Wedding ceremony traditions vary from culture to culture and also according to religion. For the sake of this article, we will stick to the traditional American wedding ceremony, since it is consistent with ceremonies in most English speaking countries.
Wedding ceremony traditions can be very simple. What is basically needed, are a bride and groom in love, and an official to perform the ceremony, which is either a priest, a rabbi, or even a civil officer.
Two or more witnesses to the ceremony are usually also legally required. Just as you would need witnesses when you sign a legal document, you also need them to be present at your wedding.
Beyond that, it is usual for the bride and groom to have several attendants and to invite their families and friends. Most brides choose to have a male figure there to give them away, a maid or matron of honor, a few bridesmaids, and a flower girl. The groom customarily invites one best man and one or more groomsmen. The ring bearer is often a young boy who carries the wedding rings on a cushion.
There will also be ushers who help with the organization, show guests to their seats, hand out the order of the ceremony, etc. Guest will often seat on one side or the other of the church, depending if they are friends of the bride or the groom, though this step is sometimes skipped. If one has a much bigger family than the other, for example, the seating may need to be mixed.
The groom usually arrives at the church early on and waits for the bride to arrive. It is often traditional for the bride to be a little late, but the groom must not be late!
Family members usually seat close to the front, and the first row of seats is usually occupied by the wedding party. Sometimes the attendants remain standing all through the ceremony. If that’s the case, the first row on each side is occupied by the parents and grandparents of the bride and groom.
In traditional American weddings, the bridesmaids enter first, along with the groomsmen. They are followed by the maid of honor who may be accompanied by the best man. The ring bearer and the flower girl are usually behind. And finally, the bride enters at the arm of the man who will give her away.
In other countries such as the UK, the bride and her father will walk ahead of the procession, with the attendants coming in right behind. If the bride has a long trailing dress, the train may be carried by the bridesmaids.
The marriage license or register will need to be signed by the bride, groom, official and witnesses after the ceremony. Without this happening correctly, the marriage is not legal, however closely it may have followed the other wedding ceremony traditions.