Monday, July 27, 2015

The Processional Rehearsal

The Processional

When it comes to the wedding ceremony, one of the most beautiful things about being a 21st  century Bride is that there are no rules anymore.  This is also one of the most confusing aspects  of being a bride these days. Many couples don’t know where to begin so let’s begin at the beginning with some things to consider while making your choices!

Traditionally, in a Christian or Civil ceremony, the Groom enters down the aisle and goes to his  Right. (which is my Left as I face the guests.) Traditionally for Jewish couples this is reversed.  Being a matriarchal lineage, if the Bride is Jewish, people who always use proper etiquette, unless instructed to do otherwise, stand them Jewish for an Interfaith Ceremony. But remember  if it's a Civil Ceremony where the couple is Culturally Jewish this may apply as well.

Most folks these days are not acquainted with Emily Post. However I try to always inform them of proper etiquette and then let them make a decision that works. Spatial limitations, if there's  more guys than girls and more room on one side, or as with one of my recent couples, she's deaf in one ear and needs to hear me on the repeat after me, these are great reasons to swap sides.

The PreamblePadding the Edges of Your Ceremony

My ceremonies almost always begin with a preamble. As the title implies it comes before the  processional music begins and the entrances are made. It is used to call the guests to order with a friendly welcome and a request to turn off their cell phones. Not because we expect them to  be rude, but because we know they are excited and happy to be there, seeing people they haven’t seen in ages, and eagerly awaiting the Bride’s entrance. It’s only natural that they forget being that we all wear our phones with as little thought as we give to a watch these days. These days it also includes a request not to reach cameras and smart phones into the professional pictures.

The preamble can also be used to explain anything in the ceremony that may be new to them. This is very helpful for Interfaith and Multicultural ceremonies, because understanding what’s going on allows your guests to participate emotionally and intellectually in the ceremony. It is  also an opportunity to promote an understanding of the new culture or faith that is joining the family. This is often the same information that goes into a program.

If you have gone to the trouble of ordering rose petals, bubbles, wedding rice, or even Fruit Loops for that colorful touch to your exit pictures this is the place to tell them why they're there, and then cue them just before you want them thrown.

So the Preamble is delivered and the Music begins...

The Groom

Although many Groom’s would rather not be in the spotlight and opt for just stepping up into place, with their parents already seated, the thing to remember about walking down the aisle is that it is a photo opportunity, and that those pictures will be priceless in 40 years. On the other hand if the couple has not seen each other yet, having the Groom already in place gives the bride more freedom of movement.

With that said, the Groom can:

be in place alone
be in place with his Best Man
be in place with all of his gentlemen
enter down the aisle alone
enter down the aisle with his best man
enter down the aisle with all of his attendants
enter down the aisle with his parents (one or both)

BTW Guys a clean handkerchief is a great thing to have in your pocket to wipe a tear from your beautiful bride’s eye.

The Grandparents

I am a big fan of just asking people what they want to do. In the case of Grandparents the
question is are they well and active enough that walking down the aisle is something that they wouldn’t miss for the world... or would it be burdensome for them.

Before people could read,  the processional was your family line on parade. Walking showed their agreeing to join the families, kingdoms, and fortunes. Where people walked showed their side and rank within the family. Grandparents gave birth to the Parents, who gave birth to the couple. So, Grandparents usually lead the Family portion of the processional Groom’s side first and then the Bride’s side. Wonderful if they are in pairs! But they can be escorted by Ushers, or family members. Members of the Bridal party may circle back for double duty if the Bridesmaids and Groomsmen are entering in pairs.

The Parents

You’d think this would be an easy one, right?  Well that depends on your family structure.
Couples today have the option of sending them down the aisle in pairs after the Grandparents, with the Groom’s Parents first as the Mother of the Bride is traditionally the LAST to be seated before the Bridal Party enters. Mother of the Groom would be seated before the Groom's dad if they are not together. The other option is the Bride and the Groom entering with both parents. It’s not only for the Jewish couples anymore! Any why should it be when it symbolizes the coming together of two families.

For families  with a more common but less traditional structure the entrances can also go:

Father of the Groom with or without partner
Mother of the Groom with or without partner
Father of the Bride if not escorting Bride with or without partner
Mother of the Bride with or without partner

Partners may, but do not need not make a formal entrance if divorced parents are amenable to entering together or if it is the couples choice not to have them formally enter.

Above order may be juggled to put a buffer where needed.

Mother of the Bride is traditionally last to be seated, as a place of honor, before the bridal Party enters. Sometimes the father of the Bride does double duty, escorting mom and the Bride, other times she has a husband of her own, a brother, son, or someone else to escort her. Can she enter alone? Sure if she wishes!


Here is where it gets a little tricky!  They can of course escort their spouse but placement in the processional is a visual symbol of their place in the couples life. Seating a Stepmother after a biological mother indicates that you were raised by your Stepmom. Grandparents are also sometimes last to be seated if they were the primary influence. Sometimes the mother of the groom is in that last to be seated lace of honor because she is the one who has been like a mom to the Bride.

The Best Man

The most frequent entrance for the Best Man is with the Groom. The original tradition of the Best Man goes back to the Goths, Visigoths, Vandals and other European tribes. Among these peoples it was customary to marry within ones own tribe or village, unless of course there was a shortage of women. Then you would have to go and kidnap one from the neighbors. The “Best Man” was the best of your friends with his weapons who would go to watch your back as you absconded with a Bride.  At the wedding ceremony his job was not to hold the rings but to guard the perimeter in case the Bride’s family tried to kidnap her back before the marriage could take place. Sometimes he would even have to stand guard over the honeymoon cottage in case they tried to rescue her before the marriage could be consummated. With this in mind remember that today’s Best Man gets off pretty easy by comparison. But all that information does explain why the Best Man is supposed to be at the Groom’s side as much as is reasonably possible. So he can....

Step up with the Groom
Enter down the aisle with the Groom
Escort a Parent or Grandparent then join the Groom

In the case where the Groom is entering with both of his parents the Best Man follows and steps into place while the Groom is seating his parents and receiving their blessing.

So your Best Man is a Best Woman? You have two Best Men?
Fabulous! Same thing as above happens.

The Bridesmaids and Groomsmen

You have even numbers and you want them to enter in pairs? Lucky you! You’re almost done! Traditionally they enter in reverse order of emotional closeness. So, boys go to the far right - Girls go to the far left  and the other couples take their places closer and closer to where the  Bride and Groom will stand. If you don't care who walks with who, we can line them up in height order on the day! Those of you whom this works for, you can just skip to the Maid of Honor, unless of course you’re curious as to what your other options are.

Uneven numbers.... Remember this effects the exits as well. Some couples have all the men enter together in a line or step up from the side in a line. “Groomsmen” the word comes from them being his guards so this works. It is also a great photo opp. if they all come in one at a time and shake the Groom’s hand in congratulations as they reach him. All the women can then enter either alone or in pairs in Medieval style where they would be coming from another kingdom or castle with their Lady. I have also had one of my Brides ask her girls to enter half way, where they were met by a Groomsman who then escorted them the rest of the way to the front. This allowed some of them to do double duty. They exited then three across. If you choose a three across entrance or exit it is important to communicate this with your hall so they make the aisle wide enough to do this comfortably.

Jr. Bridesmaids and Jr. Groomsmen

Letting them lead the adults is usual, or keeping them closer to the Bride if they are the couples own children are your options.  How do you envision it to be? What are the other factors? Will their placement make young children want to follow them? If so then before the Ring Bearer and Flower Girl might be wise.

Ladies flowers are held at belly button level, if you are with two gentlemen - or if you are a Bride entering with two escorts, they cup your elbow. This prevents the interlocking of arms from raising your flowers to your chin!

The Maid of Honor / Matron of Honor

Traditionally she would go after the last Bridesmaid. If you have two send them alone or
together. Rarely Brides without parents choose to enter with their Maid of Honor. Something that I should have said earlier as rule #1, something that is good to remember in every case, the phrase “What ever works for you.” During the ceremony it is the Maid of honor’s role to keep the dress splayed, the veil back off the Bride’s face, to hold the Bride’s flowers and to make sure she doesn’t walk back down the aisle without them. Sometimes she will have the Groom’s wedding band. If there is a Maid and a Matron remember to divide the honors during the ceremony equally, some brides even have them switch positions. Asking one to stand closest to you and hold the flowers, then having the other switch places to give the wedding band means that nobody feels like just another bridesmaid.

Ring Bearers

Some like to lead with them before the Bridesmaids and Groomsmen, but traditionally children were seen as fertility symbols. This is why they were kept close to the Bride and would usually go after the Maid of Honor and before the Flower Girl. Age is a huge consideration so always place them how you think they will perform the best.

Flower Girls

Usually placed just before the Bride so that she is the only one to walk on the petals. When they are very young some put them before the Maid of Honor so that if they get.... stuck shall we say? She can swoop in and move things along. I love telling little girls that they are helping the  bride to be like Snow White “with lips that shame the red, red rose, she’ll walk in springtime where ever she goes.” Tiny tikes can also be pulled in wagons which is just too cute!

The Bride 

Traditionally, she would enter with her Father or if Jewish with both of her parents. Entering with both parents has become popular with couples of all cultures and faiths simply because they LOVE both of their parents and like the symbolism of two families joining. The modern Bride walking alone works too, especially for those who wish to assert that they come of their own free will as an equal not to be given nor taken. Brothers, Stepfathers, Uncles, Best Friends and children all can be used of the representative of the Friends and Family of the Bride who wish her well and welcome the Groom into their circle.. Do your dad and stepfather get along?  Why not have them escort you together? I even had a bride have her father walk her down the first half and then her stepfather the second half, so here you are again with the what ever works for you rule.

Bride and Groom entering together? Yes!
If they have a baby Bride and Groom entering together with their child can be wonderful as well.  If it fits your life this makes a nice exit too.

Is all this too much to think about? If so decide to line everyone up in height order on the
wedding day. The photos will be symmetrical and there's no stress.

The Hand Off

Just before the Bride reaches the altar they pause and she has a personal moment with her  escort. If the veil is down it is now lifted, a kiss is given as the family’s blessing upon the union  and then they turn and look at the Groom as his signal to come forward.  Groom goes to the Father of the Bride first with a handshake, hug or kiss, and then to whom ever else is escorting  the bride with same gesture of acceptance. Father of the Bride then joins the couple’s hands which is “giving away the hand of the Bride” The couple then step forward into their future. If  the dress is large letting dad sit before the couple comes forward removes the possibility of him stepping on the dress. If the bride is with both parents, the Groom should go to mom first and then to dad. Some Brides enter with their father then have their mother or stepfather rise as the get to the front to join them. The question of "Before we continue I would ask the Father of the Bride, does this marriage have your blessing?" is not a requirement. Some dads revel in it and  others would rather not have to speak. If the question will be asked though... it's always good to
warn dad that there's going to be a test.

All in Place!

Once in place the Bride will usually give the Maid of Honor her flowers.  M of H you're going to need your hands so pass your flowers off when you see the Bride coming. Her bouquet will be heavy so some like to place it on the altar table. Now is the time to splay her dress, straighten the veil, and then back into place. I tell my Maids of Honor to think of the camera shooting down the aisle and to keep their girl "picture perfect!" Thought we were done, didn’t you? Not so fast, you have invited all the people whom you love most in the world to share this moment  with you... Do you really want to give them your backs? You can face one another, stand with your officiant in a wide V shape or your officiant can go to your guests to address them and  then return to place to address the Bride and Groom.

Well that’s how we begin! Unless of course you are adding a pet.
If this is the case please refer back to rule #1 “What ever works!”

What about the exit?

Everyone folds back into reverse order. Bride and Groom, Best Man and Maid of Honor, then  Bridesmaids and Groomsmen. Small children can go with parents or how ever they are comfortable. Leaving enough space for the photographer to get good exit pictures is always a good idea.

Who leaves first the Bride's family or the Groom's? Traditionally it was always the host who left  last. However these days very few couples are lucky enough to have the Bride's family pay for  their wedding, so I usually just go in full reverse order of the entrances.

Brenda M. Owen Wedding Officiant, Minister -

A special thank-you to Pastor Marie April Gismondi 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Unity Love Knot / True Lover's Knot In Your Wedding Ceremony

“Tying the Knot” in your wedding ceremony is another way 

 to symbolize your coming together as one.

The “true lovers knot” which is the strongest there is will 

not break, and will only become stronger when under 


The rope itself will break before the knot comes undone.

The two separate cords represent your past and lives 

before today.

As you intertwine your pieces, you are joining your two lives into one, representing the present.

The finished knot symbolizes your future.....

 Your two lives are now bound together as one....

For more ideas on optional ceremonies for your wedding, 

please visit my website, the options & info tab here 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Paint Pouring Ritual During Your Wedding Ceremony -

One of the newest wedding ceremony traditions is Paint Pouring!  Every painting and every marriage begins with a blank canvas…

Paint Pouring set up at marriage ceremony site as guests are escorted to their seats.

Bride and groom add their two different colors to the canvas to symbolize their lives blending together. 

Bride and groom applying their paint to the canvas.

Bride and groom applying their paint to the canvas to create their unique painting.

Pouring their paint :)

The painting that you created together will symbolize your wedding day.

The finished painting.

"Work of Art" ready to be displayed in newlywed's home. 

Bride and Groom pouring their paint. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Wine Ceremony during your Wedding -

Including an 'optional ceremony or tradition' into your wedding ceremony is a great way symbolize the joining of your lives in marriage. They add a 'visual effect'.  Your guests are more likely remember what they see.  One of my personal favorites is the wine ceremony..

Long ago, wine was revered as the blood of the earth.
When a bride and groom pledged themselves to each other, they drank wine from a single cup, signifying that they were becoming one blood, one family and one kin.
Cup-raising was an invitation to witness their oath and hold the persons to their words.

Wine is a symbol of abundance, joy and life. 

Your officiant can describe the properties in the wine that are symbolic of 'Life's Journey'.

Those who drink deeply from the "Cup of Life" with an open heart and willing spirit, invite the full range of challenges and experiences into their being.


May you find life’s joys heightened, it’s bitterness sweetened and all of life enriched.

A venue with a vineyard is the perfect place to include this ceremony.  Contact me for details.

#WeddingCeremony, #WeddingOfficiant, #WeddingMinister, #JusticeofthePeace, #Celebrant, #WeddingChaplin, #Elope, #Elopement

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Wedding Ceremony Family Bible Signing

A Family Bible is a time-honored tradition.  It is handed down through a family and each successive generation records information about the family's history inside it. 

I was recently honored to officiate the wedding ceremony of a couple that wanted to include the signing of the Family Bible during  their wedding.
The bride's grandparents had given them (and all of their children and grandchildren) a Family Bible as a wedding gift.  They wanted to honor them by including them and the signing in their ceremony.

Officiant invites the grandparents to join us and sign the Family Bible.   (They had no idea this was being done, it was a complete surprise!) 

Wedding Officiant signs the Bible.

Bride signs her Family Bible as her grandmother and the groom observe.

Groom signs....

This is a wonderful way to pass on stories, family faith and traditions from one generation to the next.  

To see a complete list of all optional ceremonies and traditions that I am happy to include in your wedding ceremony (at no addional fee), please visit the 'Options and Info'  page ( my website: -   Thanks for stopping by!  

**These photos courtesy of Sarah Holder Photography in Greenville, SC 
**Ceremony location:  Mary's Cottage at Falls Park - Greenville, SC 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Tree Planting In Your Wedding Ceremony

A creative nature-inspired idea is to plant a tree together, adding soil (perhaps gathered from both of your hometowns) to a potted plant to symbolize your union.
You can transplant it to your yard after your wedding or when you purchase a home.

You will need a sapling, two containers of dirt, two trowels and a small watering can.

Your officiant can speak about building strong roots for the foundation of your marriage.

And as you provide sun, soil and water for your tree,

remember to nourish each other with words of encouragement, trust, and love. 

A special thank-you to Milan Morgan Photography and Augusta Manor in Greenville, SC for these images.  +Brenda M. Owen - Wedding Officiant Minister - 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Love Letter on your Wedding Day -

Bride and Groom before your wedding day, write a love letter to each other.

The letters should describe the good qualities you find in one another, the reasons that you fell in love, for choosing to marry as well as your hopes and dreams for the future.

Seal your letter in individual envelopes and have your photographer take photos of you reading your letters.

These letters will always be a special memory, memento of you wedding day.  

Brenda Owen Wedding Officiant, Minister -

These photos courtesy Jon Torres ~

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Ring Bearer Ideas, Inspiration -

Who says you have to put your wedding rings on a pillow?  Not me! Following are some ideas you can incorporate into your wedding.  Let your imagination run free!

"Ring Protection Agent" 

Love birds nest dish.

Log Ring Dish perfect for a rustic or country wedding.

 Heart shaped ring box.

One of my brides made her ring box herself. 

Wedding Bloopers - How to Keep them from Happening to You! -

There is no such thing as a perfect wedding. . . and if there were, would you really want it?  Perfection is probably not your goal. No doubt this is a red-letter day in your life. You want it to be special. You want your family and; friends to celebrate with you and have a good time. However, little unexpected things happen. When you keep things in perspective, these don't have to ruin your day. Of course, you don't want major disruptions or distractions because of poor planning and; preparation. That's why you want to avoid pitfalls #'s 2-5.  Do this: On your wedding day, give yourself a good talking to and remind yourself what your wedding day is really all about.

f your wedding rehearsal is an exercise in frustration, you don't have much time to get over it! Likely your wedding is the next day. Do this: You can reduce the chances of problems at the wedding rehearsal in a couple of ways:  One, have a professional director if possible. At the least, you need a friend or family member with strong enough personality (without taking over your wedding wishes) to get people moving and to be there for the wedding to remind everyone what to do/when.  Two, know before going to your rehearsal exactly how you want your wedding to go. Rehearsals are not a time for working this out, but for practicing what you've already decided. This doesn't mean that you won't see something at your rehearsal that you want to change. But, if you go in with no plan, well-meaning friends & family may take over your wedding.

Pitfall #3: NO BACK-UP PLAN IF YOU HAVE CHILDREN IN YOUR WEDDING:  Children are precious in weddings and if you want them in yours, then certainly include them. However, for the sake of the children, have a back-up plan.
Even children who are outgoing have trouble sometimes when they see "all those people." You don't want the children to be embarrassed, frightened, and upset.
Do this: Increasing, couples have children (ring bearers, flower girls) come down the aisle and then immediately go sit with family on the front rows.
This way, they feel included in the wedding and; "get seen" but then are relieved from the pressure of the spotlight.
What if children are hesitant to come down the aisle by themselves? A possibility is to have them walk down with one of the attendants. What if a child won't stand still and; becomes a distraction? Have a family member who will come get the child and; take them to a seat.
Children's little mess-ups are cute, but quickly become a distraction to your ceremony.

Pitfall #4: USING RECORDED WEDDING MUSIC - This may be the most frequent goof-up I see at weddings. Invariably, the person doing the music can't find the on/off button, plays the wrong song at the wrong time, or abruptly ends the bride's processional music with a loud click of the off switch.
Do this: Have live wedding music if possible. It sounds better and; you don't have the problems mentioned above.  Or, hire a DJ.  I know some that will do the ‘ceremony music only’ for  $75 - $100
Recorded wedding songs can work nicely, but if you rehearse anything, make sure you rehearse the music; what songs when, how long they run, and when to fade them out.

Pitfall #5: AN INEXPERIENCED WEDDING CEREMONY OFFICIANT - Perhaps I'm biased here, but I have seen and have heard many horror stories about ministers and other officiants who do a poor job. Calling the couple by the wrong names, leaving out the bridal kiss, speaking too low or too long, are just some of the problems. Weddings are not the easiest things to do. Experience can make a difference.

Do this: Use an experienced wedding minister or officiant!  An experienced wedding officiant will know what do when unexpected things happen. Did the best man lose the ring; what to do now?
Perhaps there is someone very special to you as a couple that you want to perform your ceremony even though they don't have much wedding experience. In this case, spend a lot of time with them going over exactly what you want in the ceremony. Make sure any inexperienced officiant is at the rehearsal and go through the ceremony a couple of times.

 Brenda M. Owen Experienced Wedding Officiant, Minister -

Avoid these 5 pitfalls in planning your wedding and you will decrease your odds of wedding bloopers ruining your wedding and your memories.  

About the Author:
Ralph Griggs is a life-long non-denominational minister in Nashville, Tenn.