It is often one of the most overlooked moments. In most cases you think, “I walk down the aisle, someone says some stuff, and bam, I am married.” When it gets closer to time, you then realize there is a bit more to it. It is not complicated by any stretch of the words. It is however a normally well-coordinated event. Many people and things going in many directions. With most “traditions” not being used on a regular basis, people are even more unsure of what to do. I hope this helps.
So, first things first, let’s talk about hiring your officiant. In this day and age, you can hire a “professional” to do it, have your friend or family member do an online ordination, or ask your local church leader to do the deed. It honestly comes down to what your needs and beliefs are. There is no right or wrong way.
You also need to think about where you are getting married. Some wedding venues have a ceremony location on site. If your venue does not have one, then you will need to go in search of one that will make your ceremony be exactly what you want. You will want to make sure you visit these places. Ask questions. Take pictures. Never go just off what you see online. Always be sure to ask what happens if it rains!
Another thing, people tend to forget about until closer to the date, are the Vows. In most cases, people are still writing their own vows. Some, however, are opting out of that now, and let the officiant have vows that can be repeated. This is again entirely on you, and how you want it to be done.
Next thing to think about, is what do you want to do during your ceremony. You know, aside from the rings, vows and everything else. So many more options today, especially if you’re not going to do a traditional “church” wedding. Things like the unity candle, hand fastenings, and sand pouring have become even more common. These are typically worked in somewhere in the ceremony itself. Determined by either the couple or the officiant. (Note: in most cases, the items used for these things are picked out and supplied by you, not the officiant.)
Those things are probably the hardest part of the planning your ceremony. The rest is just logistics.
Another decision to make is how you want everyone to walk down the aisle. Do you want the girls to be escorted down? Do you want the guys just to be there already at the altar? Do you want the officiant to accompany the groom down? Don’t forget about parents and grandparents being escorted to their seats, prior to the wedding party starting their walk. In most cases, the parents are escorted by the groomsman and the groom, moments prior to the start of the ceremony. Sometimes people will change the music for this event. Sometimes people will have silence, as almost a heads up to your guests that things are about to get started. After that, the guys return to their waiting place. The Officiant and groom will walk down the aisle together. Then, girls come out from there “hiding place” and meet with the guys one at a time, then walk down the aisle. Once all the guys and girls are in place. The music fades out, then the bridal march begins. Bride gets escorted down and bam. The ceremony is started. Usually, during the ceremony, your officiant will help guide you through the steps if you are required to do anything besides stand there. After it is all done. Music starts, and you walk back up the aisle. Normally into a receiving line.
The receiving line is not always done. It is, however, a nice gesture for you to see and thank your guests for being at the ceremony. Also, let’s be honest, the night is going to be busy, it may be your best chance to actually converse with everyone even if for a second.
More on logistics, you should make sure that someone is able to get all the pieces and parts for your ceremony to your locations. If you have an arch you must set up, or anything else, someone will need to set that up. You are most likely going to be crazy busy already, so you will need to rely on someone else to do that. Typically, you want that done about 2 hours before your actual ceremony begins. This gives ample time to make sure if something needs to be tweaked, it can be done with no impact on the event.
Lastly, the music. In most cases, you will need a song for your Bridal Party to walk down the aisle to. That is considered by many to be the “Processional”. Then what song the bride is walking down the aisle too (the “Bridal March”). Then, after the “I Do’s” are done, what song will you be coming back up the aisle too? Commonly referred to as the “Recessional”. Whoever oversees the sound, will ultimately communicate with whoever is coordinating the processional. They will work out cues, so he/she knows when to play the music.