11 Fun Rehearsal Dinner Themes

11 Fun Rehearsal Dinner Themes

You don’t have to have a stuffy sit-down rehearsal dinner. Rethink the typical setting and go for something a little more inventive. Steal one of these ideas and your rehearsal dinner might be just as memorable as the wedding itself.

Rehearsal dinner guests toasting

Photo by Mike Larson Photography

A BBQ Rehearsal Dinner

Host a relaxed outdoor dinner with all of your cookout favorites on the menu, like burgers, dogs, and mac and cheese. Upgrade traditional BBQ dishes and serve a gourmet version. Think: pulled-pork sliders and caprese salad kabobs. Have it in a backyard, at a local BBQ joint or even a nearby public park. Decorate the tables with wildflowers in galvanized tin pails and tie in classic details, like a checkered-print tablecloth and homemade citronella candles.
What to Watch for: Like any outdoor event, you’ll need to prepare for the elements with anti-mosquito spray, fans (or heat lamps if it’s chilly) and an indoor plan in case of rain.

A Fondue Rehearsal Dinner

Instead of a traditional sit-down meal, guests can mingle over a buffet-style feast from fondue pots or even fountains. Start with toast points and various cheese pots: Blue cheese and Gruyere are good starters. Move on to meats, potatoes and veggies, which can each be dipped in sauces, like teriyaki and red wine, and cooked right on the table. For dessert, have fresh fruit, squares of pound cake or brownies, bananas and marshmallows, and pots of melted chocolate, caramel, marshmallow, honey and yogurt.
What to Watch for: Fondue can be messy. You’ll want to have plenty of napkins on hand, as well as tables and chairs for guests to sit down and eat. If you’re hosting at home, you may want to hire a cleaning crew to wipe up tables and chairs to keep the fondue neat and tidy.

A Bowling Rehearsal Dinner

There’s no rule that says a rehearsal dinner has to be, well, just dinner. Bowling and arcade games are just the kinds of activities that will help break the ice between your families and friends. You could even make it a competition and give awards at the end of the night (don’t for-get to honor “Most Gutter Balls!”). Serve up beer and pizza right there at the alley or move to a nearby restaurant after the games are over.
What to Watch for: Aim to rent out private lanes or even a separate room for dining. And steer away from any decor that’s too whimsical, like pennants and balloons, and decorate with a few fresh flowers to add a touch of elegance.

A Casino Night Rehearsal Dinner

Host a Monte Carlo–inspired affair, complete with classic casino games, like blackjack and rou-lette. Send out wedding rehearsal dinner invitations on customized playing cards for your casino night, and decorate surfaces with chocolate poker chips. Let your bridal party take turns dealing blackjack, poker and other card games (or hire a real dealer), and consider having bingo and raffle prizes. No casino is complete without lots of chic sips, so keep the champagne flowing as gambling guests spend the evening toasting the bride and groom.
What to Watch for: Because guests will be moving around the room and having fun with the games, it may feel less intimate than if everyone is sitting at tables. You can solve this by having a seated dinner or cocktail hour first, so guests don’t miss out on mingling.

A Clam or Lobster Bake Rehearsal Dinner

If you’re near a beach, go the most traditional route and hire a crew to dig a two- or three-foot-deep pit lined with rocks and build a wood-fire top (there are catering companies that can take care of this for you). The alternative landlocked version works too: Order steamed clams and provisions and then set them up on big picnic tables for everyone to nosh on. Top your tables with checkered tablecloths and a few fresh flower arrangements. If you have the means and the space, end the night with a bonfire and s’mores.
What to Watch for: It’s messy, so make sure your guests who aren’t as familiar with this style of party know they should wear super-casual attire.

A Sports Game Rehearsal Dinner

Get the wedding festivities underway with a rehearsal dinner excursion to a local football or baseball stadium for some tailgating followed by a game. Look into group packages —many ballparks have them, and some even offer options like a congratulatory message on the score-board. Have all the guests sign a “game ball” for you to keep.
What to Watch for: You’re a superfan, but all of your guests probably aren’t. So instead, con-sider having the game-going portion of the night follow a more formal dinner. If you actually want to host evening at the ballpark, choose a game or team that’s fun to watch, but that you won’t be glued to, like a minor league game.

A Wine or Beer Pairing Rehearsal Dinner

It’s your typical dinner, but with a twist. Bring in a wine, beer or even whiskey specialist to help craft the menu to teach your guests how to pair the perfect sip for every course (even dessert!). So you might choose six to eight different wines of the same grape varietal (do all Shiraz or all chardonnay), so guests can really taste the difference. And make sure to pair each course with a great cheese. Décor-wise, let your theme be the guide. Use grapes and cheese boards as your centerpieces. If it’s a beer tasting, fill cute vintage beer bottles with a few fresh flowers.
What to Watch for: You’ll want to get in on the fun, but don’t drink so much that you start off your wedding day with a hangover. Plan for plenty of food, so no one’s staggering into the cer-emony the next day — and drink lots of water in between courses!

A Tee Time Rehearsal Dinner

Go one step further than the traditional country club or golf course rehearsal dinner and let eve-ryone spend cocktail hour perfecting their swing at the driving range. At dinnertime, name the tables after scores (birdy, par, bogie and eagle) and decorate with miniature hole flags anchored with colorful tees.
What to Watch for: Golf courses and country club venues can be pricey, but don’t let that stop you. This idea also works in your backyard with a homemade, obstacle-laden, mini-golf course.

A Picnic Rehearsal Dinner

Spread out in a park with your guests for a low-key, fun outdoor affair during the day or early evening. Set up an old-fashioned spread (think: salads, sandwiches and lots of fresh-squeezed lemonade). You’ll want a mix of tables and blankets for seating, but use picnic baskets with a pretty decorated handle filled with food instead of traditional centerpieces.
What to Watch for: Even though it’s picnic style, you still need enough food for your guests to make a meal, or you should let everyone know it will not be a full meal with some careful word-ing on the invitations. If you don’t want to be responsible for an entire meal, move the time to sometime in between lunch and dinner.

A Dessert Buffet Rehearsal Dinner

Here’s a sweet alternative to the traditional sit-down dinner hosted at a later hour (around 9 or 10 in the evening). It’s great if a lot of guests will be traveling in and won’t be able to attend until later in the day anyway. Host the dessert buffet at a local coffee shop, dessert bar or even at your home with a variety of pastries, chocolates, tarts and candy. Offer a few non-sweets too, like fruit or even bite-size sandwiches.
What to Watch for: If your ceremony rehearsal has to happen early, but the party doesn’t start until late, you may have some time to kill in between. That’s okay — just spread the news. Guests will most likely end up finding dinner on their own before the dessert party. You can do your part by suggesting a few restaurants in the area.

A Beach-Inspired Rehearsal Dinner

Going somewhere tropical for your honeymoon? Give guests a little sneak peek and transform your rehearsal dinner into your honeymoon destination. Hang hammocks from trees in your backyard, serve dinner buffet-style on long surfboards, and blend up some pina coladas and daiquiris. For fun favor ideas, try personalized messages in glass bottles or flip-flops. As an ac-tivity, have guests write in ideas for things to do on your honeymoon.
What To Watch For: Transforming a ballroom or restaurant into a tropical paradise might re-quire quite a bit of decor, so it’s best suited for a spot that’s outdoors (when it’s warm of course!) or that already comes with a built-in beachy vibe.


Weirdest Wedding Vows Ever

Weirdest Wedding Vows Ever

Knotties give us the lowdown on the weirdest wedding vows they’ve heard…or said.

Exchanging of vows during ceremony

Photo by Lauren Fair Photography

Star-Quality Husband

“I vowed to my husband that I would always find him hotter than Vin Diesel.” — Seshat

Candy Man

“One of my friends and her husband wrote their own vows that were personal and unique. He really loves orange Tic Tacs, and a part of her vow was, ‘I promise to accept orange Tic Tacs as a food group.'” — Angie

More Than a Friend

“I promise to be your best friend…with benefits” — Liz

Happily Ever Whenever

“At my father’s second wedding, he and his wife vowed to ‘love and be faithful for as long as we can stand each other.'” — Anna

The Morning After

“I recently heard, ‘I want you two to look at each other, because this is the best that you’ll ever look. Tomorrow you will wake up, and your hair will be messed up, pretty clothes gone, the makeup will be washed off. And real life starts, so remember how you looked today.'” — Brianna

Biggest Winner

“Through fat and skinny.” — Karin

Just a Pinch

“I was at a wedding where the bride and groom wrote their own vows, and he promised to love her “just a little bit.” They had an inside joke where she would ask how much he loved her, and he’d say “this much” and hold his fingers open only a little.” — Sarah

Base Hit

“Until death do we part…or until you become a Cubs fan.” — Amber

Sealed With a Five

“In our vows, Michael promised to buy me shoes whenever I asked for a new pair, and I vowed to buy him bigger tires for his Jeep. When they pronounced us husband and wife, we spontaneously high-fived.” — Dana


“I went to a wedding where the entire vows were Disney-related.” — Cynthia

Deer Hubby

“I was at a wedding last summer, and the hunting-loving groom promised not to spend too much time hunting. The bride promised to be quiet in the tree stand.” — Diane

Ironclad Vows

“A triathlon brought us together, and as part of our vows, we pledged to be Ironmates forever. My plain wedding band has that inscribed inside.” — Theresa

Name That TV Show

“Part of my husband’s vows included, ‘I promise to treasure you always from now to the end of the world, because you are the prettiest girl in all of Wisconsin. It’s especially funny, because I’ve never set foot in Wisconsin.” — Shauna


Sample Wedding Ceremony Scripts

Sample Wedding Ceremony Scripts

Whether you need ideas for starting your own or you want to modify more traditional wordings to fit your style, follow these links to get ideas for what to say during your ceremony.

Vow exchange ceremony at bright DIY wedding

Photo by Lauren Fair Photography

Secular and Nondenominational

When it comes to your secular wedding you don’t have to follow a particular format, and it can be as spiritual or non-spiritual as you prefer.

  • Secular and nondenominational wedding ceremony scripts
  • Nondenominational wedding vow samples


While all Jewish denominations have their own standards for ceremonies, we’ve rounded up a selection of Jewish wedding ceremonies performed by rabbis and celebrants.

  • Jewish wedding ceremony scripts
  • Traditional Jewish wedding vow samples


Each Christian denomination has different standards for ceremony and vows. The church’s officant, minister or pastor can also answer your questions about variation.

  • Protestant wedding ceremony scripts
  • Baptist Vow Samples
  • Episcopal Vow Samples
  • Lutheran Vow Samples
  • Methodist Wedding Vow Samples
  • Quaker Wedding Vow Samples

Booking Your Ceremony Site Checklist

Booking Your Ceremony Site Checklist

7 must-read steps to booking your ceremony site

Outdoor wedding ceremony with floral altar

Photo by Sherry Hammonds Photography

1. Choose your site and officiant and confirm in writing; include your wedding date and time.

2. If you’ll need to rent anything, contact a rental company (your florist may be able to supply some items):

  • Ceremony chairs #
  • Huppah
  • Columns or arch
  • Candelabra
  • Wire stands for flowers

3. Research ceremony readings and religious or ethnic ceremony customs or traditions; set up a second meeting to discuss these with your officiant.

4. Ask your officiant for a copy of his or her standard ceremony so that you can make changes to suit you (if allowed). If prewedding counseling is required, schedule it and go.

5. Finalize the overall structure and elements of the ceremony (readings, lighting candles, special rituals), as well as who will participate in each.

6. Determine which of the following ceremony items you will need; start shopping or make arrangements to have them made:

  • Ketubah or other marriage contract (for example, Quaker)
  • Yarmulkes
  • Unity candle (or sand for a sand ceremony)
  • Aisle runner
  • Ring pillow
  • Programs
  • Parasols
  • Something to toss
  • Flower girl basket
  • Other elements (such as a broom for the jumping of the broom or crowns for a Greek Orthodox ceremony)

7. If you’ll write your own vows, start working on them together at least two months before the wedding; consult your officiant if you need help.


Wedding Ceremony Seating 101

Wedding Ceremony Seating 101

Families are complicated. So is figuring out where they’ll sit during the ceremony. Until now: we’re here to help.

White floral wedding ceremony arch

Photo by Marisa Holmes

Family, friends, and family friends: Where should they sit during your big moment? With parents, stepparents, divorced parents, grandparents, and extended family, all in attendence, you’ll need a plan. Here are our guidelines.

Ushers: Who Are They?

You can enlist a few of your groomsmen to play ushers, or you can ask some relatives or friends to seat your guests. The rule of thumb is one usher for every 50 guests. If you’re having an intimate ceremony, you may not need ushers, but you might want to put someone in charge of “sensitive” seating issues — like keeping your mom and stepmom apart.

Ushers really need to know where everyone’s supposed to sit — so print out a list for them! Traditionally, female guests are escorted to their seats; the usher offers his right arm to the woman, and her male companion follows them down the aisle. (With a group of women, the usher might offer his arm to the oldest woman.) These days, it’s fine for ushers to simply greet guests at the door and lead them to their seats, saying, “Please follow me.”

Taking Sides

Ushers needn’t ask guests whose “side” they are on. (In Christian ceremonies, the bride’s side is the left side of the church when looking from back to front, and the groom’s side is the right; for Jewish services, it’s the opposite.) But should someone express a preference for one side or the other (many guests will say they are friends or relatives of the bride or groom), they should be seated where they want to sit. If one side of the family will have more guests than the other, ushers should try to even things out, explaining that everyone will sit together so guests can get the best view possible.

Who Sits Where?

Quick answers to your most frequent seating questions:

  • Elderly guests should be seated near the front.
  • Guests in wheelchairs or on crutches should sit at the end of a pew.
  • The first four or five rows may be reserved for immediate and extended family (like aunts, uncles, cousins, and godparents) and other special guests (like the parents of a child attendant) by tying ribbons across those rows.
  • Immediate family is seated just before the ceremony begins. Siblings (if they’re not in the wedding party) are seated before grandparents and great-grandparents. They sit either in the first row with parents or in the second row with grandparents. Start seating with the groom’s side.
  • If you have step-relatives, make sure ushers know who they are. Step-relatives should be escorted to their seats first — for example, step-grandparents precede birth grandparents. You may want to reserve a few extra rows directly behind immediate family for step-grandparents and stepsiblings.
  • If the bride’s or groom’s parents are divorced, seat the parent who primarily raised the bride or groom in the front row with his/her spouse, and seat the other parent and his/her spouse in the third row. Alternatively, birth parents may sit beside each other in the first row, or they may share the front row with stepparents. Discuss this in advance to avoid awkward moments.
  • The bride’s mother is always seated last at a Christian ceremony; the groom’s mother is seated just before her. (In Jewish ceremonies, parents stand under the huppah with the couple). The seating of the bride’s mother signals that the ceremony is about to begin.
  • Brothers of the bride and groom usually seat their mothers; the head usher can do it if the brothers are in the wedding party, or a brother can seat his mom and then take his place with the other groomsmen.

Wedding Reception After-Party Primer

Wedding Reception After-Party Primer

Your step-by-step guide to planning a post-reception blowout.

Couple wedding recessional

Photo by Jere & Ashley Dotten

Any bride will tell you that the reception flies by. But the last dance doesn’t have to signal the end of the celebration. There are always revelers who refuse to let the good times come to a close, so it’s essential to have an after-hours game plan. It isn’t just a way to prolong your wedding day (and you will appreciate every extra minute) — consider it another chance to impress your guests with surprising details and personal touches. Here’s how to get the party started.

Settle on a Style

There are three types of post-wedding paths: one is the somewhat spontaneous let’s-meet-at-a-bar gathering where guests show up and pay their way; two is the our-own-room-in-a-bar route with or without an open tab; and the third is the well-organized-wedding-part-two celebration where guests continue in the open-bar revelry with or without added entertainment (a DJ, pool tables, sundae bar). The main differences are the legwork, cost, and possibility of snafus (mainly that the bar is overcrowded). Once you decide what type of after-party you want, the rest of the decisions will come easy.

After-party Pointer: Even if you go for the low-maintenance, meet-at-a-bar kind of party, call at least a week ahead to make sure they haven’t booked any private parties for that night. You don’t want to be scrambling around town in your wedding gown, looking for a good bar.

Invite Right

The best thing about planning the after-party is that traditional wedding etiquette need not apply. Yes, everyone should feel welcome to join, but official invites are simply not necessary. If you want to ensure all your guests are aware of the post-wedding festivities (and won’t make other plans), include the after-party info on a separate card to be sent with your wedding invitations. Or, post it on your wedding website with a link to the venue. Destination weddings will do right with the info listed on the weekend’s schedule of events. For a more low-key after-party, it’s fine to let everyone know about the plan through word of mouth — start spreading the news at the shower and bachelorette party.

After-party Pointer: Deciding who to invite to the after-party is simple: If they’re invited to the reception, they should be invited to the after-party. Even if you know some of your guests won’t be up for partying after the reception, still extend the invitation so no one feels snubbed. That said, you can position the party as a mainly friends affair by choosing a hip location like the new lounge in town or a billiards club. But if your parents and their friends want to attend, they should still be welcome with open arms.

Choose a Convenient Spot

You’ll hear lots of compliments and praise from your friends and family throughout your reception, so use the after-party to show your guests how much you appreciate them. When you choose your after-party venue, remember the old real estate axiom: what matters most is location, location, location. Make sure the after-party is somewhere that’s convenient to the reception. If the majority of your out-of-town guests are staying in the same area, find a nearby bar or lounge. If you’re having your reception in a hotel ballroom, check if you can rent a smaller room — or even a suite, if your guest list is small — in the same hotel to host your party.

After-party Pointer: By the time your reception is over, at least a few of your guests will probably have had a bit too much to drink. Transportation to the after-party should be one of your main concerns — if the venue is not within walking distance, consider booking a shuttle to get guests around safely, or hire a few cabs to wait outside your reception space when it’s finished.

Vary the Decor

You’ve thought through every detail to make your guests gasp when they see your reception space — go for the same reaction when they enter your after-party. To wow them once again, you’ll need unexpected décor, so pick a theme that’s different from your reception. If you’ve stuck with a formal, classic style throughout your wedding, make your after-party a little more laid back by giving out leis and serving tropical cocktails. If you chose big band classics for your reception tunes, hire a DJ to play all your ’80s favorites at the after-party. Had a casual outdoor ceremony and reception? Treat your guests to a Latin-themed after-party, complete with salsa band, mojito bar, and cigars rolled to order.

After-party Pointer: When you pick your after-party theme, make sure it matches your personalities. If you and your friends have more fun at the neighborhood bar than at a super swank club, don’t feel like your party needs to be ultraposh — making everyone comfortable is an important step to after-party success.

Feed the Crowd

You served a delicious dinner at the reception, but after hours of dancing and drinking, your guests are going to be hungry. Whether you opt for an open bar at your after-party, you should also offer your guests something to snack on. Follow the rules of décor. Just like it’s smart to vary the look of reception and the after-party, it’s also a good idea to serve a different type of food. If your main dish at dinner was salmon, a sushi bar at your after-party might be fish overload. And it doesn’t have to be too fancy — we know a couple who served mini burgers, fries, and milkshakes for a tasty midnight snack.

After-party Pointer: Do you have to have an open bar? Well, that’s up to you and your budget. Open bar is always appreciated, but the decision also depends on where and what kind of after-party you’re throwing. If you’ve rented out a room or a suite at your reception site, yes, open bar is essential. If you’ve rented out a private space at a bar, it’s a generous and appropriate gesture. If it’s a less formal, let’s-hit-this-bar type of event, it’s not necessary.

Wear What You Want

Even if the after-party is held in the bar next door, you can generally expect everyone to stay in their party clothes. If it’s held at the hotel where everyone’s staying, many guests will want to change into more casual gear. That’s fine, unless the after-party room has a dress code. It’s considerate to let your guests know what sort of attire is expected after the reception’s over. If you’re planning a casual after-party, tell your guests they should feel free to change out of their formalwear and into something more comfortable. If you think it’d be fun to coordinate the attire with your party’s décor (like a black and white theme, or a Hawaiian luau), make your plans clear beforehand so no one feels left out by dressing inappropriately.

After-party Pointer: If you want to sport your white dress ’til dawn, go for it. Play the princess card for as long as you wish. Just know, every extra hour you’re in your gown — especially around food and drinks — you run the risk of staining your dress. If you’re wearing a two piece gown, consider changing into jeans and leaving the top on.

Cover the Costs

So, who’s paying? Chances are there will be many a guest offering to slap down their credit cards at the bar. Because the after-party is a relatively new wedding trend, there’s no set etiquette for who traditionally pays. The bride’s parents may consider it part of the reception and pay for the after-party, especially if it’s taking place in the same hotel or resort, since it can be easily added to the final bill. On the other hand, many couples choose to pay for the after-party themselves, regardless of who pays for the wedding, since the attendees will generally be the couple’s younger friends. If you’re uncertain on who’s planning on paying, consider offering to split the bill with your parents. No need to go overboard — if you’re worried about overspending, just put a cap on the open bar after an hour or two.

After-party Pointer: All good things must come to an end, including your wedding day. If you’re renting a space, you probably have an allotted amount of time, so deciding when to go home can be pretty clear cut. Otherwise, if you and your husband are up for it, there’s no reason you can’t celebrate till dawn! If you’re hosting a brunch or leaving early for your honeymoon the next morning, make sure you’ve got someone to give you a wakeup call so you don’t oversleep.

Thanks to Pamela Barefoot of Atrendy Wedding & Event Company; Melissa Paul of Evantine Design


DIY Wedding Guest Books for Reception

DIY Wedding Guest Books for Reception

Help your guests sign in with style.
Do it yourself wedding guest book

Photo by Gisel Florez

One of our staff members makes beautiful handmade guest books, which are perfect as guest registers (or photo albums) for your wedding. Here are her secrets!

What You’ll Need

  • 1/8-inch-thick acid-free paperboard
  • PVA glue, a special synthetic glue available from art stores or bookbinding suppliers
  • Four sheets of decorative or handmade paper and 20 sheets of white, ivory, or cream paper
  • 1/4 yard of bookbinding cloth
  • Two yards of strong ribbon that won’t fray easily
  • Needle with a large eye
  • Hammer and four nails
  • Cutting board and metal ruler

Some of these supplies might be hard to find; you can experiment and substitute more accessible items if needed. Talas Bookbinding in New York City will ship bookbinding supplies, including handmade paper, anywhere in the U.S.; call (212) 219-0770.

1. Cut the 20 sheets of paper to fit your book’s desired size (in this case, 11″ x 15″). Your book can be as thick or thin as you like, depending on your taste and budget. I chose this size because it’s half the size of the paper I bought, so I could just fold the sheets in half and cut along the fold.

2. Cut two pieces of paperboard for the book’s front and back covers. Add 1/4 inch to the size you’ve chosen for the inner sheets (11 1/4″ x 15 1/4″ in our example). Then, cut a strip from each cover that measures about a fifth of the cover’s width. This book is 15 1/4″ wide, so I’ll cut off a 2 1/2″ or 3″ strip. You now have two pieces of each cover. The two thin strips will be the binding strips, the area of the cover where the book is bound together.

3. Cut out two pieces of bookbinding cloth that are big enough to cover the binding strip and extend a couple of inches into the other piece of the cover, leaving one full inch all the way around to fold over. Our cloth measures 13 1/2″ x 6 1/4.”

4. Lay newspaper over your work area. Align the two pieces of board (binding strip and main board) spaced 1/4 inch apart. Glue the cloth to the board, making sure to leave 1/4 inch between the pieces and allow the one-inch border of extra cloth to hang over. Flip the glued board over, neatly fold over the cloth edges, and glue them down. (Tip: It helps to trim the corners for a neat fold.) Repeat this step for the back binding strip and cover.

5. Next, cut the paper for both book covers. The pieces should overlap the point where the bookbinding cloth ends by an inch; leave an inch on the other three sides for folding over (for our book, 11 3/4″ x 13 1/2″). Glue the paper to the front of both covers, then fold it over and glue the one-inch edges to the inside. At this point, you have one side of both the front and back covers completed.

6. To make the inside of the covers neat, attach a sheet of decorative paper to hide the folds. Cut two pieces of paper (about 1/4 inch less than the size of the covers), and glue one piece into each cover.

7. Whew! You made it this far — now it’s time to put everything together. It’s a nice touch to use a sheet of decorative paper for the first and last book pages. Gather the papers for your book and place them, like a sandwich, between the two covers. Make sure they are neatly arranged. Hammer four evenly distributed holes in the center of the front cover’s binding strip. (Tip: Leave a nail in each hole to keep everything lined up.) Tightly thread ribbon, jute, or string through the holes, as simply or as elaborately as you like, and you’re done!

Want more? Consult Creating Handmade Books, by Alisa J. Golden (Sterling Publications, 1998) or Making Books and Journals, by Constance Richards (Lark Books, 1999).


Jewish Ceremony Processionals, Recessionals and Seating

Jewish Ceremony Processionals, Recessionals and Seating

Everything you need to know about who sits where and who walks down the aisle at a Jewish wedding

Jewish wedding processional

Photo by Roey Yohai Photography

Here’s the nitty-gritty on who sits where and who walks when at a Jewish wedding. But remember, these are just guidelines — feel free to adapt these rules or make up your own.

Taking Sides

The age-old tradition of bride’s side and groom’s side of the sanctuary still stands, but the usher need not ask guests whose “side” they are on. For Jewish services, the groom’s side makes up the left and the bride’s side fills the right when looking from back to front. However, should someone express a preference for one side or the other (many guests will just say off the bat that they are friends or relatives of the bride or groom), they should be seated where they choose (makes sense, yes?). If one side of the family will have many more guests than the other, ushers should even out the sides; they can explain that everyone will be sitting together, and that guests will have the best possible view this way.

The Jewish Procession

For Jewish services, the wedding party enters in this order:

  • Rabbi and/or cantor
  • Grandparents of the bride
  • Grandparents of the groom(The grandparents are seated in the first rows; groom’s family on the left, bride’s family on the right)

Next to come down the aisle and remain standing under the huppah:

  • Groomsmen (in pairs)
  • Best man
  • The groom, escorted by his parents (father on his right, mother on his left)
  • Bridesmaids (starting with she who will stand farthest from the bride under the huppah)
  • Honor attendant(s)
  • Ring bearer and/or flower girl (child attendants can be seated with their parents once they reach the front)
  • The bride, escorted by her parents (father on her right, mother on her left)

The Jewish Recessional

After the ceremony, the procession is reversed, and the men in the wedding party escort the women:

  • Bride and groom
  • Bride’s parents
  • Groom’s parents
  • Brides grandparents
  • Grooms grandparents
  • Ring bearer and flower girl (optional)
  • Honor attendants (maid/matron of honor and best man)
  • Bridesmaids and groomsmen
  • Rabbi and/or Canto

10 Questions to Ask Your Wedding Ceremony Civil Officiant

10 Questions to Ask Your Wedding Ceremony Civil Officiant

Having a civil wedding ceremony? Make sure to ask your wedding officiant these key questions.

Wedding vows with civil officiant

Photo by Abby Rose Photography

If you’ve decided to have a civil ceremony but aren’t sure how to choose an officiant, here are nine questions you definitely want to ask.

Is the officiant available on your wedding date?

Can the officiant travel to your chosen wedding site?

If you don’t have a site, can the officiant suggest one or provide a courthouse or meeting room?

Does the officiant charge a standard fee? Is the fee a donation

How long has the officiant been performing weddings? Why does he/she do them?

Does the officiant have sample wording/ceremonies/readings to show you?

Will the officiant let you specify ceremony details such as music, readings, and vows? Can you include religious touches if desired?

Is the officiant available for a ceremony rehearsal?

Does the officiant make you comfortable? Does he or she seem genuinely interested in you as a couple? Be sure you like and respect your officiant — and that the feeling is mutual.


Jewish Wedding Reception Rituals

Jewish Wedding Reception Rituals

Mazel Tov! You’ve stomped on the glass — but wait, the wedding’s not over yet! We’ll tell you what comes next.

Jewish wedding hora chair dance

Photo by Delbarr Moradi Photography

You signed the ketubah, raised the huppah, exchanged rings, and stomped on the glass — but wait, the wedding’s not over yet! There are a few more rituals left to make your reception a true simcha (joyous celebration).

Blessing The Challah

The wedding meal begins with a blessing over the challah, an elaborately braided bread. The couple’s parents or another honored guest can make the hamotzi, or blessing.

inRead invented by Teads
inRead invented by Teads

S’eudah Mitzvah

This is the food portion of the reception — chicken and fish, both fertility symbols, are ever-present dishes at Jewish weddings. The first course at Sephardic weddings is called Sutlach, a sweet rice pudding made with coconut milk, honey, and almonds — all symbols of a sweet and prosperous life. If you’re wondering whether or not to serve a kosher meal at your wedding, take it from us — kosher doesn’t mean unappetizing. Dry brisket and lead latkes aren’t your only options — there are plenty of yummy kosher treats to satisfy the crowd. Imagine seared salmon and sundried tomato and artichoke penne. Or rosemary chicken and roasted veggie couscous. How about garlic marinated Romanian tenderloin, or even spicy tuna sushi? Decide whether you want a meat or a dairy meal. (Remember, fish and eggs are parve, which means they go both ways.) Find a glatt-kosher caterer: if that’s too hard-core, ask your caterer to devise a “kosher-style” menu that adheres to kosher rules but isn’t cooked in a kosher kitchen. Eliminate treyf no-nos like pork and shellfish. No lobster salad or oysters Rockefeller? Who cares? Hey, you might even save a few shekels.

The Hora

No Jewish wedding is complete without the Hora, or chair dance. In this tradition, a few strong and brave guests hoist the bride and groom high above the crowd on chairs to the infectious sounds of “Hava Nagila”. Friends and family dance around in an ecstatic circle as the elevated couple tries not to look (or fall) down.

Mitzvah Dances

Entertaining the bride and groom on their wedding day is not only a mitzvah (good deed) but also an obligation. At traditional Jewish weddings, the couple is seated on chairs and guests dance before them with masks, silly costumes, and props.

Mezinke Tanz OR Krenzel

The Mezinke Tanz is one of the concluding dances of the night and honors parents who have married off their last child. The dance is also known as Krenzel (Yiddish for “crown”) in reference to the crown of flowers often placed in the mother’s hair during the dance. The proud parents are seated on chairs in the middle of the dance floor while friends and family dance around, kissing them as they pass in front.

Birkat Hamazon

The traditional way to end the festive meal is with the birkat hamazon, the blessings after the meal. Booklets of prayers, called benchers, can be handed out to guests. After the prayers, the seven wedding blessings are repeated, giving friends yet another opportunity to participate. Finally, the blessing over the wine is recited as two glasses of wine are poured together into a third, symbolizing the creation of a new life together with a new marriage.