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How to Walk Down the Aisle

How to Walk Down the Aisle

You’re about to take the most important walk of your life—of course you’re going to be nervous! These tips will help you be calm and confident while walking down the aisle.

How to Walk Down the AisleRussell-Killen Photography

You can be the most prepared bride or groom ever, but as soon as you start walking down the aisle nerves are bound to take over. It can be an exciting feeling—this is finally happening!—but it can also be more severe and get in the way of the magic of the moment. No worries—you can start your walk with confidence, not acute anxiety, by deploying some of these quick tips.

Here’s some advice on how to relax before walking down the aisle.

Prep with a few minutes of me-time.

Your wedding day will be so busy and packed to the hilt with stuff to get done, people to talk to and places to hustle to. By the time the ceremony is set to begin, you’ll probably be rattled. Try to schedule a few moments—seriously, just five minutes will do—to yourself right before walking down the aisle. Find a peaceful place, shut the door, close your eyes and collect yourself. Try a meditation app if that’s your thing. Use this time and space to totally zone out, or to drink a cold glass of water (you’re probably dehydrated!) and think of all the reasons you want to be married to your partner (not wedding stuff, marriage stuff!). It’ll be the perfect reset before your big moment, and it’ll help you separate wedding stress from marriage excitement.

Validate your nervousness.

Don’t try to deny your nerves, and don’t judge yourself for feeling stressed—telling yourself “I’m so stupid to feel like this!” is only going to make things worse. Plus, walking down the aisle is a super-normal thing to be nervous about—this is one of the biggest moments of your life, and it’d be weird if you weren’t nervous! Instead of trying to banish it, take a moment to rationalize it. Before walking down the aisle, identify the reasons you’re feeling anxious—because there are a lot of people looking at you, because you’re waited for this moment for a long time, because you’re so excited to be married but you’re also not sure what to expect, maybe all of the above! Once you’ve rationalized what’s fueling your nerves, it’ll be a lot easier to cope with them.

Make a plan.

A lot of the anxiety you’ll feel on your wedding day comes simply from fear of the unknown. Most of us have never walked down the aisle at our own weddings before, and have no idea what to expect. This is terrifying on a really basic human level—like, survival level—and even if you’re feeling really excited and happy, these nerves will likely creep in. But if you make a plan for when you get there (there being the beginning of your aisle walk), you’ll tamp down that fear of the unknown. Maybe it’s as simple as making eye contact with your spouse-to-be and giving them a little wink, or focusing on looking straight ahead at your officiant, or having a secret signal with your MOH. It’s all about feeling like you have a little more control over this very foreign experience, which is exactly what you need to soothe your worries!

Start strong.

You might be so nervous on the morning of your wedding that you have no appetite. You might be so nervous that you start drinking during hair and makeup and forget to stop. You might be so nervous that you take a random anti-anxiety pill your bridesmaid offers you. Please do not do these things! They may seem like a way to dull any anxiety that may creep up on you as you’re about to walk the aisle, but they’ll actually just make things worse. Being drunk, taking any medications you’re not prescribed, and being starved and dehydrated are all just conditions that will worsen any pre-existing anxiety. Instead of medicating or depriving yourself, set yourself up for success but eating a healthy breakfast (and snacks throughout the day), limiting your drinking until the reception, and meditating during lulls in the action. You’ll be glad you did when you’re walking down the aisle feeling clarity and confidence.

Just breathe.

Probably the most fast-acting and effective way to calm your pre-aisle jitters is something you do constantly without even trying: breathing! When we’re really stressed, many of us tend to hold our breath and forget to exhale. It’s a primal response, so it’s not your fault, but it can seriously increase your stress levels. When it’s about time for you to take your big walk, before you even take a step, force yourself to take three to five deep inhales and exhales. You can even close your eyes while you do it. Visualize yourself bringing all of that calming energy into your chest and throughout your body, then exhaling out all your worries. You’ll immediately feel better and readier than ever. If you don’t, take one or two more breaths. The wedding can (and will) wait.

Deciding who should walk you down the aisle at your wedding ceremony isn’t always obvious. Here are some helpful ways to choose who will join you for your procession.

By Kathleen Wong

How to Walk Down the Aisle

If your wedding ceremony includes a traditional aisle set up, then you’re likely faced with the decision of who, if anyone, should walk you down the aisle. A wedding ceremony aisle procession is common in many cultures, and, of course, quite prevalent in mainstream media. “Here comes the bride…” ring any bells? If you do choose to be escorted down the aisle, who you choose to do the honor is completely up to you. Here are some traditional options, as well as advice on how to choose who should walk you down the aisle.

Why does anyone walk anyone down the aisle?

The processional order—or the sequence in which the wedding party and their families head down the aisle—is often an important moment for the wedding ceremony. After months of preparation, it’s the bride and groom’s big debut.

The decision to have an aisle escort is often determined by what kind of ceremony you’re having and the traditions and cultures you and your SO are contributing to the wedding. Here’s a brief history of who walks the bride and groom down the aisle in a variety of traditional ceremonies.

How to Walk Down the Aisle

Photo Credit // Eichar Photography

Catholic Ceremony

In a Catholic ceremony, the groom typically walks down the aisle alone or with the officiant and the best man. This way, he’s already standing at the altar awaiting his bride. After the rest of the wedding party and the ring bearer/flower girl head down, the bride is escorted down the aisle by her father. This is typically understood to mean her father is “giving her away.” This tradition of transferring the bride to another family may stem from the property-like ownership men had over women in medieval times in England.

Jewish Ceremony

In a Jewish ceremony, both the bride and groom are escorted down the aisle by their respective parents to the chuppah, where they will exchange vows. Sometimes the parents join them in the chuppah with the rabbi.

Hindu Ceremony

Hindu weddings traditionally last at least three days, with the last day being the official formal wedding. The baraat, or the groom’s arrival, traditionally includes him being escorted by his family and entering on a beautifully decorated horse to greet the bride’s parents. There offers them gifts. The elders then escort him to the mandap, or an altar made of four pillars that represents the four in-laws, where he is slated to meet the bride. The bride enters the mandap escorted by her uncle.

Muslim Ceremony

A Muslim wedding also takes place over several days. The Mehendi ceremony, which is the first night of the three-day wedding, is the most colorful and festive, including henna and loud songs. The bride, whose arms and sometimes feet are decorated with henna, is veiled by a yellow dupatta, or large scarf, that is held by six female family members or friends. In some cases, the groom enters after the bride. His side of the wedding plays loud songs while he greets his bride.

Secular Ceremony

A ceremony without religious connotation typically has loose expectations when it comes to how the bride and groom make their entrance. Maybe you want your grandparents to escort you or perhaps your sister. Maybe you’d like to make the trek down the aisle totally alone or with your beloved dog. It could involve a combination of certain traditions or it could be a chance for you to come up with your own! After all, it is your wedding.

How To Decide Who Should Walk You Down The Aisle

If your procession isn’t predetermined by traditional ceremony expectations, or if you and your family don’t mind bending that tradition a bit, then the choice is yours. It might feel overwhelming to decide, though. So here’s how to navigate the decision.

Talk it over.

Make it a point to sit down with your SO and discuss who will walk you both down the aisle during the wedding planning. It’s important that you let each other know of any traditions you’d like to keep and traditions you wouldn’t mind breaking. If your families are heavily involved in the wedding planning then this might be a good conversation to have with them, as well, since someone may be expecting to do the honors.

How to Walk Down the Aisle

Photo Credit // Wilde Scout Photo Co

Make a list.

If you do want to be escorted down the aisle but can’t decide on who to pick—like maybe between biological and stepparents—then make a list of all the potential escorts. This can help your brain sort out who you’re dealing with and what your options are. If you’re struggling to come up with the list or refine it, focus on who makes you feel most comfortable. It’s an intimate moment and your relationship with that person should reflect that.

Get creative.

Think outside of the box on this one! You aren’t limited to just one person doing the honors. Someone can walk you halfway and switch with someone else or you can be flanked on either side. For example, if you grew up with a single mother and are also close to your sister, you can ask both of them to escort you down the aisle. There really is no right or wrong combination when it comes to your entrance.

Let others know why.

Whatever you end up choosing, be sure to take initiative and let others know why you made the decision you did. This will help relieve any awkward tension, especially if someone was expecting to be chosen as your escort. Let them know it’s not personal, it’s just your preference. Although it may feel like you’re picking someone over the other, the reality is that there are other important parts of your wedding someone can participate in. Offer others reading positions or even ask them to say grace or make a toast at the reception.

Tradition asides, it’s your choice who walks you down the aisle. Be open to as many options as you want and take the time to make a thoughtful decision.

The wedding procession, or entrance of the bridal party, occurs in a certain order that culminates with the bride. The bridal procession begins after all guests are seated and the processional (the music) has started. Bridal processions vary, depending on the style of the ceremony, but the traditional order of appearance (especially for a Christian wedding) is as follows:

The officiant, groom and best man take their places to the right of the altar, usually entering through a side door, and face the guests.

Groomsmen can either take their places with the groom and best man or escort the bridesmaids down the aisle (bridesmaid on the left, groomsman on the right). If they escort the bridesmaids, they can either walk with them from the back of the ceremony site or start with the groom and meet them halfway down the aisle, escorting them the rest of the way. When they arrive at the altar, they turn to face the guests.

Bridesmaids enter through the back of the ceremony site, either alone or with the groomsmen.

After they arrive at the altar, they turn to face the guests. Try to line up the attendants by height, shortest to tallest on each side, with the shortest walking in first.

The maid or matron of honor is the last of the bride’s attendants to walk down the aisle, either alone or with the best man.

The ring bearer walks in next.

The flower girl walks in just before the bride.

It’s acceptable for the ring bearer and flower girl to enter together. Depending on their ages, the flower girl and ring bearer may sit with their families instead of standing with the rest of the attendants.

It’s also common for the ring bearer and flower girl to trade places with the maid or matron of honor (as shown in the following figure).

Last to come down the aisle is the bride, who traditionally walks on her escort’s left arm.

Some couples choose to have the bride walk on the right so that no one is between her and the groom when she arrives at the altar.

How to Walk Down the Aisle

Make sure your attendants practice pacing themselves about for to six rows apart and walking serenely down the aisle at the rehearsal. Nervousness tends to make people rush down the aisle — which doesn’t make for a very elegant entrance.

The basic Jewish processional is as follows:

The cantor and rabbi take their places in the front of the ceremony site.

The bride’s grandparents, followed by the groom’s grandparents, may choose to take part in the processional instead of being seated beforehand.

The ushers file down the aisle in pairs (shortest to tallest), followed by the best man and then the groom, who may or may not be escorted by both parents, his mother on the right and father on the left.

The bridesmaids may walk in individually or in pairs.

The maid or matron of honor comes in after all the bridesmaids, followed by the ring bearer and then the flower girl.

The bride enters last, with an escort on her right side. If the bride is escorted by both parents, her mother is on the right, and her father is on the left.

How to Walk Down the Aisle

Walk down the aisle in style by ensuring you follow the correct wedding processional order. Here’s the rundown on how different religions and cultures handle the wedding processional order.

How to Walk Down the AisleAurora Photography

One of the most-asked wedding ceremony questions is: What is the wedding processional order for the ceremony? The wedding processional order will be decided by a few different factors:

Are you having a Christian or Jewish wedding ceremony? Each religion has its own guidelines of who walks down the aisle when in the wedding processional order and which side each family is seated on. It’s important to discuss your wedding processional order with your officiant to get an understanding of what is traditional as well as what details you can customize. For example, if a bride wants her father and stepfather to escort her down the aisle, she may enter the ceremony venue with her stepfather and halfway down the aisle meets her father who will escort her to the altar.

If there are family members you want to honor, who are not part of the wedding party, you may have them precede the wedding party down the aisle. They would walk down the aisle before the mothers of the couple in a Christian ceremony and before the Rabbi and Cantor in a Jewish ceremony.

Here is a guide to help you organize your wedding processional order.

How to Walk Down the AisleFredericks Photo and Films

Christian Wedding Ceremony

The following wedding processional order can be used for Christian denominations:

Groom’s Parents: It’s optional to honor the groom’s parents by having them walk down the aisle. They can be seated after all of the guests and before the mother of the bride.

Mother of the Bride: The mother of the bride is the last person seated before the officiant, groom and best man take their places at the altar. She can walk alone or be escorted by her son, son-in-law or another relative. She is seated on the left side in the first row.

Officiant: Awaits the couple at the altar

Groom and Best Man: Enter the ceremony venue and stand at the altar

Bridesmaids and Groomsmen: Walk down the aisle in pairs or if an odd number of members individually or in a group of three

Maid/Matron of Honor: Walks down the aisle alone

The Ring Bearer and Flower Girl: Children can walk together or the ring bearer can enter before the flower girl

The Bride and Father of the Bride: The bride walks on her father’s right side

During the ceremony the bride stands on the left and the groom on the right, both facing the officiant.

How to Walk Down the AisleRabbi Gail Nalven

Jewish Wedding Ceremony

Depending on the religious service of your wedding ceremony, a Jewish wedding processional order may vary slightly from the following:

Rabbi and Cantor: Either walk down the aisle before the wedding party or enter the room from the side and stand at the altar

Grandparents: The bride’s grandparents are followed by the groom’s grandparents

Wedding Party: A Jewish ceremony has two options for bridesmaids and groomsmen. Groomsmen can follow the groom’s grandparents and precede the best man. And then the bridesmaids follow the groom and his parents. Or bridesmaids and groomsmen can be paired together, following the groom’s grandparents and before the best man. If there are an odd number of people there can be a group of three who walk together.

Best Man: Walking alone, he precedes the groom and his parents

Groom: The groom walks down the aisle with both of his parents, his father on his left arm and mother on his right

Maid/Matron of Honor: Walks down the aisle on her own

Ring Bearer and Flower Girl: Children can walk together or the ring bearer walks ahead of the flower girl

Bride: The bride walks down the aisle escorted by both of her parents with her father on her left arm and mother on her right

A Jewish wedding ceremony is held beneath a chuppah. The couple will stand with the best man and maid of honor as well as their parents during the ceremony. Grandparents take seats in the front row after they walk down the aisle. Members of the wedding party can stand to the sides of the chuppah (groomsmen on the left, bridesmaids on the right) or they can be seated in the first row.

How to Walk Down the AisleRebecca Renner Photography

Civil Ceremony

Couples having a civil, non-religious, wedding ceremony can choose any processional order they want. They can pick elements from the above religious processional orders and create a customized order.

How to Walk Down the AisleThewmatt Photography

Same-Sex Ceremony

Same-sex couples can organize a wedding processional order that reflects the religious service of their ceremony and/or personal preference. The couple can walk down the aisle together or individually, escorted by someone or on their own. Some same-sex couples create two aisles that allow the couple to walk down each aisle at the same time and meet together at the altar.

How to Walk Down the AisleJessie Schultz Photography

Military Ceremony

A military wedding ceremony can be a civil or religious service. Couples having a military ceremony can follow the religious guidelines of their faith or create a wedding processional order that reflects their wedding party.

When you walk down the aisle on your wedding day, all eyes are on you. Your dress, veil, hair, makeup and accessories have been carefully planned out so that you look absolutely perfect. You’ve chosen the perfect song to set the scene and demonstrate your feelings. To ensure that your walk down the aisle goes smoothly, you’ll want to practice it at least once during the rehearsal. Follow these simple steps to make your walk down the aisle graceful and elegant.

Even if this might feel unnatural at first, holding your bouquet lower will make your arms and torso look better. This will create a slimming effect in photos and guests will also be able to see the beautiful bodice of your wedding dress. To achieve this sophisticated look, hold your bouquet low enough so that your arms are bent in a diamond shape in front of your body.

How to Walk Down the Aisle

Some brides tend to walk quickly when they are nervous, while others tend to walk slowly. To make things seem as natural and seamless as possible, a good rule of thumb is to walk at a normal pace for you. However, depending on the song you’ve chosen for your walk, you may want to adjust your pace to match the beat. If the song is set to a moderate or slightly fast beat, it might seem more natural to follow the tempo. If it’s slow, then you’ll want to walk at your normal pace. Figuring out what pace to walk at is definitely something that you’ll learn quickly with a practice run.

How to Walk Down the Aisle

It may help to calm your nerves to stare directly forward and avoid all eye contact with your guests, but this creates a stiff, unnatural presence that ultimately looks and feels awkward. Feel free to look around at the crowd at all of the guests who have shown up to support you and your love. You may find that your aunt is beaming back at you, or your uncle is sending you a comforting gaze. If eye contact is something that will cause more fear than reassurance, then glancing around at the tops of guests’ heads in the crowd is a simple trick that will help you achieve this natural presence.

How to Walk Down the Aisle

Your dress and bouquet may be heavy, and you might not be used to wearing your wedding heels, but the easiest way to instantly appear more graceful and elegant is to stand up straight. Having good posture while you walk down the aisle will make you look tall, lean and more beautiful. Hunching over will look especially obvious in photos, and something as simple as rolling your shoulders down your back will you help you avoid this unappealing look.

How to Walk Down the Aisle

Perhaps the most common fear brides have of their walks down the aisle is tripping over their wedding dresses. These gorgeous gowns are typically floor length, and oftentimes have long trains too. Most brides probably don’t have much experience walking in floor length ball gowns, so a helpful trick to help you glide down the aisle is to be mindful of your dress as you take each step. As you put your foot forward to take a step, your dress will move against the back of your leg. If you wait until the hem of your dress grazes your ankle, you will never step on your dress. This is something that may require a few practice runs, so if you still aren’t comfortable with this process then you can also ask your seamstress to hem your dress slightly shorter.

How to Walk Down the Aisle

We know you’re nervous on one of the most important days of your life, but sometimes we let it show in our faces. Remember to smile and try to enjoy yourself as you gracefully float down the aisle. Everyone in that room is there to support you and celebrate your love, and smiling throughout your walk will let your guests know that you’re happy they came and there’s nowhere else you’d rather be.

How to Walk Down the Aisle

Your wedding rehearsal is the ideal time to have everyone in your wedding party practice their duties at least once before the big day. Walking down the aisle on your wedding day may seem like a huge deal, but remember that all you’re doing is walking! Smile, stand up straight and be mindful of your dress and bouquet. When looking around the room, you can lock eyes with your partner to be reminded of all of the reasons why you’re doing this. In the end, the most important thing is that you’re marrying the love of your life and your friends and family are there for the two of you.

How to Walk Down the Aisle

PHOTO BY LANCE NICOLL

Confused or conflicted over who should walk the aisle of your same-sex wedding? That’s actually a very common concern. But “like all other wedding challenges for same-sex couples, the way you use the aisle can be a creative opportunity rather than an obstacle,” says psychotherapist Mark O’Connell. “While short-sighted traditionalists might ask silly questions, you can ask a more meaningful question: What story are you telling—as individuals and as a couple, privately and publicly—by the way you enter the performance of your wedding?” And here’s how to figure it out.

Meet the Expert

Mark O’Connell is a psychotherapist and the author of Modern Brides and Modern Grooms.

It’s smart to start by changing your vocabulary, O’Connell suggests. Rather than focusing on who will be “given away” to the other, ask yourselves who will be “presented” at the ceremony. When you think of it as “presenting yourself or being presented to your partner and to your guests,” O’Connell describes, it can take some pressure off the decision. Then ask, “are there people in your lives who contributed to forging your couplehood?” he says. “If so, perhaps you want them to walk with you as you enter, or sing as you present yourselves.”

You can also buck tradition and enter the ceremony together. “Get ahead of short-sighted guests who fear change by making it obvious what is happening and how they should participate,” O’Connell says. “If your entrance tells your story — for example, the two of you entering at the same time via two separate aisles to a pre-recording of the two of you actually narrating your story — no one should be confused about when to stand, or how to react. You are in charge of the storytelling.”

Another option? Be stationed at the front when your guests arrive. Or consider borrowing from Jewish wedding traditions, in which “both sets of parents walk each spouse down the aisle, presenting them to each other,” says O’Connell. “You can do something similar, choosing whomever you would like to present you to your partner and to your guests, symbolizing independence becoming interdependence and a joining of tribes.”

Finally, once you’ve figured out who will walk the aisle and how, “rehearse, rehearse, rehearse, and as you do, consider if anything feels awkward or uncomfortable about it,” O’Connell says. “If so, make any adjustments you need to make until your arrival feels relaxed, fun, meaningful, exciting, and fun.”

Break a tradition and start your own.

You don’t have to have seen Father of the Bride a dozen or so times to know about the time-honored tradition of the father walking his daughter down the aisle at her wedding. But the reality is that this scenario is not ideal for everyone. Not everyone has a father-or father figure-in their life and, even if they do, they may choose to have someone else escort them down the aisle. “Years ago, marriages were arranged by the father of the bride, mainly because daughters were considered ‘property’ of the family,” explains Deb Erb, wedding and event planner at Simply Events Inc. “In order to marry a daughter, the groom needed to either sign a contract or give something tangible to the family of the bride (maybe a goat or cow).” As you can see, this tradition is far from making sense in today’s day and age.

While it’s perfectly normal to choose to go the traditional route, there are plenty of other options if you’d like to switch things up. In fact, these days more and more brides are choosing to walk down the aisle with more than one person. As Erb explains, the only etiquette necessary is for the bride to communicate well. “Parents and family need to allow the bride to choose who she feels most comfortable with and then support who decisions.” Here are some common ways or planning and carrying out who walks you down the aisle on your wedding day.

Your mother and father.

In many cultures, it’s traditional to have both the mother and father walk their daughter down the aisle. Some brides may find this more suitable rather than choosing just one parent to do the honor. If you prefer to be escorted by both your mom and dad, Erb says go for it!

Your parents and grandparents.

Though it’s not customary, there’s nothing wrong with having a train of people escort you down the aisle, if that’s what you wish for as the bride. After all, it’s your special day. If your grandparents are still alive and well, why not give them the honor of escorting you down the aisle-either alone or accompanying your parents.

Your stepfather and father.

Erb points out that some brides choose to start down the aisle with their stepfather and then meet up with their father in the middle and walk the rest of the way with him. Whether you choose this option or decide to switch it around, it’s completely up to you. You may even choose to have both escort you the entire way.

Bottom line: Choose whomever is closest to you

Perhaps you’re not all that close with either of your parents-and you’re footing the bill for your own wedding anyway. Do you still need to ask them to escort you down the aisle? Erb says no. “Brides can choose whomever they feel is most important in their lives.” Whether that’s your brother, best friend, cousin, or one of your soon-to-be in-laws, that decision is entirely up to you.

How to Walk Down the Aisle

Couldn’t possibly dream of having a wedding without involving your dog? We totally understand—Washingtonians really, really love their pets. So we talked to Carlos Mejias, founder of Alexandria’s Olde Town School for Dogs, about the proper steps to take to ensure that your pooch is ready for their walk down the aisle. Practice enough, and it can be done—even without a leash!

Step One: Evaluate.

Make sure your dog has the right temperament for the task: friendly, outgoing, not hyperactive, and not reactive to sounds. If you have a party at your house and have to put the dog away, or if you take him to Georgetown and he just wants to crawl under a car, it’s not going to work. A year to six years of age, depending on the breed, is generally when the dog is going to adapt to this the best.

Step Two: Build a Solid Obedience Foundation.

Your dog is paying attention to you if he can walk nicely on a leash and right at your side. He needs to sit automatically when you stop without having to be asked. He should be able to do a sit, stay and a down, stay . They’re simple exercises, but a dog needs to be able to perform them around distractions.

Step Three: Leave Yourself Enough Time.

If you want your dog to walk off-leash by himself, you need about three weeks of general off-leash training and three weeks of practicing going up and down an “aisle.” If you have access to your venue, try to rehearse there or somewhere similar. Create an aisle between chairs in your back yard, walk down a sidewalk with trees on one side and houses on the other, or go to dog-friendly Home Depot and train in a store aisle. Practice five minutes at a time so the dog doesn’t get bored, but go through the routine at least three or four times a day. After that, you should still practice at the wedding rehearsal and again the day of the ceremony.

Step Four: Use This Practice Strategy.

• Once you’ve got the obedience training down, teach your dog to go up and down the “aisle” while on a leash. Use dog food—not special treats—to reward him.

• Once the routine is familiar, trade the leash for a longer rope your dog can drag behind him—giving you something to grab if he tries to wander.

• As his skills improve, reduce the number of rewards—only offer three per run-through—and switch to a lighter nylon leash.

• When he’s got the idea, remove the leash and don’t offer any food—the promise of a reward should be enough at this point, and you don’t want your dog begging for food on the wedding day.

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Since many of you picked up a tip or two from 6 Secrets to the Perfect Wedding Kiss, I thought I’d delve into another nerve-wracking part of the ceremony where all eyes are glued on you. Here’s how to strut your stuff (without stumbling!) on your way to the altar.

Hold your bouquet lower than you think. When I tried on my wedding dress at Kleinfeld in NYC, the great Randy Fenoli of “Say Yes to the Dress” fame handed me a bouquet to practice holding. And then he told me something I’ll never forget: “Think pubes, not boobs.” It’s true! Brides who hold their bouquets by their lady parts look way more sophisticated than the ladies who have em up by their chests. He also taught me to create a diamond shape between each arm and my body–your elbows should be directly across from the thinnest part of your waist to achieve that effect.

Have your escort lock arms with you. The gentlemanly thing to do is to let you place your arm wherever you’d like on your escort. But since you’ll already be in position with your bouquet, ask whoever is walking you down the aisle to hook his arm into yours.

Keep your shoulders back. I was sooooo hunched over. I think it’s because I was lifting my arms higher than was natural to meet my six-foot-tall dad’s arm. Having my five-foot-five mom on my other side wasn’t helping my posture (though I was happy to have her there!).

Loosen up. Don’t feel like your arms should be completely rigid. (They shouldn’t.) If you’re stiff, you’ll look stiff (uh, like I did!).

Smile! Somber brides always look like they’re entering into marriage unwillingly, so show off those pearly whites and send the message to your guests that there’s nothing else in the world you’d rather be doing (because isn’t that true?).

Let your dress hit your ankle before you step down. What do I mean? When you stick out your foot to take a step, your dress will move back against your leg. If you wait til it hits, you’ll never step on your dress. Yes, that’s a lot to remember when you’re making your way to your groom, so practice beforehand and it’ll eventually become second nature–or just ask your seamstress to hem up a little higher than she normally would if you’re as clumsy as I am (which is very).

Walk (almost) like you’d normally walk. The days of step-together, step-together for aisle strolls are long gone. So walk as you would anywhere else, only slightly slower. If the music you choose is medium-paced, feel free to walk to the beat. If it’s extraordinarily slow, don’t bother keeping pace; your trip down the aisle will last longer than your vows!

Acknowledge your guests. It’s OK to smile right at your aunt who flew across the country to attend or your childhood friend you haven’t seen in ages. Brides who stare straight ahead kind of have a part-robot, part-zombie (all I’m going to eat your brains) look. And let me tell you: You won’t forget that amazing feeling you get when you check out all those happy people looking at you thinking they’ve never seen a more beautiful woman in their lives.

Are you going to practice your walk down the aisle? What other tips do you have for making the ceremony walk a success? Who do you think you’ll look at as you make your way to the altar? (The sun was right in my eyes, so I couldn’t really see Paul at the other end!)

How to Walk Down the Aisle

Traditionally, the father of the bride escorts his daughter down the aisle on her wedding day; the custom dates back to an era when a women were perceived as males’ property. The father “giving away” the bride represented a transfer of ownership from her father to her new husband.

Today, that’s definitely not every engaged woman’s dream. Some women prefer to walk themselves down the aisle, and others may be more inclined to have someone else in their family do the honors instead.

The latter seems to be the case for Meghan Markle. As the bride-to-be plans her May 19 wedding to Prince Harry, multiple sources have reported that the actress plans to be escorted down the aisle by her mother, Doria Ragland, rather than her father, Thomas Markle.

How to Walk Down the Aisle

Not having your father perform that role may be an increasingly common choice, but broaching the topic can be incredibly complicated, no matter how understanding your dad is.

To take some of the stress out of the situation, we asked Anne Chertoff, WeddingWire’s wedding expert and Amber Harrison, resident expert at Wedding Shop by Shutterfly, to walk us through how to break the news gently to your dad.

Before the conversation can happen, brides need to figure out the most considerate, direct way to get their message across, Harrison said.

“Start by thinking about your ideal outcome,” she said. “In a perfect world, how would this conversation go? Next, make a list of all things you’d like to say. Once you get it all down on paper, you’ll want to prioritize. What is the one message you really need your father to to hear? Stay focused by making sure everything you plan to say is in support of that one message.”

Don’t go off-script or dwell on things your dad did in the past that might have played a part in your decision. The goal is to keep the conversation generally positive, Chertoff said.

“Don’t make the conversation about the reasons you don’t want him to walk you down the aisle, but rather the ways you do honor him,” she said. “You can also explain how you’re not following a number of wedding traditions, but customizing the wedding to suit your personal wishes.”

Context matters, too: Don’t spring the topic on dear old dad while in line at Starbucks and most definitely don’t do it in a text. This is a conversation you’ll want to have in private ― face-to-face ― and somewhere you both feel equally comfortable, Harrison said.

“Set aside a specific time and make sure your dad knows you have something important to discuss,” she said. “Nothing’s worse than being invited to lunch and then feeling ambushed by someone close to you. Set expectations so you can both come to the table prepared to talk things out.”

Once you’ve conveyed your wishes in an honest, considerate way, you may want to ask your dad if he’d like to be involved in the wedding in another capacity, Chertoff added.

“Some ideas are having him walk down the aisle as part of the wedding party with a spouse . giving a reading at the ceremony, participating in the unity candle ceremony, sitting in the front row, or sharing in a special dance at the reception,” she said.

Of course, it’s perfectly fine not to involve him in a prominent way. If that’s your preference, you can sleep easy knowing you’ve expressed your wishes as honorably and directly as possible.

“While your message may cause hurt feelings, just remember that your delivery can still be kind,” Harrison said. “Directness can be difficult but it leaves no room for doubt ― your message is heard loud and clear. You both need that.”

How to Walk Down the Aisle

That emotional moment you walk down the aisle to meet your partner deserves an epic soundtrack! We’ve got 135 bride entrance songs to inspire you

How to Walk Down the Aisle

Walking down the aisle is one of the most special parts of the wedding day. Expect a few tears as your partner sees you for the first time in your dress and having your Dad by your side only adds to the emotion.

We recommend checking out our best wedding songs of all time as well as this curated list of songs to walk down the aisle to find your inspiration – the song really has to speak to you.

You’ll have two importance entrances during your big day: the bride’s entrance and your wedding reception entrance as newlyweds (and we’ve got plenty of wedding entrance songs to help you pick that!) But the bride’s entrance is the real start to the wedding day.

While you’ll have picked prelude songs while your guests arrive, and processional music as your bridesmaids walk down ahead of you, the moment everyone is waiting for is your arrival. All eyes on you can be quite scary, and having wedding songs or music that you really love can be comforting – as well as help you set the pace for your walk!

How to Choose Your Bridal Entrance Song

Normally couples decide together the bridal entrance song together. There’s a couple of key things to think about.

Firstly, the pace: you don’t want something really fast as you want to walk at a slightly slower than normal pace. If your chosen song is a little too up-tempo, see if there’s a slowed-down acoustic version available. Secondly, decide whether you want a piece of classical music, a song with lyrics or an instrumental version of a song. You’ll need to work out when you want the music to fade (if it’s not a live band) so time your walk to avoid arriving at the front mid-verse or crescendo.

If you’d rather have the song you walk down to be a surprise, that can be a great idea. We know one bride who chose an instrumental version of the Jurassic Park theme tune as it was her husband’s favourite film! Your guests will love to see your partner’s reaction, and it’ll be a great shot for your photographer to capture.

The 135 Best Songs to Walk Down the Aisle To

We’ve got 130 ideas for songs to walk down the aisle to. Lots of these bridal entrance songs you know, but some will be new to you. Take a listen to our playlist or scroll down to the full list and you might find one you both love.