and these are some of the more common variations of a “standard” ceremony.

  • LGBTQ Ceremonies – We work with hundreds of same-sex couples each year, and the only rule for gay weddings is that there are no rules. Our LGBTQ couples tend to break the mold entirely, creating a custom ceremony that reflects their relationship while still incorporating a few elements seen at most wedding ceremonies. The order for the processional and recessional may be completely different than the diagram we’ve provided, sometimes with the wedding party and couple entering together, or having no wedding party at all. We encourage all of our LGBTQ clients to be creative and work with their officiant to create something truly unique!
  • The Midwest Processional – We work with couples from all over the world, and couples from the Midwest are sometimes surprised to see the Bridesmaids and Groomsmen entering the wedding ceremony separately. Regional differences in wedding traditions are pretty common, and in the “Midwest Processional” the Maid of Honor, Best Man, and all of the Bridesmaids and Groomsmen enter the ceremony in pairs. The Officiant and the Groom still enter first from the side, and then the rest of the wedding party enters in reverse order, with the Maid of Honor and Best Man the last to enter before the Flower Girl and Ring Bearer.
  • Multi-Parent Escort – Many of our couples choose to be escorted into the ceremony by multiple parents, instead of just by one. While the Father of the Bride traditionally escorts the Bride down the aisle, we often work with couples who have their mother and father, or father and step-father, walk them down the aisle together. This isn’t just limited to the Bride, we also have plenty of weddings where the Groom is also escorted into the ceremony by his parents. This is often seen in many Jewish and interfaith weddings as well.
  • Jewish Traditional Entrance – For our Jewish and half-Jewish weddings, our couples sometimes opt for a traditional Jewish entrance to the wedding ceremony. In this variation, the Officiant enters first, followed by the Groom who is escorted by his parents. When the Groom and his parents reach the wedding canopy, or Chuppah, the Groom stands in the “standard” position but his parents stand under the Chuppah on the opposite side, so behind the Officiant’s right shoulder across from the Groom so they can see him. Next, the Bride enters, escorted by her parents, and they take the opposite positions, behind the Officiant’s left shoulder. Both sets of parents remain standing at the Chuppah for the entire ceremony.
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Breaking With Tradition

We always tell our couples that there is no “right” way to do a wedding ceremony, and we encourage them to work with our officiants to create something that is a unique expression of their love. Traditions are wonderful, and many of our couples choose to perform a traditional ceremony – others choose to break with tradition and do something entirely different. We encourage you to listen to your heart and do what feels right for the two of you, whatever that may be.

If you are interested in more ideas and guidance for your wedding ceremony, please check out our Wedding Ceremony Resources section on our website. There, you’ll find wedding ceremony ideas, suggested ceremony readings, wedding ceremony songs, and Rev. Laura’s premarital counseling eBook, “The Marriage Manifesto”.

For more information about our services, or to check our availability for your wedding date, please click here to contact us!

Who Walks The Grandparents Down The Aisle At A Wedding

Those who want to know who walks the grandparents down the aisle at a wedding should learn about wedding escorts for the processional with the grandparents. We will also discuss what usually happens at weddings when you have your grandparents and if they should join the processional.

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Furthermore, we’ll provide examples of how to include your grandma and grandpa in your wedding. But before the ceremony, do you know who’ll guide the guests to their seats?

who walks the grandparents down the aisle at a wedding

Here Is Who Walks The Grandparents Down The Aisle At A Wedding

The bride and groom’s grandparents walk down the aisle in pairs. However, if one of the grandparents in the couple is deceased, you can have them escorted by another relative of the opposite sex.

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This relative should not be part of the wedding party as the members will play their roles at the processional and stand at the bride or groom’s side. Still, this family member escorting the single grandparent can wear something as formal as what the other processional members are wearing.

For example, if only your grandfather will walk down the aisle, then a single female cousin or aunt can escort him. On the contrary, if your grandmother is widowed, she walks down the aisle with a single uncle or male cousin.

Who Walks The Grandmas Down The Aisle At A Wedding?

The grandmas of the bride and groom can each walk down the wedding aisle with their respective partners or the grandpas. But if they are widowed, they’ll be walking with a single male relative.

It’s essential that whoever walks the grandparents down the aisle are not part of the wedding party because they will accompany them to their seats. And in some weddings, the bride and groom may also task some friends or relatives as escorts for the processional members who can’t walk without guidance.

If you’re asked to be a wedding escort, please clarify the expected attire for you to the couple. Usually, males will wear suits, and women can wear formal dresses like the other people walking down the aisle.

Do Grandparents Get Walk Down The Aisle?

The bride and groom usually have their grandparents walking down the aisle to honor them. So if you’re close with your grandmother or grandfather, you can include them in your wedding processional.

The order in the processional for the grandparents starts with the groom’s grandparents before the bride’s grandparents. The paternal grandparents walk down the aisle first, followed by the maternal grandparents.

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If only one grandparent is alive, the order still applies. However, they’ll be escorted by a relative or escort chosen by the bride and groom.

Do you have a big family and want to honor them at your wedding? Besides knowing who walks down the aisle, read how to include family in the wedding ceremony .

How Do You Include Grandparents In A Wedding?

Include heirlooms from your grandparents

Your grandma or grandpa might have an heirloom that they want you to have. For example, it can be jewelry the bride can wear at her wedding or an accessory to add to the bridal bouquet.

For grooms, your grandpa might have a watch, or he might’ve given you a piece of clothing you can sew into your wedding attire. You can also prepare with them on the wedding morning, especially when you’re close and want someone to help you ease your wedding anxiety.

Have your grandparents walk down the aisle

It’s common for grandparents to also walk down the aisle in pairs at the wedding processional. However, the groom’s grandparents walk before the bride’s grandparents.

Include your grandparents in the wedding ceremony

You can have your grandmother down the aisle as a flower girl and your grandpa as the ring bearer. And if your wedding has special readings , you can have them in these roles.

Have your grandparents at your wedding party

You can have your grandma as a bridesmaid and your grandpa as a groomsman. Nowadays, it’s no longer unusual to include older relatives in the wedding party.

Give your grandparents special boutonnieres and corsages

You can make your grandparents feel extra included with a special corsage or boutonniere. Then, seat them in the first rows of the ceremony.

Honor deceased grandparents

If your grandparents are deceased, please include them in a special section of the wedding invitation or program. You can also dedicate a seat in the ceremony for them.

You can light a candle at the reception or create a special section with their photos.

Include them in the wedding toast or speech

Ask your grandma or grandpa if they’d want to give a toast or speech. If they have been happily married for a long time, they can also give you marriage advice.

Dance with your grandparents at the wedding reception

Besides the father-daughter and mother-son dances, you can dance with your grandparents at the reception.


And that’s it! You just learned who walks the grandparents down the aisle at a wedding, which is a single relative of the opposite sex if the grandparent’s partner is not available.

Otherwise, the grandmas and grandpas of the bride and groom can walk as couples down the aisle. The latter will go first if you have your maternal and paternal grandparents.

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Etiquette tips: the processional and recessional

We see a wide variety of family shapes, sizes and dynamics at Robert Carr Chapel and we’re often asked about the most appropriate order for both the processional and recessional. So today I thought I would share with you some general guidelines for the big entrance and exit so that no one feels left out or that their thunder was stolen. As with most wedding “traditions” these are guidelines, not a black and white how-to so take notes but feel free to tweak this as necessary for your bridal party. I also want to provide a list of traditional songs for both the processional and recessional.

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General Guidelines:

  • Traditionally, ladies are always on the left side of their escort (we’ve discussed this before) however it is also acceptable for the lady to stand on the side she will be seated. For example, the mother of the groom (MOG) may walk in on her escort’s right side because she will beseated on the right side of the chapel.
  • If there are ushers/escorts, the lady will be walked in first on the escort’s arm, with her husband following behind.
  • In circumstances of divorced families, the mother of the bride or groom is traditional given precedence and therefore walk in after the father and stepmother have been seated. They also traditionally get to sit in the front row unless the parents are on good terms, in which case they may choose to sit together.
  • The wedding party may process in seperately or in pairs, at Robert Carr Chapel, we most often see them enter seperately so that is how I will list it below.
  • Child attendants are the last ones in before the bride, depending on their age, they may walk in together or seperate but it’s really not too important because they’re usually so cute they can get away with anything at this point.

Processional Order (if present):

  1. Groom’s paternal grandparents
  2. Groom’s maternal grandparents
  3. Bride’s paternal grandparents
  4. Bride’s maternal grandparents
  5. Groom’s parents, MOG may be escorted in by the groom with her husband following behind.
  6. Mother of the Bride (MOB), often escorted by a son or another male relative but may also be escorted by the Father of the Bride who returns to the front of the church to escort his daughter, the bride.
  7. The Wedding Party: Beginning with the officient followed by the Groom, his best man and groomsmen in their standing order. After they are in their places, the bridesmaids begin filing in in reverse order; beginning with the last bridesmaid in line and ending with the Maid/Matron of Honor.
  8. Children attendents
  9. The Bride and her father, or whomever she chooses to be her escort for the day.

Recessional order (Essentially the reverse of the Processional order):

  1. The Bride and Groom
  2. Children attendants
  3. Honor attendants (Best Man and Maid/Matron of Honor)
  4. The rest of the bridal party in pairs
  5. The Bride’s Parents
  6. The Groom’s Parents

Grandparents may also recess but often stay seated because the bridal party returns shortly for pictures and this eliminates any excess walking for those who may not be as mobile.

Music Choices for the Processional and Recessional:

Seating of the Families and Entrance of the Bridal party:

  • Beethoven’s 5th Symphony
  • Air on the G String by Bach
  • Arioso by Bach
  • Four Seasons by Vivaldi
  • Greensleeves- a traditional English folk song
  • Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring by Bach
  • Ave Maria by Schubert

Entrance of the Bride:

  • Air on the G String by Bach
  • Canon in D by Pachelbel
  • Bridal Chorus by Wagner**
  • Festive Trumpet Tune by German
  • Fanfare by Lemmens
  • Toccata by Widor
  • Rondeau by Mouret
  • Wedding March by Mendelssohn**

I hope this post serves as a guide and resource to your big day! If you have any suggestions for my next etiquette post, please leave a comment or go to our facebook page and write on our wall!

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