There are a number of ways to personalize this traditional portion of the wedding celebration.

By Lauren Katims
August 05, 2020
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The ceremony recessional—or the bride and groom's walk back down the aisle following their vows—is one of the most meaningful and emotional parts of your wedding day: It's your first time walking together as a married couple, and your guests are clapping and the tears are flowing. It's also the time when the vibe of the wedding shifts from romantic and sentimental to joyous and celebratory, and it's a good opportunity to give your family and friends a glimpse of the reception that's about to follow. Just as with all aspects of your ceremony, including personal touches in your recessional will make it feel more special and ensure that it be one of the more memorable parts of your day—luckily, you have lots of options to make this portion of the celebration entirely your own.

Choose a song that has personal meaning.

"Choose a song not just because it's happy or joyful, but because it's also something that you connect with," says Holly Davidson, president of Simple Elegance. If the bride and groom went to the same alma mater, this is a good time to play the school's fight song, or a song that's representative of you as a couple, for example, what you like to listen to while cooking dinner together or on a road trip. But a favorite song works, too. "The sky's the limit," says Davidson. "Include aspects of your personality," says Claudia Casanova, owner of One Darling Day. At one of her Los Angeles weddings, the groom played the guitar as he and the bride walked back up the aisle together.

Get the whole wedding party involved.

Casanova encourages her couples to think of the recessional as the start of the party. And when it comes to parties, the more the merrier. Instead of each member of the wedding party pairing up and walking down the aisle, have the entire group walk—or dance—together in a group. "It doesn't feel so constricted," she says. "It's loose and fun."

Incorporate your guests.

Just before the ceremony begins, have ushers hand out little bags of confetti, cones of flower petals, or packets of bird seed to guests with an instructional note to toss it when the newly-married couple passes by. Other fun ways to get your guests involved including having them wave ribbon wands or flags, says Davidson, or ring bells, throw herbs, or blow bubbles. Casanova had one couple, passionate about music, leave kazoos on seats for each guest, and while they waited for the processional to begin, the officiant taught the guests a simple song to play during the recessional.

Leave some elements as a surprise.

Have your musicians start to play a traditional song when the bridal party is exiting, especially if the ceremony has been formal, and then switch it, unannounced, to a faster beat. "It shifts the mood," says Davidson. If your budget allows, bring in a separate live musician to enunciate the exit of the bride and groom. At one of Davidson's weddings, bagpipe players escorted the newlyweds from the ceremony; at another, a Mariachi band played for just the married couple.

Just remember, you don't want to keep the surprise from your wedding planning team, especially the photographer, who will want to be ready to capture the moment, says Steve Koo of Steve Koo Photography.

Walk slowly.

Not only does slowly walking back up the aisle help you to remember the moment, but it also makes for better pictures, Koo says. Look at the faces of your family and friends. "Take things slow and don't feel rushed," he says. "Savor all of it."

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