Order for Wedding Processions
  • This is mostly a matter of custom, therefore I didn't think it appropriate for the "Church Documents and Rubrics" category on this forum. At two recent EF weddings I played for (not my own home parish), the entrance procession was led by a thurifer, crucifer, and acolytes, followed by the attendants in pairs, best man and maid of honor, groom, master of ceremonies, and priest. The bride then entered to a separate musical selection. The congregation was very confused about when to stand. A few people stood at the beginning of the procession, then some of them sat back down after the cross passed. At the last wedding, a second priest "in choir" entered from the sacristy during the course of the procession.

    This style of wedding procession is not customary in my part of the country except in Episcopal and a handful of Methodist churches, and I suspect it's a 20th-century innovation even for them. Catholics (OF or EF, doesn't matter), Lutherans, Presbyterians, Baptists, and most Methodists all have the clergy enter from the sacristy or another side room, usually accompanying the groom, the congregation remaining seated. Everyone here knows that the custom at weddings is to stand for the entrance of the bride, not the priest. I don't know what the rationale was for deviating from this procedure at these EF weddings, but I suspect the second wedding was simply copying the example of the first. For lack of a better term, is this Episcopalian-style procession typical for English-speaking Roman rite weddings in other regions?

    At least in the EF, I think it's objectionable for flower girls or bridesmaids to walk between the servers and the priest. The procession of the servers and clergy to the sanctuary is a liturgical action; the entrance of the bridal party is not, and the two should not be mixed together in that way. Louis Tofari discusses an analogous situation with Blessed Sacrament processions here. If, for whatever reason, a couple really wants a processional cross and the priest walking down the aisle, the best solution would be for the attendants and groom to enter first, then ring the bell for the people to stand for the procession of the altar party, and then for the bride to make her entrance. That would be preferable to breaking up the liturgical procession or having the attendants and bridegroom enter after the priest.

    In your neck of the woods:

    1. Does the celebrant/officiant enter from sacristy or aisle?
    2. Is a bell rung?
    3. When does the congregation stand?
    4. Is a processional cross used?
    5. Is incense is used at Mass, is it used in the procession?

    Typical here: 1. sacristy, 2. no, 3. when the bride enters (actually, when the bride's processional music begins), 4. no, 5. no.
    For the EF weddings in question: 1. aisle, 2. no, 3. whenever they got the notion, 4. yes, 5. yes.
    Thanked by 1Joseph Mendes
  • Not EF, but...

    1. Aisle
    2. No (we don't have one)
    3. As the processional music begins, and with a visual cue as reminder from cantor at request of rector.
    4. Yes
    5. If used, yes, but not a standard practice at our weddings. Would be first in line.

    Our order of procession is:

    Best man and groom (if groom doesn't enter with bride)
    Maid of honor
    Flower girls
    Bride with escort—best case groom, sometimes father

    All enter to a single piece of music, as it is a single procession—at least in our interpretation of the rubrics. As it happens, this requirement is the number one reason a bride would choose to move the wedding to another parish, though it doesn't happen too often.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,100
    I'm not sure that it's correct to think that the entrance of the bridal party is not a liturgical act: in the Latin Church's understanding of marriage, the bride and groom are the ministers of the sacrament. This may be enough to differentiate the case from the Eucharistic processions discussed in Mr. Tofari's commentary.
  • Good point, Chonak. The traditional practice is for the spouses and bridal party to enter the sanctuary only during the parts of the ceremony that concern them and to remain in the nave for the nuptial Mass itself (c.f. Fortescue and O'Connell). Sometime that's observed, sometimes not. Regardless, I would question whether bridesmaids and groomsmen other than the official nuptial witnesses (best man and maid of honor) as well as ring bearers, flower girls, and the like can actually be considered as performing a liturgical ministry, but if so, it would seem correct to include them in the procession. I've known the custom of "standing for the bride" my whole life. Within Roman rite practice, some ethnic groups have other customs, such as the bride and groom entering together, but that would not have applied to either of the weddings in question that deviated from the local norm.
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,774
    The problem is that the bride and groom always enter separately, and whether we like it or not, the focus is always on the bride and how she looks and such. Also, the highest minister ought to enter last and only be followed by his attendents. The vested priest would seem to be it.

    Technically, incense (especially blessed) before Mass and the crucifix are ponitifical privileges that are customs in solemn/sung Masses.

    At the wedding I served, the groom entered from the sacristy, genuflected, & went to his place, which is either just inside or outside the sanctuary depending on the church. We went out together (I would have gone two by two but oh well) and the priest genuflected with us like at Low Mass. Then he, the MC, and the assisting servers went to their place at the prie-dieu. There was no cross, and the incense was not burning.

    At the end, we waited for the couple to leave and we returned as we entered.

    (While I’m ranting: cope is also pontifical privilege and can be safely omitted in these USA, and other countries do not have an indult for its use at marriages & baptisms.)
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,100
    the bride and groom always enter separately

    In OF weddings, there is the option for the bride and groom to enter together, and I've seen it done.

    The Rite of Marriage (or at least the 1969 version in my book here) offers these options for the entrance rite:

    -- the priest, vested for Mass, goes with the ministers to the door of the church, or to the altar, and meets the bride and bridegroom there;
    [which I suppose is the conventional procedure]


    -- if there is a procession, the ministers go first, followed by the priest, and then the bride and the bridegroom. According to local custom, they may be accompanied by at least their parents and the two witnesses.

    If there have been any changes since that version, perhaps someone can let us know.
    Thanked by 1madorganist
  • CCoozeCCooze
    Posts: 1,259
    With chonak.

    I've seen during EF Masses (specifically solemn high) where there is a procession, because it's such a grand one - but this, IIRC, comes first. - this would require standing, methinks.
    I've also seen the celebrant and acolytes come from the sacristy. I think either option is still proper, but the bride and groom are the ministers of the wedding, while the priest is the minister/celebrant of the Mass.
    Either way, in the EF the nuptials happen first, so if you're saying the minister(s) should be last in the procession, there's nothing wrong with the bride being there. This, would of course be where everyone would stand, Catholic or no.

    I don't remember bells at these weddings, but of course there would be incense. The cross & incense will be in the procession if the priest and servers are. Otherwise, no.
    Thanked by 1madorganist
  • BenBen
    Posts: 3,114
    At least at ours (EF Pontifical Nuptial Mass at the throne), the bell was rung to begin it (as is parish custom at our Masses in either form). The order was:

    Groomsmen and Groom sitting in front pew before Mass
    • Thurifer, Crucifer, Candlebearers, Other Servers
    • Sacred Ministers, Bishop and his assistants (vimpae, book, deacons at the throne, etc)
    • Bridesmaids
    • Bride + Dad

    At the other wedding I have went to recently, the groom, priests and servers (2x) came in from the sacristy, then the bridesmaids and bride came in from the rear.
    Thanked by 1madorganist
  • At the other wedding I have went to recently,

  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,899
    Ben must be wearing my bi-focals. Bi-focals speak with forked tongues and write with dementia. Truly instruments of Satan. LOL.
  • johnmann
    Posts: 175
    I haven't seen the Latin but the English doesn't necessarily imply that the bride and groom process together, only that they process after the priest. I've heard some interpret the rubrics to mandate that the bride be accompanied by both her parents. I interpret it to mean that that everyone comes after the priest in whatever order you wish. I don't think the CDW intends to micromanage the procession after the priest.

    I'm philosophically opposed to groomsmen and bridesmaids, or costumed thunder-stealing standers as I call them, apart from the two witnesses. They could stay in the sacristy for the entirety of the celebration for all I care and the rubrics don't seem to care either.

    Technically, there's nothing prohibiting the bride, or the groom, from processing really far apart from the rest of the party to different songs. If the bishops had interpreted the rubrics to prohibit this practice, I would think they would have submitted an adaptation to allow for this nearly universal practice.
    Thanked by 1madorganist
  • CCoozeCCooze
    Posts: 1,259
    Generally, the bridesmaids and groomsmen remain in the pews, throughout, until (just)the maid of honor and best man are called forward to be witnesses. Then they go back to the pews and rejoin the others. There's no thunder-stealing going on, or chance for them to worry about their looks in front of others - especially if they're all wearing veils and are modestly covered for the EF Nuptial Mass!
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,865
    Yeah, but the really important question is whether the bridesmaids can wear black at a Nuptial Mass in the EF.
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,774
    CCooze, regarding cross and incense, see what I said above.

    chonak, if we could do at least part of the rite at the door like it used to be done, that makes more sense. At my parish, in the traditional form, they did process from the back.

    No matter how you look at it, it seems weddings are hard to get right... Yikes.
  • CCoozeCCooze
    Posts: 1,259
    MR? I mean throughout Mass and such after all the processing is over. I was just addressing the "thunder-taking" comment above.
    I don't see where we disagreed.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,899
    More reasons why I refuse to play for weddings.
    Thanked by 1Roborgelmeister
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    This topic has been covered very well on this forum before:


    As for my opinion (which is opinion and not legislation), the congregation should rise for the entrance of the CROSS, and be already standing when the bride (better, the couple) enters.

    And the bit about "there's nothing that takes away from the profoundness of the moment than the symbolism of a father giving his daughter away in exchange for some goats," perfectly reflects my view of the matter.
    Thanked by 1Vilyanor
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,899
    And the bit about "there's nothing that takes away from the profoundness of the moment than the symbolism of a father giving his daughter away in exchange for some goats," perfectly reflects my view of the matter.

    What if the daughter is a goat? Or maybe just looks like one. ;-(
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,774
    CCooze, you mentioned crossbearer and incense at the end of your first comment.
  • This topic has been covered very well on this forum before:


    Oh, wow - somebody seriously suggested a black mantilla with a white wedding gown!
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • VilyanorVilyanor
    Posts: 388
    So how I want to do things when I marry my girlfriend after graduation is to have the wedding party and parents "process" in preceding the start of the Mass, probably to "O God Beyond All Praising", following which the bell will be rung and the servers, and clergy will enter, followed by us, and the Introit will be sung. I think that's a good way to include the non-liturgical party, whilst still emphasizing the liturgical importance of the bride and groom as ministers of the Sacrament.
    Thanked by 1canadash
  • johnmann
    Posts: 175
    According to secular tradition, the groom's parents and the bride's mother are escorted to their places before the rest of the party.

    The best man and the maid of honor usually do the readings so they play a liturgical role and it would be entirely appropriate that they process in with the other ministers.

    It would make more sense for the standers to process behind the groom and bride respectively. It's kind of odd that they typically enter as if they're equal members of a wedding team deserving individual introductions.
  • PolskaPiano
    Posts: 255
    From my understnading of the rubrics, the preferred entrance is a normal liturgical procession with the bride and groom as the last to walk in because they are the ministers of the sacrament (marriage, not Eucharist obviously). We did this at my wedding.
    groomsmen and bridesmaids
    Bride and groom

    The parents had liturgical roles of reading.

    The entire procession walked in to "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling"
  • mmeladirectress
    Posts: 1,057
    >> the bride and groom are the ministers of the wedding, while the priest is the minister/celebrant of the Mass.
    Agree - but the Church requires two witnesses for validity I think.
    If that's still true, then the two witnesses (e.g., best man and maid/matron of honor) also have an essential role, yes?
  • madorganist
    Posts: 905
    Correct, which is why the nuptial witnesses are also crowned in some of the Eastern rites.
  • Caleferink
    Posts: 427
    Piggybacking off of @PolskaPiano, this is what we did at my wedding last December 30:

    Deacon of the Word with Book of the Gospels
    Priest and second Deacon (who happened to be my uncle)
    Me (groom) with my parents
    Bridesmaids and groomsmen in pairs
    Best man and maid of honor
    Bride with her mother (father is deceased, God rest his soul)

    Ideally, yes, the bride and groom, as the ones who administer the Sacrament of Matrimony to each other, should come in together, but there was no convincing my bride against having "her walk," so this was our compromise. In the end, in my mind it highlighted the idea of "two becoming one" - i.e. we entered the church as two separate people and left it as together, "as one" if you will.

    Our entire procession walked into Proulx's arrangement of "O God beyond All Praising," which was neat in that the interlude between stanzas 2 and 3 served as the "bridal processional."
  • aldrich
    Posts: 230
    Normally, for our EF weddings (in the Mozarabic Rite, as we are in a former Hispanic territory) we advise couples not to appoint groomsmen and bridesmaids (since they have no sacramental or liturgical significance). Extra people in the ceremony becomes a rubrical nightmare.

    Our weddings happen at the church door (mirroring baptism), so technically "procession" to the altar happens after the sacrament. Also, in the 50s, our bishops categorically forbade any form of bridal procession. So, while the OF accommodates it, the EF cannot in practice enforce it. In the few cases, however, where there were groomsmen and bridesmaids in our EF weddings, the order is this:

    Crucifer in between cerofers
    Acolyte holding the emptied platter
    Acolyte carrying the ceremonial and the aspersorium
    Priest (reciting psalm alternatim with ceremonial bearer)
    Husband and Wife holding to the Priest's stole
    Principal Witnesses
    Secondary Witnesses
    Groomsmen and Bridesmaids in pairs

    And the choir sings a falsobordone of the psalm being recited by the Priest.
  • Aldrich,

    Could you PM me some more about the Mozarabic Rite and the idea of the sacrament taking place at the church door? (I'm probably the only one around here who is interested in such details, given that this is a music forum.)