Traditional Wedding Ceremony

The phrases “traditional wedding ceremony” and “non-religious wedding ceremony” are used interchangeably because neither involve any religious traditions or adheres to a religious structure. This secular ceremony is legally binding and, depending on what the couple wants, comes in many different forms. Here is a basic outline of the traditional wedding ceremony order:

1. Processional

During this part of the wedding ceremony, your immediate family, wedding party and, finally, you and your partner walk down the aisle. Traditionally, if the wedding is for a couple of the opposite sex, the procession starts with the officiant and follows with the groom (who can walk down the aisle with their parents or alone), the best man, the groomsmen, the maid of honor, the bridesmaids, the flower girl, ring bearer and the bride (who can walk down the aisle with their parents or alone). While this structure is what’s commonly adhered to, it can be adjusted, especially for LGBTQ+ couples who should feel empowered to customize the processional order as they see it.

Typically, the groomsmen stand behind the groom, and bridesmaids stand behind the bride, but recently some couples have been switching it up. Instead, the bridesmaids stand behind the groom and the groomsmen stand behind the bride. This allows the couple to look to their VIPs for emotional support (without having to turn around). Another way some couples are straying from tradition is by choosing to walk down the aisle together instead of separately. This method acts as a symbol of the couple continuing, not starting, their love journey together.

2. Opening Remarks From the Officiant

This part of the wedding ceremony order is also called the invocation. Once everyone has settled into their place at the altar, the officiant will welcome everyone to the wedding ceremony and thank guests for being present as witnesses. The officiant can also speak about marriage and your and your partner’s love story.

3. Readings

Wedding readings are texts that you and your partner feel represent your relationship. The readings can be from poems, spiritual texts or even your favorite movie. Some couples ask their family or friends to recite them to add sentimental meaning to the moment (if you do this, the officiant will introduce each reader).

Additionally, if you’re planning to include a unity ceremony, such as a sand ceremony or handfasting, that ceremony element can take place at this point in the service.

4. Declaration of Intent and Vow Exchange

Now it’s time to say, “I do!” The declaration of intent, the legally binding part of the ceremony, is when you and your partner verbally acknowledge that you’re both present of your own volition and want to marry one another. Once that is addressed, you can exchange vows. You can deliver your vows publicly or privately if you want more intimacy. Your wedding vows can be in a traditional structure or as unconventional as you want them to be.

5. Ring Exchange

After the declaration of intent and vow exchange, you and your partner exchange rings. The officiant gives each of you the other’s wedding ring. You can take this time to say some kind words about why the wedding ring is significant to you and your marriage.

6. Pronouncement and First Kiss

Now you and your partner are officially married! The officiant will pronounce you and your partner as newlyweds and say you can finally have your first kiss as a married couple.

7. Recessional

The last step that signifies the end of the traditional wedding ceremony order is the recessional. Generally, the recessional follows the reverse order of the processional, which means the couple leads the way and the officiant is the last to leave. The officiant may exit down the center of the aisle or exit to the side after giving closing remarks and offering instructions to the wedding guests.

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