Some churches have two center aisles. In such cases, use the left aisle for the procession and the right aisle for the recession, or close off the second aisle entirely. Houses of worship with one center aisle are more common, however, and this aisle is used for both the procession and the recession.
The Protestant Procession
The ushers enter first from the back of the church, in pairs, by height—from shortest (first) to tallest. If there is an extra usher, the shortest leads, alone. Ushers walk slowly, in step, leaving three to four pews between each pair.
The bridesmaids walk down the aisle next, four to five pews behind the ushers. They walk alone if there are fewer than five; otherwise, they are paired according to height. If there is not an even number of bridesmaids, the shortest person leads, alone.
The junior bridesmaid precedes the honor attendant; if there are two junior bridesmaids, they may walk together.
The maid of honor or matron of honor precedes the child attendants (if there are any), or the bride (if there aren’t). If there is both a maid of honor and a matron of honor, they may either walk together or separately. Whoever has the most duties walks last, directly before the bride.
The ring bearer walks alone or may be paired with the flower girl.
The flower girl precedes the bride (traditionally strewing petals in her path; today, practicality often rules that she simply carry a basket of flowers).
The bride and her father enter next, the bride on her father’s left arm.
The pages (if there any) end the procession, carrying the bride’s train.
The Catholic Procession
The same order is followed, although the ushers may forgo the walk down the aisle and be met at the chancel door by the priest, groom, and best man.
The Jewish Procession
Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Jewish processions vary according to local custom and the family’s preferences.
Most Formal Procession
In the most formal procession, the rabbi and cantor (walking on the rabbi’s right) walk down the aisle first, followed by:
- the bride’s grandparents
- the groom’s grandparents
- the ushers in pairs, by height: from shortest to tallest (last)
- the best man
- the groom on his father’s right, his mother’s left
- the bridesmaids, individually by height (shortest first); if there are more than five, they may walk in pairs. If there is not an even number of bridesmaids, the shortest walks alone, first.
- the honor attendant(s); the one with the most duties precedes the bride
- the ring bearer
- the flower girl
- the bride on her father’s right arm, her mother’s left
Most simple procession
In the most simple Jewish procession, the ushers walk down the aisle first in pairs, by height, followed by the bridesmaids in pairs, the best man, the groom, the honor attendant, the flower girl, and the bride on her father’s right arm. It’s optional for the groom’s parents and the bride’s mother to join the procession.
The Informal Procession
At very small weddings, such as civil ceremonies, the bride is preceded by one attendant and escorted into the room by her father. Or, there may not be a procession. The bride and groom might stand before the minister, with guests standing in a circle around them.
For a large civil ceremony in a ballroom or other formal setting, choose the procession that suits the site.