Every wedding ceremony has one thing in common: the wedding officiant has to get to the front somehow.
When we officiants conduct our wedding ceremony planning session with our couple, we want to succinctly lay out the options for them: “Here’s a few ways we can kick this thing off.” To do that, we’ve gotta be well-versed in those options ourselves.
Now, the number of ways to get to the front of a room is limited only by our imagination – and maybe your imagination is way more animated than mine. But assuming this is not the kind of wedding where rappelling from the ceiling of popping up through a trap door is an option, this is the article for you.
Here’s my quick and dirty guide to the 5 (but really just 4) ways we wedding officiants might make our (perfectly normal) entrance and get to the front.
0. The officiant enters as part of the processional
This is the old-school, traditional, high-church way to start a wedding ceremony (think robes and bells and smells and golden staffs and whatnot). The officiant (usually a clergy person) marches in at the head of the retinue and the ceremony is pretty much underway when he/she gets to the front. To be honest, I don’t know much about this one.
In all my years of officiating, I’ve never kicked one off this way. So I don’t usually present it to the couple as an option. If you’re a high church clergyperson, this is what you likely do. But you’re probably not reading this.
That’s why I’m numbering this one as Option 0. It’s ground zero, and was historically the option for how the officiant takes the front, and it dates back to a time when giving the couple options wasn’t an option.
So here are the 4 actual options for the 21st century. These are the choices I give my couples in our wedding planning session.
1. The officiant enters alone
So as the wedding officiant I’ve made my last checks, it’s start time, and all the guests are in their seats. The prelude music that’s been in the background for the last half-hour-or-so is lightly playing.
I take a deep breath, and walk down the centre aisle or come in from the side alone. I get to the front, turn, and start the wedding ceremony with a welcome and a few opening remarks before the processional starts with my cue, “With that, let’s begin.”
Remember (and this is important!), when we officiants are doing our ceremony opening remarks, we technically haven’t started yet. It’s the processional music that does that; the first note of the song is like hitting the ignition on a car, and that’s when one of both members of the wedding couple come in. They’re not both in the room just yet. All this front-end stuff is “before we begin,” as I tell everyone off the top.
The officiant entering alone is a great option when these two conditions are in play:
First (Option 1a), sometimes Partner 1 will want to seat one or both parents on his/her way to the front.
[In the interest of remaining gender-inclusive for same-sex couples, I refer to the person we would traditionally call “Groom” as “Partner 1.”]
This is called “honourary seating:” accompanying a very important family member to his/her reserved seat as a way of honouring him/her.
Here’s what this option can look like.
The officiant walks in to the prelude music, turns, and the guests will naturally hush. Then Partner 1 will enter immediately – without the officiant having said anything yet! – with a parent or both parents. Partner 1 will accompany parent or both parents to their seats at the front, and then join the officiant. Officiant will then welcome everyone and make the opening remarks.
Second (Option 1b), sometimes Partner 1 will opt to be a part of the processional along with Partner 1’s wedding party.
So in the same way as described above, we officiants walk in and make our welcome and the opening remarks. Then the processional music starts, and Partner 1 might come in before both wedding parties, or after both wedding parties and right before Partner 2, or sometimes Partner 1 and Partner 2 might even walk down the aisle together. There are 1001 ways to do weddings nowadays – it’s a great time to be alive. But this article isn’t about all the ways to do a processional. It’s about how we officiants come in, with whom, and why.
So to recap: we wedding officiants enter alone when two conditions are met: 1a) Partner 1 wants to come in with someone else either before the processional or as part of the processional, and 1b) Partner 1’s party is entering as part of the processional, too.
If either of those aren’t happening, we move on to presenting our couple with the next 3 options.
2. The officiant enters with Partner 1 only
With this option, the officiant comes in and down the aisle either with Partner 1 right beside or trailing behind. (I much prefer side-by-side when it’s just 2 of us coming in.) This is the option for when the couple would like Partner 1’s wedding party to come down the aisle as part of the processional along with Partner 2’s wedding party, as well.
And this can only happen with Partner 1 won’t be doing any “honourary seating” – won’t be accompanying any family members to their seats as in the case above.
Here’s what that looks like:
The officiant walks in with Partner 1 only, and they turn and face the guests at the front. It’s just the officiant and Partner 1 up there, and then the officiant welcomes everyone and makes the opening remarks. We conclude our remarks with “…and with that, let’s begin,” and the music starts and the processional gets underway. That’s when everyone else makes their entrance.
If it’s not that cut-and-dried, there are 2 more options to choose from.
3. The officiant enters with only some of Partner 1’s wedding party
This is the option for when there’s a bit more honourary seating that needs to happen than just Partner 1 seating a parent or two.
Sometimes the couple likes the idea of honourary seating not just for the parents, but for the grandparents on either or both sides, step-parents, great-aunts and uncles… you get the picture.
Honourary seating is a great way to acknowledge and give a special place to any number of important loved ones who aren’t a part of the two wedding parties and the processional.
In some instances, parents – especially if they are together as a couple – can come down the aisle and seat themselves. But if it’s a grandma without grandpa, or a step-mom without dad, or anyone else that has no natural partner, we generally want them to be accompanied down the aisle. This is traditionally where the groom’s party has stepped in.
So for a single family member who needs to be accompanied down the aisle, we might ask some of the members from Partner 1’s wedding party to walk that person down the aisle on his or her way to the front.
So here’s what it looks like:
We officiants walk in with only some of Partner 1’s wedding party who are not filling the role or accompanying someone down the aisle. Then, before we make any opening remarks, all of us who are standing at the front are joined by each member of the wedding party who walks someone – one after another. This could be the Best Man, any number of groomsmen, and/or Partner 1.
When everyone has seated someone and taken their places standing at the front, we officiants begin with our welcome and opening remarks.
4. The officiant enters with Partner 1 and his/her wedding party
This is the best option for our couple when there’s no honourary seating at all and when their processional will only be Partner 2’s party coming down the aisle. So the officiant, Partner 1, and his or her entire party enter in a single file all together. It makes quite a scene!
Here’s what it looks like:
We officiants come through the door first with either Partner 1 behind us or beside us (again, I prefer beside). Behind the officiant and Partner 1 is the Best Man/Maid of Honour, and behind him or her is Partner 1’s entire wedding party in a single file. We all walk in together at a normal stride, fall in shoulder-to-shoulder along the front just like we rehearsed, and then the officiant opens with the welcome and opening remarks.
Nice and simple, this one.
So there you have it: just about every reasonable combination and permutation for getting to the front – and who we do it with. And why our couple might choose it.
When we wedding officiants thoroughly understand these 5 (but really just 4) options and present them succinctly to our couples, they can make the best choice for the start to their perfect wedding ceremony.
How about you? ‘Got another option you’ve seen or done? I’d love to hear it in the comments!