Although most weddings feature music while guests are being seated, the ceremony proper begins after a procession, signaled by special music and the entry of the officiant near the altar. In both Christian and Jewish weddings, the bride enters last; her arrival at the altar begins the ceremony.

Christian Wedding Processions

In a Christian ceremony, the groom and best man enter before the procession and wait to the officiant’s left, near the altar. The groomsmen may also enter and wait, or they may begin the procession, either walking alone, in pairs, or accompanying bridesmaids. If there is an odd number of attendants, you may place some in pairs and one walking alone, or, The Knot suggests, have two groomsmen or two bridesmaids walking together. In any case, the maid or matron of honor enters last, unaccompanied. If the wedding includes a ring bearer and flower girl, they enter next, either together or with the girl last.

Jewish Wedding Procdssion

A key distinction of a Jewish ceremony is that the families enter in procession. First to enter are the couple’s grandparents, followed by the groomsmen in pairs. The best man enters alone. The groom follows, walking with his parents. Female attendants mimic this sequence: First come the bridesmaids in pairs, then the maid or matron of honor walking alone. The ring bearer follows her, and the flower girl follows him in turn. The bride and her parents are last. The grandparents sit down after the processional, but the parents may stand if the chuppah, a ceremonial awning at the altar, is large enough to accommodate them. The rabbi and cantor may enter first and wait at the altar, or, Martha Stewart Weddings suggests, they may lead the procession.