It can be confusing knowing what you need to do at the ceremony. Who tells the guests when the ceremony is about to start? Which side do you stand? Who starts the music? Coupled with ceremony nerves, it can all feel a bit daunting. Here are our suggestions and recommendations to make it all run smoothly.
THE CEREMONY AREA AT YOUR VENUE
You will probably have an arch, pergola or pillars and urns and flowers to frame your ceremony area. It’s also very useful to have a table and chair slightly to the side. If you are going to be signing a commemorative certificate, you will need somewhere to sit while you do it and you can also place your bouquet there during the ceremony.
WHERE DOES EVERYONE SIT?
Ceremony chairs for the guests are usually set out in pairs, with either two, four or six on either side of the aisle. But if the space can only accommodate an odd number, this is also fine.
Looking from the rear of the aisle towards the celebrant, the bride’s family and friends traditionally sit on the left-hand side but today, most couples are happy for guests to sit where they wish.
The bride will stand on that side too when she arrives.
WHAT ABOUT RESERVED SEATS FOR FAMILY AND BRIDAL PARTY?
Usually this is the front two or three rows on either side of the aisle.
Mothers usually occupy the front aisle side seats at each side. Their husbands traditionally sit next to them. However if the parents have remarried, then the birth parents can sit together if they wish, or they can sit in their new partnerships — usually together on the front row.
Bridesmaids and groomsmen can then fill the remainder of the front rows spilling to the second rows as required. Usually the partners of the bridesmaids and groomsmen sit separately — often directly behind their partners.
Flower girls often sit with the bridesmaids – maybe a designated bridesmaid to each one. Otherwise, especially if they are very young, they might sit with their parents towards the front.
You can make or buy special reserved seating notices (try Etsy, or your wedding planner may help you with these) but the easiest option you have one or two ushers to stand in the aisle near the front while guests are being seated, to explain that the front two or three rows are reserved. One of them should stay somewhere near the front in case bridesmaids, flower girl or ring-bearer needs help with where to sit.
The groom and groomsmen/Best Man stand with the celebrant at the front. Looking back at the guests, the groom will be on the left of the celebrant, in front of the right hand batch of seats.
Photographers prefer that just the celebrant and the couple are standing – this allows them more space to move around and get their angles. Readers will come forward when their moment arrives and your celebrant will indicate where to stand – usually behind the groom.
WHEN DO THE GUESTS SIT DOWN?
We recommend that your guests should only go to the ceremony area about 5-10 minutes before we expect the bride to arrive. Why? we hear you ask. Well, we are blessed with very good weather here in Mallorca and it can get a little uncomfortable if people are sitting too long in the sun in their finery! So it’s best not to seat the guests at the scheduled time – wait until we know the bride is on her way. If you don’t have a wedding planner, this can be a great job for your ushers or groomsmen when the time is right.
This musical piece will be played as the bridal party arrives.
At this point, the groom and his Best Man are usually waiting at the front of the ceremonial area.
The groom’s parents are generally seated at the same time as the guests. However they can be part of the procession too (for example, if there is a Jewish family heritage).
The groomsmen can walk in with the bridesmaids, in pairs, ahead of the bride as part of the procession. In some situations, the bridal pair walk in together (for example, this is very common for Swedish weddings).
At a given signal from the planner or celebrant, the music begins and after a few moments the celebrant may invite the guests to stand ”to welcome the bridal procession.”
WHAT IS THE ORDER OF ENTRY FOR THE BRIDAL PARTY?
The order of entry is usually:
Flower girls or ring bearer
Bridesmaids – singly or in pairs
Maid or Matron of honour
Bride with her father -or other relative or friend who is escorting her
You are free to change this order. The only thing that we strongly advise is that bridesmaids and flower girls always come in before the bride. The bride and her father or other escort are always the last to arrive.
The procession should be well spaced out – and each participant should walk slowly without rushing. This ensures that everyone can be seen and that the photographer can get shots of each person individually.
TIPS FOR THE BRIDE
When you are walking down the aisle you will see the groom and Best Man to your right. When they reach the top of the aisle, the bridesmaids will stand on the left to wait for the bride (as viewed from the back).
You stand to the left of your father or friend as you walk in and hold his left arm. Let the last bridesmaid get to the front before you set off down the aisle … and walk very slowly without rushing. Hold your bouquet in front of you rather than out to one side. If you have a train, it’s best to let it trail behind you and don’t worry about it getting dusty!
When you arrive at the front, the father or friend places your hand in that of the groom and offers his love and blessing. He may also shake the groom’s hand. Then he takes his seat.
Our celebrants can offer guidance on the spot if necessary and will be able to speak very quietly to the participants so this will seem very natural.
Now you hand your bouquet to the chief bridesmaid (or if you are signing a ceremonial certificate, it can be placed on the altar or side table for this purpose).
Now the ceremony will begin!
And here’s the most important point of all -concentrate on one another, relax and enjoy it together!
In our next blog post we’ll cover subjects like the music during the ceremony and photography.