What is a traditional wedding?

A traditional wedding focuses on the marrying couple’s heritage and fuses culture and a party atmosphere to ring in a new marriage. It’s all about incorporating traditions from both cultures, and often little consideration is given to the overall cost of the wedding.

Traditions are often the backbone of nuptials, but as the next generation ties the knot, new trends continue to sprout while the wayside leaves longstanding practices. A population that now exceeds the baby boomers, millennials cherish new ideas, customization and authenticity, which is further exemplified through their wedding decisions.

Couples who embark on planning the quintessential traditional wedding want to create something that highlights their individual cultures and shows the coming together of two people on one of the most important days of their lives. Usually, before planning their wedding, they’ll consult relatives to ensure they include all the usual traditions that occur in their particular culture.

Before you start planning your ceremony order, know this: No two wedding ceremonies are alike. Even if some couples say the same vows or take a deep dip for the kiss, every pair has a unique mix of things as it comes to their officiant, remarks, ring exchanges, recessional and more. That said, the below is a traditional wedding ceremony order of events to guide your preferences, but don’t feel like you need to include every step or stick to a certain time frame.  

A wedding is a ceremony and its associated rituals by which two people vow to spend their lives together in marriage. Though it is basically a celebration of love and partnership, a wedding is tailored to a couple in a variety of ways, from their personality to their religious or cultural beliefs. For this reason, every wedding is a little different. There are, however, some parts to a wedding that tend to be universal.

Wondering how to plan out your wedding ceremony order? The great news is that most ceremonies follow a similar format, so if you’ve been to (or been in) a few, you’ve probably got an idea of how the wedding order of service usually flows. Of course, different cultures and religions will incorporate other elements or swap things around, but if you’re planning to create a ceremony of your own, this is a great place to start. Read on to learn how a ceremony usually runs, from walking down the aisle to the first kiss!

Ceremony venue

The typical traditional wedding begins at an indoor wedding ceremony venue. As traditional weddings put a large emphasis on culture and heritage, the wedding ceremony is usually held at a church or some kind of religious venue.

The person who officiates the marriage is often one that belongs to a particular culture. For instance, a Greek wedding may be officiated by a priest at a Greek Orthodox church. Similarly, a Catholic marriage may occur inside a Catholic church, and so on.

The very nature of a traditional wedding lends itself to placing a large emphasis on the ceremony. The ceremony is often filled with traditional readings and rituals depending on the couple’s culture.

The Essential Parts of a Wedding

Wedding ceremonies vary greatly. Some are very traditional church ceremonies steeped in religion, while others are more casual affairs that are very secular. A wedding may be the ceremony alone with just a few intimate guests or an elaborate all-day affair that includes a reception and dance. Whatever the case may be, there are two essential parts of every wedding:

The marriage vows, which can be traditional, non-traditional, or vows that you write yourself.

The Pronouncement of Marriage by your officiant or celebrant, which is usually followed by the big kiss that melts everyone’s heart.

The Procession

This is the part where the wedding party walks down the aisle and takes their places for the ceremony. You can each make your way to the altar separately, symbolizing the fact that you’re coming from different backgrounds. In a Christian procession, the bride is escorted by her father, while the groom waits for her at the altar. In a Jewish procession, the groom’s parents escort him down the aisle, and then the bride’s parents escort her down the aisle. 

Words of Welcome

Once everyone is in place, the officiant will say a few words of welcome. He or she may thank guests for bearing witness to your union, as well as welcome everyone to your venue and your celebration.

Opening Remarks and Introduction

Next, the officiant will offer an introduction and some thoughts on marriage. This could be a brief recounting of your love story, words on what marriage means to you, or a statement about the ceremony to come and what it represents.


From there, if you include readings of any sort in your ceremony, readers will be invited up to share a few words. You could have your officiant introduce each reading and reader or have things flow more naturally between readers.

Exchange Vows

After the readings have been shared, the two of you will exchange vows. This is also the part where you’ll place rings on each other’s fingers as symbols of your marriage.

The Kiss

And now the moment everyone’s been waiting for: your first kiss as a married couple.

The Closing Remarks

Your officiant wraps things up with a few last words and, for a religious wedding, a blessing.

The Recessional

Basically the reverse of the processional, you exit the ceremony together as newlyweds, followed by the wedding party.

Other Ceremony Rituals

In addition to the essentials, there are also other rituals that are typically incorporated into a marriage ceremony. Some of these may have legal or religious significance. For instance, it may be the signing of a state marriage license or a religious document such as a ketubah, or asking for God’s blessings upon the marriage.

Many couples choose to have a ceremony that follows a traditional format. These include the processional in which the wedding party walks down the aisle, leading to the debut of the bride escorted by her father or a similar person that’s very close to her. The ceremony may also include blessings, readings from scripture or literature, family or community vows of unity, and an exchange of wedding rings or other gifts.

A Wedding Reception

Following the ceremony, a couple may have a wedding reception or party. This typically includes a meal, though that’s not a requirement.

Traditionally, the wedding cake is served. Historically, this was a symbol of fertility, but today it is more often used to express hopes of a sweet life for the couple. One ritual that remains popular is having the couple cut the cake together, sometimes even feeding it to each other.

Some people choose to have music and dancing at the reception as well. This portion of the day often includes the couple’s symbolic first dance and various family dances such as the father-daughter dance.

The Dancing

Even if you’re a bit shy on the dance floor, there are several special wedding dances that take place during the reception. Traditional dances include one with the newlyweds together and then with their parents, the entire wedding party, cultural performances, and guest group dances. The DJ is responsible for moving the festivities along, but you should choose the music. You may also want to consider compiling a do-not-play list while you’re at it. Afterwards, the dance floor is open to anyone who wants to boogie.

Reception venue

Due to the sheer extravagance and long guest lists that usually come with a traditional wedding, the party typically continues into the night in a ballroom or hall – usually with a large dance floor. This allows enough space for traditional dances, games, and rituals to take place without being too cramped.

The reception typically has a raised ‘top table’ (sometimes on a stage) where the bridal party sit, and assorted round tables for the guests.

The Food

Offering food is how we embrace family, welcome guests, and give thanks for our blessings. Whether it is a formal meal, family-style buffet, or simple platters of meat and cheese, most receptions include food. One of the best ways to honour your cultural heritage is to add your favourite dishes to the menu.

Once everyone is seated, play a photo slideshow of your journey together as a couple. Cultural performances or live instrumental music are also common during the dinner hour. 


Seated catering suits traditional weddings down to the ground. Traditional weddings will typically have a strict seating plan. They will often feature alternate plate drop catering – meaning the couple will choose two menu options, and every second seat will receive one of the two and vice versa.

Catering is extremely important at traditional weddings, and the menu is often chosen based on the couple’s culture. The food itself is usually impeccable and delicious and served by well-dressed waiters and waitresses.

For those who have larger than life guest lists (as traditional weddings often do), they might even choose buffet-style catering to feed their guests quickly and with a variety of options to choose from

The Toasts

There is typically a dedicated time for guests to offer the newlywed couple they are well wishes for a happy future together. The best man is responsible for kicking off the champagne toasts. The maid of honour then shares her speech, which often consists of childhood memories and blessings. The rest of the wedding party and the immediate family should be invited up to offer a few words as well. Since all eyes are on the couple, this is also the perfect time to add a short unity ceremony that could not fit into the marriage ceremony.

When it comes to traditional weddings, the bigger cake, the better! You’ll often see couples at their traditional wedding cutting into an extravagant five-tiered cake, designed specifically to suit their wedding theme colours.

The cake itself is usually highly decorated with anything glitzy – diamantes are very popular in this case. The cake usually features a cake topper, though, with the fall in popularity of bride and groom cake toppers, modern traditional couples are now opting for something more tasteful – such as an ornament of their initials.

The Cake Cutting

Everyone gathers around the newlyweds as they hold hands, slice the cake, and carefully (or not so carefully) feed each other a small piece to symbolize their commitment to providing for one another. Some cultures incorporate other activities into this portion of the reception, including speeches, unity ceremonies, and the cake pull. 

The Bouquet Toss

Most cultures have some way to predict who will tie the knot next, whether it is finding a certain trinket hidden in the wedding cake or catching the bridal garter and bouquet.

Traditionally, only single men and women of marrying age are dragged onto the dance floor, but many couples are now choosing to invite everyone to participate. 

Community Support

A wedding is not just about the couple getting married. It is also an exchange between that couple and their community of family and friends. It is a moment where the couple vows to be together as a pillar of support, and simultaneously thanks their community for supporting and loving them.

By attending a wedding, the guests also agree to uphold this couple in their marriage together. A couple may even ask their guests to take a community vow of support.

A Family Expression

A wedding can also be a way for a family to display their social and financial status. Some couples use it as a way to express their personalities, characters, values, and morals. There is no minimum that a couple must spend—the basic vows and agreements are free—but some couples have spent millions of dollars on their big day.

The Grand Goodbye

After the newlyweds have one last dance, the guests closely gather near a doorway to shower the couple with love as they head for a getaway car. The cheering crowd might toss rose petals or rice, blow bubbles, or light sparklers to bless the newlyweds with a long and happy marriage. 

It’s Your Wedding

When planning your wedding, the important thing to keep in mind is that it is your day. Choose the elements that you enjoy, put your spin on tradition if you like, and stick to a realistic budget. If you feel stressed about it not being perfect, take a deep breath and relax. After all, this day is just the beginning to what everyone at the wedding hopes will be a bright and happy future, so have fun with it!

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