Wedding ABC's: A is for Aisle

Hey, y'all! I'm not a big blogger (I posted, what, maybe 3 times last year?) but I have a cool idea for a 2017 blog series. The inspiration actually came to me in my spare time, when I was working on one of my favorite hobbies – woodworking. I'm not an AMAZING craftsman or anything, but I've built a few coffee tables, some picture ledge shelves, a bathroom vanity countertop. My very favorite Christmas present this year was a Ryobi 18-gauge cordless brad nailer with a detachable quick-charge battery. So... yeah.

Anyway, one of my favorite woodworking YouTube channels is run by Steve Ramsey, who brands himself as “Woodworking for Mere Mortals”. Steve has started a series called the ABCs of woodworking, and I thought it was such a clever way for him to cover the basics and maybe teach his viewers something new. I've decided to run an ABC series of my own, which should give me enough material to get through the rest of 2017.

So, welcome to the first lesson – A is for Aisle. Let's talk about your wedding aisle!

First of all, keep in mind that it's A-I-S-L-E and not I-S-L-E. I see this mistake a lot, so let's get that spelling stickiness out of the way first. It's spelled the exact same way as the aisles in the the grocery store. Got it? Yes? Cool.

Let's start with the basics. What IS an aisle? Simply put, it's how you get to the altar. Most of the time, it's a corridor that runs around or through your assembled guests. I actually consider the “extended” aisle to include all the ground you have to cover from the time you can be seen by the guests to the time you reach the altar. For instance, if you're getting married in a field next to a barn, you may have to walk 100 yards or more before you reach the chairs. To me, that counts as aisle time, and I factor it in when cuing the DJ or thinking of how to space out everyone walking in the processional.

Your aisle is the last place you'll go on your way to married life. How can you make it pretty? Aisle décor, my friends. If you're worried you don't have the budget for this, ask your florist to make something that will pull double duty. For instance, try a small arrangement that hangs from your guest chairs and can move to the cocktail tables during the pre-dinner hour. If you're using lanterns at your wedding, use them to line the footpath before converting them into centerpieces. I've had a few couples use signs, although this is mostly to charm the guests. You won't read it as you're walking down the aisle – you'll be too busy focusing on the happy people around you and the face of your soon-to-be-spouse. If you're marrying outdoors, you can put your décor right into the ground. Shepherd's hooks (or anything attached to a wooden skewer) will line the aisle nicely.

So many decor ideas! The images on the left (the small lanterns and hanging floral arrangements) are easily repurposed as reception decor.

So many decor ideas! The images on the left (the small lanterns and hanging floral arrangements) are easily repurposed as reception decor.

Some people worry about their guests messing up their aisle décor, either because the décor is very elaborate or easily kicked over and messed up. If you're worried about this, the best solution is to rope off the aisle. Have your florist bring a few extra yards of ribbon in a color that matches your wedding palette. (When in doubt, white or ivory is pretty much always a winner.) Guests can enter the seating from the outside edge, and your wedding coordinator will untie the rope right before the ceremony begins. I actually LOVE untying the aisle rope. A hush falls over the crowd, and they know that the main event is about to begin!

Rose petal designs like this are laid out in painstaking detail. To keep guests from trampling them, rope off the aisle. You can use a satin ribbon (like in the center image) or something more creative and personal (like the hanging letters in the right-hand image).

Rose petal designs like this are laid out in painstaking detail. To keep guests from trampling them, rope off the aisle. You can use a satin ribbon (like in the center image) or something more creative and personal (like the hanging letters in the right-hand image).

Some people out there love an aisle runner. I'll tell you right now, I am not one of those people. It's just a matter of preference, but I ALWAYS think that pretty flowers or lots of candles looks nicer than an aisle runner. However, I know that some couples are going to need a runner, either because it's part of their vision or because the bride is concerned about her heels sinking into the grass. If that's you, a word of advice – don't cheap out. Rolls of burlap or cheap, woven runners may tempt you for their price, but they don't hold up. They get caught up under people's shoes and under the bride's train, and usually they don't look great. Spring for a heavier carpet version, or get one that can be staked to the ground.

Some aisle runners are good. A lot of aisle runners are bad. I'll still coordinate your wedding if you buy a runner, but I won't be happy about it.

Some aisle runners are good. A lot of aisle runners are bad. I'll still coordinate your wedding if you buy a runner, but I won't be happy about it.

You can have fun with your aisle! Who says you need a single corridor? Who says it has to be a straight line? Who says you have to enter and exit the same way? When you've got a flexible space, consider doing something new and different. A softly curving aisle looks great in a natural setting, because it looks more organic and wild. A round seating arrangement with an altar in the center allows you to create multiple aisles coming in all around.

You can set up your ceremony in so many cool ways! Wave, spirals, circles, etc. Don't fee like you have to be boxed in!

You can set up your ceremony in so many cool ways! Wave, spirals, circles, etc. Don't fee like you have to be boxed in!

Unless you're getting married in a place with fixed seating (like a church), you've got a little more flexibility with aisle shape and size. Fewer rows of chairs means a shorter aisle, while more rows mean a longer aisle. You can also make the aisle longer by simply setting your rows slightly farther apart. I usually estimate 3' per guest row (~18” of chair, and ~18” of legroom). So, if you're planning on 5 rows of chairs, that will only give you a 15' aisle. That's about the length of a dining room, which is too short for my taste. I prefer a longer aisle. It feels more dramatic and you get to pass by way more smiling faces.

As for width, I like to make my aisles about 5' wide, from chair edge to chair edge. That's wide enough for two people to pass through without feeling cramped. If you're going to have three people passing through (because of an uneven wedding party, or because you're being escorted down the aisle by both parents), add a few extra feet. If you're going to have aisle decorations, add a little extra room for that too.

The aisle on the left is a little too narrow - the couple can barely can get through. The aisle on the right would be fine for two people, but it's a squeeze for three. The aisle in the middle is perfect! (But note, they'd probably need a little extra room if they opted for some aisle decor.)

The aisle on the left is a little too narrow - the couple can barely can get through. The aisle on the right would be fine for two people, but it's a squeeze for three. The aisle in the middle is perfect! (But note, they'd probably need a little extra room if they opted for some aisle decor.)

Whice aisle shape is your favorite? Have you ever noticed aisle decor at the weddings you've attended? Let us know in the comments section!