Wedding Ceremony Seating: Who Sits Where?


wedding ceremony seating
Photo by Elizabeth Burgi

Just when you think it’s hard enough figuring out your wedding reception seating chart, somebody asks you about the wedding ceremony seating. Um, what? Thankfully it’s WAY easier and not really that tricky once you figure it out. Hopefully this guide to wedding ceremony seating will help!

Do We Have to Pick Sides?

Choosing whether you’re on the “bride” or “groom” side is a tradition that is slowly but surely going away (thankfully!). You know those signs “Choose a seat not a side”? Well, that’s true! Make sure guests know via a sign like that or an usher that all seats are open, except for…

Is There Reserved Seating?

Your wedding coordinator, planner, or church/temple/venue director should reserve the first few rows on both sides for your closest family members (as well as your wedding party if they are not standing up with you). While they might be roped off, you can also choose to add seating cards to each reserved seat if you want to make sure there is no confusion once it’s time for guests to come in.

In traditional Christian ceremonies, the bride’s parents are seated in the left first row (if you’re facing the altar), and the groom’s parents are in the right first row. In Jewish weddings, however, that is reversed. Here’s a quick chart using the traditional Christian ceremony seating

So what about divorced parents? If they get along there’s no reason why they can’t be seated in the same first row together, with their significant others if they are dating or remarried. In the event that the bride or groom’s parents are divorced and DON’T GET ALONG, you would give preference to the mother, regardless of who is actually hosting the wedding. You would seat the divorced mom in the front row with her new spouse, if remarried, and her immediate family would sit in the first one or two rows behind her. The father would sit behind those family members after walking his daughter down the aisle. The same seating situation would go for the bride OR groom’s divorced parents.

Need wedding planning help? Our wedding e-book will teach you everything you need to know!

When Should They Be Seated?

Immediate family (meaning the reserved seats in the first few rows on both sides) are seated first, except for the family members who are being escorted down the aisle during the wedding processional. Here is a sample timeline:

  • 30 minutes before the wedding invitation start time: Prelude music begins and guests are ushered to their seats, starting with the reserved rows.
  • 10 minutes prior to the ceremony: The groom’s grandparents walk together or are escorted down the aisle, followed by the bride’s.
  • 5 minutes prior to ceremony: The groom’s mother is escorted to her seat by the head usher, a son, or the groom. The groom’s father follows and sits next to her.
  • The wedding processional follows. Read more about the wedding processional order here.

Do We Need Ushers?

If you are having a large wedding you can ask a few of the groomsmen to double as ushers (the rule of thumb is 1 usher for every 50 guests). Just make sure they are aware of who sits where and of any complicated situations (see above). Alternatively your wedding planner or coordinator might also be able to handle this on their own or alongside another staff member if they have one. You can also enlist a close friend or family member to serve as an usher and direct guests to seats, especially the older guests who might need help! Or choose to have guests seat themselves if you’re not worried about it.

Other wedding ceremony seating tips to remember!

  • Seating starts with the groom’s side.
  • Seat elderly guests and those with disabilities towards the front and/or at the end of their aisle for easy access.
  • In Jewish weddings, parents don’t sit. They typically stand under the chuppah with the couple.
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