Listen up and take note ushers – this is your only job, so don’t mess it up!
It’s relatively simple really, so here are the basics:
At the church
Firstly, just remember the simple rule; bride to the left and groom to the right. For a traditional Christian church wedding this is the way to do it. “Why?” I hear you ask. Well, in times gone by kidnappers would often abscond with the bride in order to steal her dowry, so in order for the groom to protect his bride, he needed to keep his sword arm free. Hence, the bride would stand to the left so he could fight with his right. Luckily, brides are rarely kidnapped from weddings today, and so grooms don’t tend to wear swords nowadays, but the bride-groom seating is a tradition that has remained consistent over the years.
Now we’ve got this sorted, how do you go about placing immediate family, friends and distant relatives? As a rule of thumb, the least important a guest is, the further towards the back of the room they go, and the closer to the bride and groom’s bloodline someone is, the nearer to the front they come.
So, if you think of the church pews to the right and the left of the bride and groom, all of the bride’s guests sit to the left, and of the groom’s guests sit to the right. Parents and immediate family will sit on the first row (or however many rows are needed), extended family will sit on the second row, and behind them will sit invited friends and guests.
Where the bride or groom’s mother or father is widowed, divorced or re-married, there are other traditional seating arrangements. These are dependent upon a variety of factors and it would be way too complicated to list all the variations here. It’s best, in this case, for the bride and groom to decide where they would like people to sit.
At the reception:
For the reception, the rules are pretty similar. During the wedding breakfast it is often the case that the bride and groom will sit at a ‘top table’ looking out over the room so all their guests may enjoy their company. The traditional seating arrangement for that table is that the bride and groom will sit in the middle with the bride to the left of the groom. The bride’s father will sit on the left of the bridge, and the bride’s mother will sit to the right of the groom. The groom’s father then sits next to the bride’s mother, and the groom’s mother sits next to the bride’s father. Finally, the best man will sit next to the groom’s mother and the chief bridesmaid next to the groom’s father.
For the rest of the family and friends, they will sit in a fairly similar arrangement to that seen at the church. The closest family will sit nearer to the top table, with the distant relatives further away, and friends and guests sat at the back.
It’s as simple as that!
These days, arrangements are much more flexible, and we recommend doing it your own way. We like to keep the top table fairly traditional and then try to get a good mix of people all over the room. We would suggest mixing up friends and relatives on the same table, or seating tables “girl boy girl boy”. We always recommend making sure you put a chatterbox on every table to ensure there aren’t any awkward silences or introductions.