The Evolution of the Processional

The processional: the first big moment of the wedding. It’s dramatic, with all eyes on that walk down the aisle.  There are some standards and rules that are easy to find in, for example, the Catholic Church, or other traditional services and settings. And, no matter what the traditional order of entrance, we’re most used to seeing the groom waiting at the altar for his bride to make her big entrance. But what if it’s two brides or two grooms?

One of the biggest and very positive effects gay weddings are having on straight weddings, is allowing us to think differently about the processional.

At this point in time, is there really any difference at all between a straight couple or a gay couples’ wedding?  I’m fond of saying there is no difference, but that isn’t entirely true.

There are a few nuisances to consider, and the processional is one of them.

In the end, everyone has the choice to create a different style processional, if they so desire. If you are not within the confines of a specific tradition, which maydictate exactly how that will go (and be sure ask about it if you’d like something different)the processional can be changed up in exciting new ways. With modern weddings, we have the opportunity to bend or break the rules. Don’t panic. You’ll still be married even if your processional is a bit different.

I understand that, for most people, the bride’s entrance is a moment she, and maybe her entire family, has been waiting for a lifetime. A father escorting his daughter down the aisle might his dream as well as hers, and a beautiful moment for sure. But it is not always an option. Sometimes there is no father in the picture, or for many reasons, it just may not work.

I have learned that when we break from traditions, for good reasons, we can enhance our experience, whether straight or gay.  Creating something that reflects who we are, and being authentic, is worth the time and thought.

There are a couple of ways to approach this.  Let’s break it down.

Photo credit: Garth Woods

The couple enters together. This is one of my favorite ways for any couple to enter. And it works well, not only for same-sex couples, but for anyone, and especially for an older couple who may have had a more traditional experience the first time around. It clearly symbolizes equality, and partnership, and if there are children involved, walking in with the kids is also great. As they enter, I might say, ‘please stand to greet the happy couple’, or ‘please welcome our brides’ (or grooms).

Two aisles– Instead of a center aisle, each partner can enter along the sides and meet at front,  or have two aisles created if space permits. Coming up next year and I have couple at a fancy resort, who worked out entering the ceremony space not just along the sides of the chairs, but from completely different locations, utilizing the entrances available at the venue. It is going to be very effective and dramatic. If escorted by a parent or parents, everyone meets and the front, with hugs and kisses all around and then the parents can take their seats.

Separately, down one aisle. Many people and many places are not happy if there is no center aisle, or can’t imagine creating two aisles. But if both partners are entering down the center aisle, it becomes tricky when deciding who enters first. Someone has to go first. I’m often relieved when the couple already has a clear idea about that, but if not, it has to be decided. Flip a coin maybe?

I have had a few same sex couples who chose to have one partner wait at the front and the other enter, perhaps feeling it is the traditional way to do it, and there is nothing wrong with that, either.

As to the rest of the processional – the attendants, aka: ‘bridal party’ – the good news is many young couples today are mixing it up. The people standing with you need not be dependent on their gender, but rather their relationship to you.  And how they enter can be interesting. aaI like alternating each attendant, as they enter, and having them peel off, left and right, each going to stand by ‘their’ person. They can also enter in pairs, and there’s nothing wrong with two men or two women entering as a ‘pair.’  If they enter separately they might then recess as couples. When there is an uneven number, have a best person walk alone, or space permitting, three people can walk out together. Attendants can also escort single parents, grandparents, or anyone who needs help, seat them, and then stand at the front.

The processional can be as innovative as you want it to be, and it will start the ceremony and the big day with a refreshing outlook.


     Thank you Lisa Rhinehart   and Garth Woods,  for the use of your wonderful photography



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