Wedding Ceremony Seating 101
You were always told not it’s not nice to take sides. Then you host a wedding and all of a sudden, your big group of family and friends has to be split up to the left and right. Parents, grandparents, family, friends. Who goes where?
Here are a few guidelines for your wedding ceremony seating.
Who Seats the Guests
The men of the moment in the seating game are your ushers—either a few of your groomsmen or even relatives or friends. When it comes to deciding how many you’ll need for a nice flow, the rule of thumb is one usher for every 50 guests for larger weddings, whereas intimate ones might not even require them (the guests can seat themselves). If you choose not to have formal seaters but you have “sensitive” seating issues (like not seating Mom next to Dad’s new wife), choose someone who can sit a few guests around those special circumstances.
Traditionally, female guests are escorted to their seats. Ushers offer their right arms to the women, while any male companions follow them down the aisle. It’s also fine for ushers to greet guests and just lead them to their seats with a gentle, “Please follow me.”
It’s your choice if you want to split sides. In most traditional religious ceremonies, they’ve already done it for you. In Christian weddings, the bride’s side is left upon entering the church. For Jewish services, it’s the right. If you don’t have a designated side, guests will probably say whether they’re friends or relatives of the bride or groom. Have the ushers pay special attention to whether one side is more full, then ask them to even things out by asking people to just sit together.
Who Sits Where?
There are a few guidelines about where certain guests should be. The first few rows are usually reserved for family (think aunts, uncles, cousins, and godparents) and other special guests by tying ribbons across those rows. If there is any step-family (step-grandparents and step-siblings), reserve a few extra rows directly behind the immediate family. Make sure the ushers know who all the key players are. Special considerations should also be heeded, such as placing elderly guests near the front, and guests in wheelchairs at the end of a pew.
When family is ready to be seated, the groom’s should sit first, just before the ceremony begins, followed by the bride’s.
Step-relatives should be escorted to their seats first. For example, step-grandparents before birth grandparents. Siblings not in the wedding party are seated before grandparents and great-grandparents, either in the first row with parents or in the second row with grandparents.
Discuss where divorced parents should sit before the ceremony and make sure all the ushers know your decisions, so you can avoid awkward moments. If they’re comfortable with the location, birth parents can sit by side in the first row or even share the front row with stepparents.
While a Jewish ceremony finds parents standing under the chuppah with the couple, a Christian ceremony has the bride’s mother seated last, with the groom’s mom seated just before her. Once the bride’s mom takes her seat, the ceremony can start.
That’s a lot of information to register! Maybe you should sit down.
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