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The Do’s and Don’ts of Ceremony Seating
Be a crowd-pleaser by knowing the ins and outs of how to seat wedding guests when you say ‘I do’
Nancy Mattia CTW Features
 
October 13, 2016

Wedding chairs decorated with flowers.
(Enlarge photo)

Ceremony seating is about much more than just chairs. You want your guests to be comfortable and able to see the proceedings. At the same time, you want to honor certain family and friends with an extra-special perch.

Here are some tips on the etiquette of ceremony seating, plus exciting new ways to set it up.

DO Seat Your Parents in the First Row

Both sets of parents get the primo view and sit facing the ceremony spot in the first row or pew - bride’s folks on the left, groom’s on the right. (For same-sex couples, pre-determine whose family will sit on which side.) The last two people to be seated are the groom’s mom, followed by the bride’s.

DO Seat Extended Family Upfront Too

Reserve the next four or five rows directly behind your parents for your siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and godparents.

To denote reserved seating, tie a ribbon at the end of the rows. Immediate family members walk down the aisle just before the ceremony begins.

DON’T Feel Obligated to Have Designated Sides

If you’d rather not seat guests according to who knows the bride and who knows the groom, let guests sit wherever they like (except for the reserved family rows). To alert attendees, ushers can simply tell guests, “We have open seating.”

DO be Considerate Of Divorced Parents

Before making any decisions on where to seat divorced parents, ask each what their preference is.

“Some are divorced but they’re best friends, and their spouses all get along,” says Natalie Dawley, wedding planner with Two Be Wed in Houston. If they all want to sit together, let them. But if that’s not the case, seat Dad and his significant other sits in the second or third row. “If there’s any animosity, put a few more rows between them.”

DON’T Seat Elderly Guests In The Back

They deserve a good spot upfront where they’ll be able to see and hear the ceremony without any problem. “You want them at the end of a row so they don’t have to shimmy to get in and out,” says Dawley. “If they’re in a wheelchair, pre-seat them on the outer aisle, not the center aisle.”

DO Try A New Seating Configuration

Circular seating, where chairs are grouped in a semicircle or spiral so guests are closer to the bride and groom, is gaining in popularity. “With a spiral setup, the bride passes every guest as she’s walking down the ‘aisle,’” says Dawley. “These arrangements will make loved ones feel like they’re part of the wedding—and everyone has a great seat. It works best for 150 people or less and can be done in open spaces like gardens and ballrooms where the seating isn’t movable like in a church.

Another out-of-the-box seating is cabaret-style. “Guests watch the ceremony as they’re sitting at dining tables that are already set for the reception,” explains Dawley. The aisle leads to the dance floor, and once the ceremony is over, the reception begins. “It’s so much fun — the party is immediately full on.”

DO Consider Renting Benches Instead Of Chairs

Rows of long wooden benches create a cool, casual look. But, if you opt for benches, try to keep the ceremony short. People with back problems and older guests might become uncomfortable if the vows take too long.