Where Does the Bridal Party Stand at a Wedding Ceremony?

It is customary for the bride to stand to the left at the altar, though you may not be so keen on the reasons why. The tradition actually stems from the old days of “marriage by capture”, when the groom needed to leave his right hand (his fighting hand) which he used to hold his sword free in the event that he should need to defend his bride from other suitors who may try to whisk her off at the last minute. It is also said that as the groom’s heart is located on his left side the bride stands “under his heart”. Today, most couples still choose to stand with the groom on the right, although I have photographed a number of weddings where the bride and groom have opted to mix it up and stand on whichever side makes them feel most comfortable. If you are having a religious ceremony check with your officiant and make sure that changing your positions at the altar won’t go against the beliefs of your church.

The best man will stand to the right of the groom, and the maid of honour will stand to the left of the bride. The groomsmen stand to the right of the best man while the bridesmaids stand to the left of the maid of honour. They should all be standing at least foot away from you both.

The order of your processional and recessional will depend on the type of wedding ceremony you’re having: religious, civil, military. Family traditions and the formality of your wedding ceremony will also influence the proceedings.

Christian Wedding Ceremony:

Most Christian wedding processionals and recessionals follow the same basic order, with the exception of the Catholic wedding ceremony, where the bride’s father escorts her to the altar but does not give her away before taking his seat.

Order in a Christian wedding ceremony is:

Officiant stands at the altar.

Groom and best man enter from a side door and stand at the altar.

Bridesmaids and ushers walk in pairs (if there are uneven numbers, the odd person can walk alone, or two maids or groomsmen can walk together).

The maid or matron of honour walks alone.

The ring bearer walks alone, followed by the Toko Bunga Menteng or the children can walk together.

The bride and her father proceed, with the bride on her father’s right arm.

At the altar, the bride stands on the left, the groom on the right, facing the officiant. The best man stands beside the groom, with the ring bearer and ushers to his right. The maid of honour stands beside the bride, with the flower girl and bridesmaids to her left. (If your child attendants are too young to stand quietly throughout the wedding ceremony, it’s fine to have them stop at the end of the aisle and sit with a waiting parent.)

Jewish Wedding Ceremony:

Jewish wedding processionals and recessionals will vary with religious sects and local practices, but still follow a basic order:

Rabbi and cantor stand at the altar.

Bride’s grandparents proceed.

Groom’s grandparents proceed.

Ushers proceed in pairs.

Best man walks alone, after the ushers.

The groom proceeds with his parents (father on his left arm, mother on his right).

Bridesmaids proceed in pairs.

Maid or matron of honour walks alone, after the bridesmaids.

Ring bearer walks.

Flower girl walks.

Finally, the bride proceeds with her parents (father on her left arm, mother on her right).

The Jewish wedding ceremony takes place around a wedding canopy, called a chuppah, under which the bride, groom, best man and maid of honour stand. If there’s enough room, the couple’s parents can also stand beneath the chuppah during the wedding ceremony; grandparents take their seats right after the processional.

Civil Ceremony:

While there is no set order for a civil ceremony, a couple might borrow procedures from a religious ceremony, or create their own. What’s most important is that the ceremony feels right to the bride and groom.

Military Wedding.

Since military weddings can be civil or religious ceremonies, their orders will vary. The only other difference will be during the recessional, when the just-married couple retreats under the majestic arch of drawn swords.

After the ceremony is over and you’ve kissed and been announced husband and wife, it’s time to go celebrate. The recession goes as follows:

The Christian recession:

The bride and groom will walk down the aisle first.

Followed by the flower girl and ring bearer (this is optional). Maid of honor and best man will follow next.

Followed by the bridesmaids and the groomsmen walking down in pairs.

The parents will then follow the wedding party.

The Jewish recession:

The bride and groom will walk down the aisle first.

Followed by the bride’s parents.

The groom’s parents will follow next.

Followed by the flower girl and ring bearer (this is optional).

Maid of honor and best man will follow next.

Followed by the bridesmaids and groomsmen.

Finally, the rabbi or cantor.


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