Q. My parents are divorced and each has remarried. Where do my parents sit in the church?
A. The same procedure applies to both the bride's and the groom's parents, with the bride's parents' seating arrangement on the left side of the aisle and the groom's parents on the right side.
Your mother and stepfather sit in the front pew with members of your mother's immediate family— grandparents, aunts and uncles-immediately behind them. If your parents have remained on friendly terms, your father sits in the next pew back with his wife and their family members.
If your parents have not remained on friendly terms but you are close to both of them, it is more difficult. Your mother still sits in the front pew, but your father would sit two or three rows further back. If you have been living with your father and stepmother and have had little to do with your own mother, your father and your stepmother sit in the front pew and your mother sits further back.
Q. Do friends of the bride always sit on one side of the church and friends of the groom on the other?
A. They usually do. The left side of the church is the bride's; the right side the groom's. At weddings where the great majority of guests are friends of one family or the other, the ushers, may ask. some of them if they would mind sitting on the other side. This not only makes the congregation look more balanced but offers more guests the desirable seats near the aisle.
Q. Does the mother of the bride (or groom) wear a coat as she walks up the aisle when the weather is cold?
A. No. As a rule, the mothers leave their outerwear in the vestibule of the church so as not to spoil the effect of their dress. If the church is cold, they may have their coats put in the pews by an usher ahead of time, to be thrown over their shoulders during the ceremony.
Q. Can anyone be seated after the bride's mother is escorted up the aisle?
A. No. If people arrive after that, they must stand in the vestibule, go to the balcony or slip into a rear pew from a side aisle.
Q. What is the order of attendants in the processional?
A. The ushers lead the procession, walking two by two, the shortest men first. Junior ushers follow the adults. Junior bridesmaids come next. The bridesmaids follow, usually walking in pairs also. When there are very few bridesmaids or an uneven number, they may walk in single file. After the bridesmaids comes the matron of honor, then the maid of honor. A flower girl and finally the ring bearer immediately precede the bride and her father.
Q. Does the bride walk up the aisle on her father's right arm or left arm?
A. His right arm. When she and her father reach the groom, who is standing tothe center right at the head of the aisle, she then will be next to him with her right arm free to be given to him. This also leaves the bride's father in the most convenient position to reach his seat in the left pew afterward.
Q. How long does the father remain at her side after the bride reaches the groom's side?
A. Until the clergyman says' 'Who giveth this woman to be married?" After answering, the bride's father turns and joins, his wife in the pew.
Q. The phrase "giving the bride away" in the wedding ceremony makes me see red. Can you offer an alternative to including the question "Who gives this woman. . . ?" in the wedding ceremony?
A. If you feel so strongly about deleting this question from your wedding ceremony, by all means discuss your feelings with your clergyman. You may find him receptive to your objections and able to offer you an alternative you find acceptable. I know of one young woman whose clergyman replaced the offending question with a very lovely sentiment. At the appropriate place in the ceremony, he asked, "Who represents the families in blessing this marriage?"
Q. Who escorts the bride if she has no father?
A. A brother, uncle, godfather and close family
friend are all excellent choices. Although it is not at all traditional; the bride's mother may serve as escort if that is what would make the bride the happiest. If there are no suitable relatives or friends, it also is. untraditional but acceptable for the groom to escort the bride or for the bride to walk alone. The determining factor is the bride's wishes, after consultation with the clergyman.
Q. What is the order for the recessional?
A. The bride and groom together lead the recessional, followed by the flower girl and ring bearer, walking together. Next are the maid of honor and the best man. The other attendants step forward two at a time and pair off, each usher escorting a bridesmaid down the aisle. When there are more ushers than K bridesmaids, the extra men follow the couples, walking in pairs. If there is an odd man, he walks alone at the end. This is the traditional recessional, although it is acceptable for the wedding party to leave as it entered—bridesmaids together and ushers together—if the bride prefers.
Q. Is it permissible to have a receiving line at the back of the church after the ceremony?
A. Yes, if there is to be no reception, or if there are I ig many more guests at the ceremony than there will be § at the reception, the bride and groom may stop and greet their guests at the back of the church. This is never done if the majority of those present are going on to the reception. The receiving line, in order, consists of the bride's mother, the bride, the groom and the bridesmaids. The groom's mother certainly may be included, but the fathers need not stand in the line.
Q. What part do grandparents have in a wedding?
A. A very special part—they are most honored guests. The grandmothers receive a corsage and they are seated directly behind (or next to, if preferred) the parents during the ceremony and they are seated at the parents' table during the reception.
Q. Are all Jewish weddings held in synagogues?
A. Although some Jewish weddings are held in synagogues, they need not be; therefore many are held in hotels, halls or clubs, with the ceremony and the reception in the same place.
Q. Is the attire for the bridal party and guests the same for a Jewish wedding as for a Christian ceremony?
A. Brides and attendants wear almost the same clothing as is worn for a Christian ceremony, although Orthodox brides are always veiled. At Conservative and Orthodox weddings all men must wear yarmulkes or, if the wedding attire is formal, top hats during the ceremony. They may be taken off after a Conservative wedding ceremony but must be worn during both the ceremony and the reception at Orthodox weddings.
Q. Are Orthodox and Conservative ceremonies the same as Reform services?
A. No, they differ in certain aspects. In the first two, the processional is led by the ushers; followed by the bridesmaids. The rabbi comes next, accompanied by the cantor (if one is participating in the ceremony), then the best man and next the groom, walking between his parents. Thé maid of honor follows them, and thé bride, escorted by her parents, comes last.
The ceremony is performed under a canopy called achuppah, sometimes made of flowers but more often a richly decorated cloth. The bride, groom and the two honor attendants stand under the chuppah during the ceremony, as do the parents if it is large enough. Much of the service is conducted in Hebrew.
The bride and groom always lead the recessional. The order of the bridal party may vary, but generally the two sets of parents follow, then the maid of honor with the best man, the rabbi and cantor and finally the bridesmaids and ushers.
The Reform service is usually very, similar to a Christian wedding in arrangement. English is used and the canopy may bè dispensed with. The groom is ushered by his best man, and the bride, is escorted by her father. The order of attendants is the same as in a Christian ceremony. The bride's father, although he escorts her, does not give her away in a Jewish ceremony.
Q. How do Roman Catholic ceremonies differ from Protestant wedding ceremonies?
A. In marriage ceremonies that include participation in a nuptial mass the bridal party is often seated, with the bride and groom seated on two chairs before the altar. There generally is a kneeling bench, and the maid of honor and the best man remain in the sanctuary with the bride and groom. Guests and members of the wedding party may receive Communion during the mass only if they are Catholic, and, while it is preferred that both the best man and maid of honor be Catholic, at least one must be.
If Communion is served during Protestant ceremonies, which occurs very rarely, the bridal party usually remains standing or is seated to the side as guests come forward to receive the sacrament. Otherwise, the processional, the arrangement of attendants during the ceremony, the recessional and the other details are like those for other Protestant weddings.
Q. How does a home wedding-differ from a traditional church wedding?
A. The ceremony itself is exactly the same as it is in church and the order for the processional is, too. The only differences are that, unless the home is a mansion, the number of guests and attendants is fewer and . there is no recessional. After congratulating you, the clergyman steps aside, an usher removes the prayer' bench, if one is used, and your family and friends come forward to offer their best wishes.
Q. What is the order of the processional, ceremony and recessional for a double wedding?
A. Both grooms' ushers go first, followed by the bridesmaids and maid of honor of one bride and then that bride and her father. If the two brides are sisters, the older sister and her attendants are the first irt the processional. After the -first bride and her father, the second bride's bridesmaids follow, then her maid of honor, then the bride and her escort. If the two brides are sisters, the younger sister would be escorted by an older brother or nearest male relative or a close family friend.
During the ceremony, the service is read to both couples, but those points that require responses are read twice. The first bride and groom answer first.
At the end of the ceremony, the first bride and groom leave first, followed by the second bride and groom. The maids of honor follow, walking with the two best men, then the bridesmaids and ushers, in pairs, with the older couple's attendants going first.
Q. How else does a double wedding differ from a single wedding?
A. They don't really differ, other than in the areas mentioned above and in the fact that there are simply more people to arrange. The seating of the parents during the ceremony is more complicated. When two sisters share a double wedding, both grooms' parents must either agree to share the first pew on the right or they must draw lots for it. If the brides are not sisters, their two mothers share the first pew.
At the reception, two separate receiving lines are formed when the brides are not sisters. When they are sisters, their mother—and their father, if he wishes— stand first. Next to them is the first groom's mother, then the first, or older, bride and her groom, followed by the second groom's mother, and then the second bride and groom. Both maids of honor join the line, but not the bridesmaids since the line is already quite long. If the groom's fathers wish to be in the receiving line, they would stand after their wives.
When each couple has many attendants, it is better that they have separate bridal tables, close to or facing each other. Each couple has its own cake, and they cut them one after the other so that each may watch the other's ceremony.
If there are three sets of parents involved, they generally share the parents' table at the reception. If four sets of parents are involved, it is more comfortable to have two separate tables so that grandparents, etc., may be included.