The traditional wedding ceremony takes place in a church and is performed by a clergy member. There are however many ceremony variations based on religion, ethnicity, level of formality and kind of wedding. Some will prefer a more personal ceremony (in a house, museum or garden, or on a boat) or one that reflects characteristics of their personalities (skiing, underwater, on horseback). It may also vary following the chosen theme of the wedding.
Montreal Weddings recommends to arrange an initial appointment with the ceremony officiant to set a date and time, discuss details, and choose texts. Be sure you know the officiant’s name and correct title. You will have to pay them after the ceremony (this is usually done by the best man, to whom you will give the payment envelope). In any case, travel and lodging expenses are paid by the family if the officiant has to come from another place for the wedding. Ask if there are any restrictions, which you must of course respect.
A) WEDDING CEREMONY TIMING
45 minutes before the ceremony
The ushers should arrive to make last-minute arrangements and seat any early arrivals.
30 minutes before the ceremony
The groom and his best man arrive to check last-minute arrangements with the officiant. They stay in a side room until they receive the signal to enter the church.
15 minutes before the ceremony
Family members and honoured guests arrive and are escorted to their seats by the ushers.
5 minutes before the ceremony
The groom's parents arrive. The mother is escorted to her seat by the usher, followed by her husband.
The bride's mother is escorted to her seat just before the processional begins.
B) RESERVED PEWS
Several front pews on each side of the centre aisle (same number of each side) are reserved for immediate family members and honoured guests, who are usually notified personally or by a pew card. They present their card to the ushers, who then walk them to their place.
The first row on the left side is for the bride's parents. If the bride’s mother is divorced, she sits in the first row with her escort, and the father sits in the second or third pew with his escort. If a parent is alone, he or she may be seated with a close family member in the first row. Grandparents and immediate family members come next. The same procedure is followed on the groom side on the right. If the number of guests is higher on one side of the aisle, they will be evenly distributed on both sides.
For a small wedding, you can ask close family members or friends (even grandparents) to welcome the guests at the ceremony site to create a warm atmosphere.
The attendants take their places in the proper order:
The ushers lead the processional two by two, the shortest men first.
The bridesmaids come next, also walking in pairs, or if they are few or uneven in number, in single file.
The maid of honour comes just after them.
The ring bearer and flower girl then follow, either together or one after the other.
Finally, the bride walks down the aisle on her father's right arm.
At precisely the time stated on the invitations, the music starts and the processional begins.
Some churches have two centre aisles. In such cases, use the left aisle for the processional and the right aisle for the recessional. In this case the families are seated on each side of the centre section and spread out on each side of the aisles. A slow and natural gait is safest and prettiest.
The groom and his best man stand at the altar, side by side, facing the back of the church.
D) AT THE ALTAR
At the front of the church, the ushers have two choices: separate to each side, or stay on the groom side. The same procedure is followed by the bridesmaids on the bride side. This has to be discussed at the rehearsal.
The maid of honour stays at the bride's left or behind her.
The best man stays on the groom's right with the ring bearer behind him, beside the ushers.
The flower girl stands behind the maid of honour, close to the bridesmaids.
When the bride reaches the groom's side, she lets go of her father's arm (it may be thoughtful with a kiss), transfers her bouquet to her left hand and gives her right hand to the groom.
The maid of honour helps her with her train and bouquet.
The minister faces them.
Then the father turns and joins his wife in the front pew. If the flower girl is very young, he may take her hand and lead her to the front pew to sit with him.
Your officiant will help you through the ceremony and tell you what to do as it goes on.
When it is time for the ring ceremony, the best man takes the rings from the ring bearer's cushion and hands them to the minister. (At this point the bride should have transferred her engagement ring to her right hand.) If there is no ring bearer, the best man keeps them in his pocket.
The wine ceremony is usually part of a religious wedding ceremony.
The traditional wedding kiss celebrates the new union.
The register is signed before the recessional.
After the ceremony, the maid of honour hands the bride her bouquet and straightens her train for the recessional.
The flower girl and ring bearer walk together behind the bride at the groom's right, followed by the maid of honour and best man side by side.
The other attendants step forward, two at a time, with each usher escorting a bridesmaid down the aisle.
If a ribbon is in place at the pew entry, two ushers will be assigned to remove the ribbon on each side, one pew at a time, after the recessional, to prevent a premature exit of the guests by the central aisle.
If confetti is used, be sure it is ecologically safe and ask if you are permitted to use it beforehand. An alternative is to have a dove release.
A wedding coordinator can be very helpful for the ceremony, the rehearsal, and even the reception. The coordinator will be familiar with all the procedures, know the people involved and where to find everything you need. You can save time and money by hiring one for all the wedding preparations or just for the wedding day.