Wedding ceremony Guard of Honour for the Bride & Groom

Ben and Jennifer’s wedding ceremony Guard of Honour at Pukehou Church in Hawkes Bay

Picture the moment at your wedding ceremony.

Your celebrant smiles broadly and introduces you proudly to all of your friends and family as newly-weds. Applause breaks out, your chosen recessional music plays and you walk down the aisle as a married couple, followed by your wedding party, family and guests.

It’s a wonderful moment, and one that probably hasn’t factored too highly in your planning, as it’s a given that it will be both emotional and exciting. What could possibly go wrong? What could need to be considered in advance?

Pictures like this one, of Ben and Jennifer leaving the church under a legitimate military guard of honour actually take some thinking about. For one thing, the Bride and Groom are the first out of the church, which might mean that they need to double back inside in order for the guests and assorted military officers to come out of the church to witness their proud exit. A bit of a conundrum.

With a bit of planning though, the celebrant can announce (just before the finish of the ceremony), that the Bride and Groom will walk to the end of the aisle and would appreciate it if guests could make their way, past the couple, outside for a special exit from the church. This way everyone sees and enjoys the spectacle and the guard of honour don’t have to make their exit before the end of the ceremony. Best yet, it appears as if virtually no advance planning (or staging as it’s known in entertainment circles) has occurred to make it happen.

Don't forget to plan the end of your wedding ceremony

Don’t forget to plan the end of your wedding ceremony

When it’s a simpler ceremony ending, the same pre-thought can help. If the celebrant simply tells everyone what’s expected of them next, then there’s no awkwardness. On several occasions, I’ve seen a celebrant finish the ceremony, announce the couple to the crowd, fold up his or her presentation folder and look pleased with themselves for having done a great job. The couple look to the celebrant as if to ask “Do we walk now?”, and the guests sit awkwardly, not sure whether or not to follow. The couple reach the end of the aisle and there’s nobody except the Bridesmaids and Groomsmen to offer congratulations.       Awkward!

By asking the ‘what happens next’ question, these sorts of things can be considered before they become a factor. Consider the following questions;

  • What is the visual cue for the person playing the music to start the processional for the entry of the bridesmaids and bride?
  • At exactly what point should the music fade after everyone’s up near the celebrant and looking perfect?
  • What’s the cue for the signing of the register music and how long will the signing take? If it’s longer than the music selection you’ve chosen, is there a seamless contingency plan?
  • What guidance will the celebrant give to the guests about what will be expected of them immediately after the ceremony?
  • Is there going to be a group photo immediately?
  • Should the Master of Ceremonies (MC) be introduced before the end of the wedding ceremony to create a smooth handover of officiating person?
  • How loud should the recessional music be?
  • Who will be around to greet and congratulate you when you have walked back down the aisle together?
  • Have guests been given direction in advance about rice/petals/confetti?
  • Will the celebrant finish by creating an applause moment, or taper off into a reading or finishing summary? (Tip- it’s always best to finish on a high energy moment)

All in all, what happens next? Ask the question now, so it’s not a speed bump on the day.