Okay, so you’ve gotten through all the wedding preparations, and the time has come to actually plan The Day. Here is where you begin to walk somewhat of a fine line, as you want the day to be special, and long enough to be memorable, but not so protracted that your guests begin slitting their collective wrists before the second vocal solo is over.
Your ceremony should be well timed, and this includes having various elements in place and ready to go at predetermined times before the ceremony even begins.
Three hours and counting…..all of the ladies involved in the ceremony (bride, bridesmaids, mothers, etc) should arrive and begin doing makeup and hair. This is not to insinuate that it takes that long to accomplish the process, but merely that more than enough time is allowed for. If you are taking photographs before the wedding, this should allow plenty of time.
Two hours and counting……Flowers should be delivered and placed throughout the ceremony area. The groom, his family, and groomsmen will arrive and begin pinning on their wedding flowers. Ushers should assist in pinning on corsages for all the ladies in attendance. Now is the perfect time to do your photographs, while everyone is fresh and proper. Nothing ruins a photo shoot like sweat and wrinkles.
One hour and counting…..if you are doing photographs, now is the time to have them completed so the wedding party can begin to focus on the wedding. This is an excellent opportunity for downtime and relaxation before walking the “final mile”.
Forty five minutes and counting…..the ushers will want to take this time to verify all seating arrangements, and as soon as possible make themselves available in the vestibule of the chapel or church to welcome guests and guide them to the appropriate side of the aisle. The best man should make sure that rings are accounted for and that the marriage license has been given to the officiating clergy.
Thirty minutes and counting….you should begin any pre-service music, either live or pre-recorded. At this time ushers may begin allowing people in for seating and escorting them to their seats.
Ten minutes and counting…..now is the time for final inspections of all wedding party participants, checking for flaws or problems with tuxes, dresses, or any other aspect of the ceremony.
Five minutes and counting….the head usher, or in some cases the groom, will escort the mother of the groom to her seat. In some weddings, mothers will be escorted to their seats by their sons. Following that, the mother of the bride will be seated. If ushers are doubling as groomsmen, they will now take their place in the wedding party.
Ceremony time…..the chosen processional music will begin as the candle lighters step up to light candles at the front of the church. The pastor, groom, and groomsmen will step into position. In some weddings, groomsmen will be paired up with bridesmaids and escort them down the aisle before the bride makes her entrance.
Once everybody has entered, the music will change to whatever music has been chosen for the bride’s entrance (I was at one wedding where the music was a Christian tune called “Mighty Warrior”, go figure…). At this point the congregation rises in honor of the bride.
Post ceremony…..once the vows have been exchanged, the minister will introduce the new couple, at which time they will make their exit, followed by the groomsmen and bridesmaids. Once the entire wedding party is out, ushers/groomsmen will return to escort the mothers of the groom and bride out of the chapel. At this point everyone is free to leave and welcome to attend the reception.
Of course this timeline is predicated on a traditional church wedding. There are no hard and fast rules to govern how you should orchestrate your ceremony. The only suggestion that is universal is to make sure your ceremony is not excessively long. Your guests are glad to be there and stand up for you, but be considerate and don’t wear out your welcome with them.
Be creative and arrange a ceremony that is reflective of your tastes and your lifestyle, something that you and your spouse can look back on in years to come and a moment that you can enjoy reliving together and with your children.