A formal church wedding usually follow a traditional protocol. The seating of the mother of the groom and the mother of the bride is the traditional signal that the ceremony is beginning. All guests should already be seated before this formality.
After the mother of the bride is seated, the groom and the minister enter and take their place, along with the best man. If the groomsmen are not escorting the bridesmaids, the groomsmen also enter with the groom and best man.
Then the music changes and the bridesmaids enter, beginning with the bridesmaid who stands farthest from the bride. The spacing between the bridesmaids depends upon how quickly the bride wants the processional to finish. There is also the consideration of the photographer being able to get the best photos possible.
Once the Maid or Matron of Honor has taken her place, then the music changes for the Bride. The Bride enters with her escort, usually her father, a brother or a favorite male relative.
Normally the groomsmen and bridesmaids stand to each side of the Bride and Groom throughout the ceremony. This is optional, however. The attendants can be seated during the ceremony, with only the best man and Maid of Honor standing with the Bride and Groom. They need to stay standing with the Bride and Groom because of responsibilities during the ceremony.
The Maid or Matron of Honor is responsible to arrange the Bride’s dress during the ceremony. When the Bride is ready to hand off her flowers, the Maid of Honor takes care of the flowers, and also makes sure the Bride receives the flowers at the end of the ceremony, for the Recessional.
The Best Man is responsible to care for the rings and to hand the rings to the Bride and Groom at the proper moments.
Let’s start thinking about variations on these traditions for a wedding outside of a church, especially for a non-traditional couple.
First, there really isn’t any necessity for bridesmaids and groomsmen. If the Bride chooses to include these people of honor, she might consider permitting them to wear dress clothing that will have many more uses than just the wedding.
Let’s ask the question for every wedding, in making plans: Is the intention of each choice made for a reasonable purpose, or is it just to impress everyone, or is it just mindlessly following traditions?
The only absolute necessity for a wedding ceremony is the Bride, the Groom and the minister. Every other person included with them should be there for a special reason by the couple. Don’t just include people because you’ve always seen it done. Have your own reason for each choice.
For the processional: I’ll say it. The couple can enter together, if they like. Or, the groom can enter with his parents escorting him, and then the bride may enter with her parents escorting her. Or, the groom can be at the front, and the bride enter alone, and when she has walked halfway down the aisle, she can stop and wait for the groom to walk out to her, and escort her the rest of the way to the minister. This arrangement represents an equality in marriage image better than the traditional protocol, in my opinion.
Be careful to not separate the ceremony from all traditional aspects of a wedding ceremony. If everything in the ceremony is unfamiliar to the guests, they may not be able to respect the meaning of the ceremony.
The focus should always be on making a public declaration and covenant to each other in the presence of God, family and friends. This makes the seriousness of the vows very real and stands as a reminder to the couple of their commitment to each other for the rest of their life together.