Making Your Grand Entrance: 4 Ideas to Personalize the Procession
[Grooms Andrew and John process into their ceremony together. Photo by Continuum Photography.]
Most people tend to think of the wedding procession as just another boring detail—something that always has to be done a certain way. Yet, it’s actually a rarely thought about way to personalize your celebration. Think about the procession as your grand entrance on your special day. The procession gives your guests their first look at how you view your relationship, and it represents what they should expect from your wedding celebration—whether traditional, somewhat traditional or completely non-traditional.
As an officiant who’s married more than 650 couples, I like to say that when it comes to processions, the first rule is that there are no rules. Of course, in certain scenarios, you may not have the same flexibility as a couple that’s having their ceremony in a hotel ballroom or on a beach. For example, if you’re having your ceremony in a church or other place of worship, the pastor or rabbi may have a traditional procession they use. You may be able to adapt a bit, but not completely change it. Or, if you’re having your wedding in a small garden, your wedding planner may inform you that the ceremony site only logistically works with a certain aisle setup, allowing you to work within that range of options only.
Since I specialize in non-religious or interfaith weddings, and therefore my weddings aren’t at places of worship, I always joke that as long as the two of you end up in front of me, I’m totally OK with however you got there.
Here are a variety of ways that couples I have married decided to process in.
Some couples choose to walk in together, as equals, without escorts at all. Some choose to walk in together sharing an escort between them, like their child or the special friend who introduced them. In either case, everyone rises before the two enter.
[Brides Melody and Tasha walk down separate aisles at the same time. Photo by La Vida Creations Photography.]
2. Separately – Two Aisles
Other couples choose to enter at the same time, each down a separate aisle, usually along the outsides of the chairs. Next, the couple usually comes across to meet in the middle in the front. At that point, if there are escorts, they usually shake each other’s hands, and then lots of hugging between and across happens before the escorts sit down and the couple is there and ready to start.
One of my couples chose a variation of that. They each came down a separate aisle on the side (alone, in their case), but at different times. One came in first, having the attention on her as she entered and walked down her aisle. Once she was at the front left corner, her partner entered and walked down her aisle. Once they were both at the corners up front, I nodded and they walked across the front to join in front of me.
Or, depending on the layout of the ceremony space, some of my couples have just entered directly from the sides, at the same time but from opposite sides, leading their group of wedding party attendants in, with everyone stopping at their spots as the couple meets in front of me. In these cases, everyone rises before either or both of them enter.
3. Separately – One Aisle
I want to emphasize that I have absolutely had same sex couples who always envisioned having one partner already waiting at the front when the other came in, be it alone or escorted by someone, so this is how we do it. And truly, there is nothing wrong with doing it the “traditional” way if that is what fits you and your relationship best. Quite a few of my couples choose to do it this way. As often as I might have photographers ask me if they came in that order because one is in pants and one is in a dress, it has absolutely nothing to do with the chosen attire on that day!
Even in this case, I suggest the second partner stops at the front row of chairs, and then the first partner joins them there. If there is an escort, hugging or handshaking or kissing happens at that point. The two of them take hands and take the final step or two to the front together. I always tell my couples that they are choosing to come to marriage together. If someone gets the huge honor of escorting them in, terrific, but those final steps are theirs to take together.
Taking that idea a step further, I’ve had couples who walked in separately, initially, down own aisle, with the first one pausing partway down to wait for the other and walk the rest of the way together. In these cases, I always ask my couples when they would like everyone to rise. If one partner comes down much earlier at the start of the procession, as is typical in a bride/groom wedding, but not required, we naturally wouldn’t have the guests standing for the whole procession and probably only rise before the second partner comes in. But, if they come in separately, one after the other, usually we have the guests rise before the first one comes in and stay standing for the second one.
[Stephanie and Amy start their procession together. Photo by Chana and Don.]
4. Choose Your Own Adventure
Some couples choose a combination of both—meaning, someone special escorts each to them until the start of the aisle, at which point the escorts back away and they enter together, just the two of them.
I also want to mention here that another thought to factor in are the feelings and expectations of any parents or relatives or children who might have expected to escort you in. Some feel very strongly about that moment—having been waiting for years to escort their son or daughter in to marry the love of their life—while others aren’t as worried about it and want you happy, whatever that looks like. So please don’t assume, but instead ask about this.
I know, in some ways, having so many options and approaches can seem confusing or overwhelming. However, in my opinion, it’s all about the freedom to make it yours as well as to send a message about your relationship. Every moment of the ceremony—actually, every moment of your entire celebration—is an opportunity to actively choose what to do. Enjoy making it all yours!