Your Grand Entrance: How to walk down the aisle with style

by Jennifer Cram Brisbane Marriage Celebrant   © (08/02/2020)
| Wedding Ceremony | Wedding Traditions |
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Bride and Father with bridesmaid holding
                        trainI love that the way you make your grand entrance sets the tone for the whole ceremony. And I particularly love how accepting guests at weddings have become to couples doing their own thing, making their own decisions, about how that grand entrance and processional will be structured. No-one bats an eye if you choose to do something other than walk down the aisle on the arm of your father. And most people no longer assume that, if you do walk down the aisle on your father's arm,  the ceremony that follows will be ultra-traditional and totally predictable.

Being escorted down the aisle by your father is a long-established tradition, the meaning of which has, thankfully, changed over the years, so it is now a lovely way to honour your relationship with your father, rather than a symbolic transfer from his care and control to your husband's care and control.

We can thank social change in the status of women,  together with the development by same sex couples of new traditions that reflect the equality in their relationship, for that.

Choose who you want to escort you down the aisle


It's your big day, so you get to choose to walk down the aisle in any way you wish, with anyone you wish.
  • Your father
  • Your father and mother
    You can walk down the aisle with both of them. Or walk with your father and have your mother meet you at the top of the aisle to put your veil back.
  • Your father and stepfather
  • A male relative standing in for your father - grandfather, stepfather, uncle, brother, son
  • Your mother
  • A female relative standing in for your mother - grandmother, stepmother, aunt, sister, daughter
  • Your new father-in-law
    Choosing your new father-in-law to walk you down the aisle is a lovely way to celebrate everything he means to your soon-to-be spouse, and to signal your commitment to being part of the family
  • A family friend
  • Your children
  • The one you are marrying
  • Your dog
  • No-one

Don't forget to share a special moment with the person who is walking you down the aisle. When you reach the top of the aisle, take a moment to give them a hug or a kiss (or both) and whisper thank you.

You could even skip walking down the aisle (but that's a discussion for another time).

Which side?


If your Dad or someone else is going to walk you down the aisle put your palm on the inside of his forearm and fold your fingers over the top/front to show off your fingernails.. Which arm is up to you. Here are some things to consider about that:
  • In traditional Christian weddings a bride walks on her father’s left side (this is to leave his sword arm free to draw his sword and defend her if necessary – something I’ve never had to do in hundreds and hundreds of wedding). However, it does leave his right hand free to shake the groom’s hand.
  • In Jewish weddings the bride walks on her father’s right side or down the aisle between her parents, with her father on the left
  • Kate Middleton walked down the aisle on her father's right arm for her marriage to Prince William in Westminster Abbey – but there was no handshaking and he stood on her left side for the early part of the ceremony, something we don’t do in civil ceremonies.

If you and your soon-to-be spouse are walking down the aisle together, hand-in-hand works better and looks more natural. When being escorted by your mother, or by another female relative, hand-in-hand is also an option.

Choose who you want to accompany you down the aisle


Specifically, who is part of your wedding party, and in what order will they make their entrance.
There are no rules. But there are two broad choices ...
  • Wedding party enters first (American tradition that has become virtually the norm in Australia), or
  • Wedding party follows you in (English tradition)

Who makes up your wedding party, in what order they walk down the aisle, and whether they walk down the aisle before or after you (or both) is your choice.

Most advice you'll read on the internet and in the bridal press will tell you that the order should be

  • Flower girl(s) are first - scattering petals
  • Ring bearer
  • Bridesmaids/Brides Guys
  • Maid/Matron of Honour
  • Bride and her father

But there are practical reasons why you might want to mix it up a bit. I often suggest that the flower girl(s) should walk in after the bridesmaids and immediately before the bride. This means the petals are fresh for the bride to walk on. And, with the bridesmaids all in place, flower girls feel more confident because they have someone to head for and no confusion about where they need to stand.

If the terrain is difficult, and your dress has a long train, you might wish to have someone - pageboy, or Maid/Matron of Honour, for example - walk behind you to hold and manage your train.

NB. In the 21st century, your wedding party is no longer required, or expected, to be gender specific. Choose your favourite people, and give them titles that suit.

Don't stress about children behaving perfectly


Focus on the cuteness factor! And accept that perfect behaviour is not guaranteed. Children can be unpredictable. So anything can happen. Whatever your flower girls, page boys, or ring bearers do, go with the flow. Have them walk together, or with an adult (bridesmaid, for example), but if one or more only makes it halfway and then gets distracted or heads for the hills, everyone will laugh and the photos will be keepers to trot out at their weddings

Your Moment, Your Music


Gone are the days when the only music choice for your grand entrance was Here Comes the Bride.  And while Pachelbel's Canon in D has almost taken poll position as the new processional staple,  if it doesn't rock your boat, don't use it. And that goes for other classical staples as well.

The only "rule" is that you choose music that means something to you. So, by all means choose a classical piece if your wish, or something else, for example
  • "your" song
  • a song that means something to you
  • music that reflects your cultural heritage
  • a piece that you like
And don't forget that
  • There is always the option of a medley
    Medleys are not hard to create with modern devices, you can mix and match, or choose wildly differing styles of music. One mix I rather like consists of three pieces. One you choose for your wedding party to walk down the aisle to, one you choose for you to walk down the aisle to, with a few bars of something very recognisable between the two to signal that you are about to make your entrance. This is one place where a few bars of Here Comes the Bride works very well. As does a few bars of All You Need is Love.
  • It is OK to choose one piece only - and everyone walks in to it.
  • The music you choose doesn't have to be romantic
    Nor does it have to be soft and slow. Really up-beat marches played on brass instruments, or a bagpipe, make for a very stirring entrance. I've had brides enter to the Grand March from the Opera, Aida (minus the elephants, of course), to
  • You can choose religious music for your civil ceremony
    Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring (Bach), The 23rd Psalm (commonly referred to as The Lord is my Shepherd, there are many musical settings to this psalm but the tune, Crimond is the one everyone recognises), Amazing Grace, Ave Maria (Schubert) Gounad version) are choices some of my couples have made.
  • If you choose a song, it is fine to use an instrumental version
  • It is also fine to choose any vocal version that appeals to you.
  • It is a really good idea to carefully listen to all the lyrics.
    Break-up songs, or songs that are about death, revenge, or hate are best avoided.
  • To avoid any awkwardness caused by running out of music before everyone is in place, or having everyone stand in place while the music plays on and on,  match the length of your music with the length of the aisle and how long it takes for everyone to walk down it.
    One way to fit a long piece to a short aisle is to allow the music to play for a bit before you start walking, and to word your music person up to fade out once everyone is in place. And don't forget to leave a nice gap between the bridesmaids as they walk down the aisle to give your photographer a good chance of getting a nice shot of each of them.

Miscellaneous Hints and Tips


  • Hold your bouquet in the middle of the stems.
    Put your hand on your belly button, relax your shoulders and just slightly angle your elbow out so there is a little light between your waist and the inside of your elbow (to show off your waist). You will feel comfortable, look confident, and the photographs will be great.
  • Be aware of the aisle itself and take it into account when your dress is being hemmed.
    A carpet or aisle runner on grass will sink and undulate as you walk, making a dress that is the perfect length when you’re standing on a hard surface feel as if it is too long.
  • If walking up or down stairs lift up your skirt on at least one side
    You can hold your bouquet in the hand tucked through your Dad’s arm, or, hand it to him, take his arm, lift your skirt and when you get to the top/bottom of the stairs take your bouquet back.
  • ‘Eyes and Teeth’
    In the theatre ‘eyes and teeth’ is shorthand for looking at the audience and smiling. Don’t forget to look at your soon-to-to-be spouse and smile. But also, look at the person walking you down the aisle and at the guests. Smiles all round are the order of the day. Your guests will respond and you’ll feel their support all the way, and you’ll see your best-beloved's greeting smile getting broader and broader the closer you get
  • Don't look at the camera
    For the most natural photos interact with the people around you, not the lens.
  • Tell your videographer not to walk down with you
    Having a videographer (or Uncle Bob with his iPad), back down the aisle in front of you is not going to enhance the experience. Most professional videographers won't do this, but some will. Best to make sure.

Forget the silly walk


You’ve been walking normally all your life. Yet there is still a belief out there in wedding land that there is a special (silly) walk for the aisle. Forget it. Stroll, even saunter, but do not do the hesitation step (aka stagger step) where you take a step and then bring your feet together before you take another step. Looks silly, is very difficult to do in high heels, and is almost guaranteed to make you wobble and even overbalance. And seriously, consider lower heeled shoes you can walk in comfortably (and save the killer heels for photos and the reception).

If you feel like dancing ...


Do. And ditto for stopping to hug guests, exchanging a few words or a hi-five, blowing kisses, or just being your usual self.

The moment before


Those last couple of minutes before the music begins are crucial. That's when you all line up in order, out of sight of the guests, do any last minute checks of hair and outfits, make sure everyone has their bouquet/boutonniere, remind everyone holding a bouquet to put their hand on their belly button so the flowers aren't waved around. And then relax and take a big breath.

Don't rush it


However you choose to make your grand entrance, don't rush. This is your big reveal moment, the first time your guests, and your best beloved will see you in your wedding gown. If you are going to walk in last (after your bridesmaids/wedding party) wait until they are all in place then move to the spot where everyone will see you for the first time and pause. Take a few seconds to take a big breath, smile, make eye contact with your best beloved, and only then take your first step down the aisle. 

For even more inspiration - Perfect Wedding Processionals

Thanks for reading!
Jenny xxx Let's talk
                        soon about how you can have the best ceremony

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