Every aspect of a wedding juggles such things as tradition, the bride's wishes, appearance, manners and symbolic gestures. Certainly, the processional, recessional and receiving line are no exceptions. Knowing the rules, though, helps if and when you want to risk breaking them.
Don't prolong the ceremony by having the groom and groomsmen walk down the aisle. Let them wait at the altar with the officiant, or escort the bridesmaids. The first person in the actual ceremony is the bride's mother, escorted by an usher or groomsman. The bridesmaids then enter, shortest first. Then comes the maid or matron of honor, followed by a ring bearer and flower girl; you can also have the children go before the maid of honor. The children then sit down with relatives, and the bride enters with her father or other escort.
All are pairs going out. First, the bride and groom depart the ceremony, then, the maid or matron of honor with the best man followed by the tallest groomsman with the tallest bridesmaid, and so forth. For your own peace of mind, do not include the children in the recessional; they can walk with their parents or with the bride's mother and father, who are the next ones to leave. Then, the groom's parents depart. Ushers should direct the rest of the guests from the front pews to the back.
The Receiving Line
Think twice before breaking the traditional order of the receiving line, because it's this way so that everyone can be introduced properly without any awkward moments. The bride's mother and father are the first to receive guests, because it is their party, and, along with the bride and groom -- the next in line -- presumably know everyone. After this are the groom are his parents. Bridesmaids are optional, though quite pleasant for guests to meet. Groomsmen are better off helping in other areas.
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