Order of Wedding Ceremony: What Comes First?

It’s a well-known fact that no two wedding ceremonies are alike, and that includes the order of wedding ceremony. Even though most follow the same generic order, the couple is free to customize the order of their ceremony to their own unique style. Whether that means incorporating religious or cultural traditions or throwing a celebratory fist in the air during the kiss, each couple can and should make their ceremony a reflection of their personal relationship. We’ve compiled a list of the complete order of wedding ceremony to help shape your special day, from the processional to the recessional. Once you’ve added your creative touches, add the order of your ceremony to beautiful wedding programs and be sure to pick up other great day-of wedding stationery and accessories, including menus, guestbooks, napkins, and more.

Order Of Wedding Ceremony

bride and groom in front of church


The processional begins with bridesmaids and groomsmen walking down the aisle, typically paired up. The maid of honor and best man walk down after all other bridesmaids and groomsmen have made their way down the aisle. The ring bearer will then carry the rings to the altar, followed by the flower girl.

In a traditional Christian processional, the bride is walked down the aisle by her father while the groom waits at the altar. In a traditional Jewish processional, the groom’s parents escort him down the aisle, followed by the bride being escorted down the aisle by her parents.

Botanical wedding program with custom details and illustrations

Opening Remarks

Next, come the opening remarks. These include any words of welcome that the officiant may express. Typically, they begin with “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today…” or some may just address the crowd as “Friends and family…”.

The officiant may then share the significance of marriage with the crowd or a small antidote of your love story. You can delegate what you would prefer your officiant to open with ahead of time if you wish to do so.

couple getting married


A few people may be invited up to share or exchange readings at this point in the ceremony. Whether these readings are religious, spiritual, or excerpts from your favorite romance novel, you can tailor the readings to reflect you and your partners idea of love and marriage.

Officiant Addresses the Couple

The officiant will then address the couple, emphasizing the significance of the responsibilities or marriage and vows in which the couple is about to take.

bride reading her vows

Exchange of Vows

The wedding vows provide the couple with a great opportunity to add a personal touch to the ceremony. Couples may choose to write their own vows to each other, exchange how they first met and reflect on their relationship or use the traditional phrasing guided by the officiant. This is your opportunity to make a special promise to your love, so plan how you wish to express this feeling in advance.

Ring Exchange

Right after the vows comes the ring exchange. The officiant will prompt the ring bearer to present the rings. Typically, you will say “With this ring, I thee wed…”. Remember to place the ring on your partner’s left hand, as this side is closer to the heart. The bride’s wedding band will be placed on the same finger as the engagement ring.

featured image for DIY wedding decorations with different day of programs

Pronouncement of Marriage

Once the rings have been properly placed, the officiant will pronounce you and your love husband and wife. Now it’s time to officially seal the deal.

The Kiss

Next comes the most anticipated moment of the whole ceremony. The officiant will say “You may now kiss the bride”. Some grooms will choose to dip their bride as they kiss them or lift them off their feet in a warm embrace. No matter what you and your partner choose to do, it will definitely be a magical moment and a must-have wedding photo that you’ll look back on for the rest of your life.

unity ceremony of mixing sands

Unity Ceremony

Some couples opt to have a unity ceremony after the first kiss. Some unity ceremony ideas include the mixing of two different colors of sand or water to symbolize two becoming one or a candle lighting.

Closing Remarks

The officiant will end the ceremony with a few closing words. For a religious ceremony, he or she will also include a blessing for the couple to have a long and happy marriage.

bride and groom walk down aisle

The Recessional

The bride and groom are the first to exit during the recessional. They are then followed by the flower girl and the ring bearer. The maid of honor and best man will then make their way down the aisle, followed by the remaining bridesmaids and groomsmen. The bride and groom’s parents will then exit. The guests should be the last to exit and will make their way to the cocktail hour or reception.

More Great Wedding Ideas

When adding the order of wedding ceremony to your wedding programs, be sure to mention who’s who in the wedding party to properly acknowledge your friends and family who helped to make this day so special. And be sure to check out our wedding invitations, save the dates (including the ever-popular save the date magnets), wedding announcements, and more wedding cards.

Now that your wedding ceremony has gone off without a hitch, it’s party time! Celebrate your marriage with all of your family and friends at the reception where you’ll pop some bubbly, indulge in a fabulous wedding cake and dance the night away.

If you have a smaller guest list or want a more intimate celebration, check out these inspiring backyard wedding ideas. As the night draws to a close, have your guests participate in a unique wedding send-off idea to match the theme of your wedding. Regardless of how you choose to execute your ceremony and reception, it is sure to be a day that you and your partner cherish for the rest of your lives.