Thursday, 30 May 2013

Ceremony Basics

No matter what your religion or cultural background is, you will have some very basic ceremony issues to deal with. Who sits where and who will walk who down the aisle are both very important concerns for you and your family. The following information is based on traditional Western etiquette.

Seating of the Guests

If your ceremony does not include groomsmen, you will need to have at least one usher per fifty guests to help seat them. Typically the bride's family sits on the left side of the aisle while the groom's family sits on the right side of the aisle in a Christian ceremony. The opposite is true for Reform or Conservative Jewish weddings. In Orthodox Jewish ceremonies, men and women are usually segregated. If adhering to religious mandates isn't an issue and one side has more guests than the other, you may dispense with these customs and seat everyone together. This way, you won't end up seating some people way in the back when there are much closer seats on the other side. Your siblings and immediate family should sit in the first and second rows, either beside your mother and father (who are always in the front row) or behind them. Grandparents should never sit farther than the third row and close friends and other relatives sit behind the first three rows of relatives. Of course, if your family is much larger, make the appropriate decisions on where family members should sit based on seating restrictions at the location of the ceremony.In some ceremonies, the first few rows of pews (or chairs) are sectioned off by ribbons (or signs) that indicate they are reserved for family only.

The Processional

For Christian ceremonies, processionals can vary. What is allowed in the processional in your particular church is up to you and your officiant. Some churches encourage the bridesmaids and groomsmen to walk down the aisle together, while others prefer to have the bridesmaids walk alone. If the bridesmaids are walking alone down the aisle, the groomsmen will stand at the altar with the groom just in front of the officiant. Other couples choose to have the bridesmaids start out by themselves and have the groomsmen meet them halfway down the aisle to escort them to the altar. Your officiant or site coordinator will instruct your attendants on which is preferred at your particular church.
Typical order of your bridal party is: bridesmaids, maid of honor, ring bearer, and flower girl. For large weddings with many bridesmaids, you can send them down the aisle in pairs. Which bridesmaid starts first? The order of bridesmaids is completely up to you unless your officiant prefers that you line them up according to height.
After the flower girl has made her way down the aisle, it is now your turn! You can either walk down on the arm of the man or woman who is giving you away or by yourself. Some brides choose to be escorted by both their parents or a close relative if both parents are deceased. It is also perfectly normal (and romantic) to have your fiancé meet you halfway down the aisle!
Jewish Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform processionals vary according to the family's preferences, devoutness, and local customs. The traditional religious Jewish processional may begin with the rabbi and cantor, with the cantor on the rabbi's right. The grandparents (first the bride's and then the groom's) are then escorted in. The groomsmen will walk down one by one, followed by the best man. The groom then walks between his mother, on his right, and his father on his left. The bridesmaids then walk one by one, followed by the maid of honor, ring bearer, and flower girl. The bride is the last to enter, with her mother on her right and her father on her left.
Traditional Muslim ceremony processionals tend to be focused on the bride and the groom's separate entrances into the ceremony. However, many American Muslim and Hindu ceremonies tend to have processionals similar to Christian weddings due to Western influences.

Giving the Bride Away

In traditional Western ceremonies, the father of the bride gives the bride away. But sometimes death or divorce changes people's circumstances. When faced with the loss of a father, many brides wonder who will give them away at their wedding.
If your father has passed away, do whatever feels most comfortable for you. If your mother has remarried and you are close to your stepfather, he may be a good choice. Otherwise, a sibling, a grandfather, a special friend, or an uncle can do the honors. Some brides walk down the aisle with their mothers, a special aunt, or the groom, while others choose to walk without an escort. Keep in mind that whomever you choose will sit in the front pew with your mother during the ceremony (unless you choose your groom, of course).
If your parents are divorced and both parents are remarried, your decision will depend on your preference and family situation. To avoid tension, take care to somehow include both men in the proceedings. If you have remained close to your father, you may prefer that he fulfill his traditional role, while your stepfather does the reading. Or perhaps you will ask them both to escort you down the aisle. Often in Jewish ceremonies both parents, even when divorced, walk the bride down the aisle.
You may decide to do away with this tradition altogether. If so, there are options that you should discuss with your officiant. Instead of asking “Who gives this woman in marriage?”, he or she may ask, “Who blesses this union?” Your father may respond “Her mother and I do,” and take a seat next to your mother. It is also entirely appropriate for both parents to respond “We do.” In this case your mother should also stand up when the officiant presents the question.

The Recessional

You've kissed, you've been pronounced husband and wife … now how do you get from the altar to your limousine (or cocktail hour)? In most Western and Christian ceremonies, you and your new husband lead the recessional followed by your child attendants (if they are able and old enough). Your maid of honor and best man are next, followed by the bridesmaids escorted by their respective groomsmen.
The order of the Jewish recession is as follows: bride and groom, bride's parents, groom's parents, child attendants, honor attendants and bridesmaids paired with groomsmen. You cantor and rabbi walk at the end of the recession. Muslim and Hindu ceremonies are similar to Christian recessionals.

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