Wedding Seating Arrangements

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Wedding Seating Questions Answered

How Do Groom’s Parents And Mother Of The Bride Get Seated?

Reader Question: My daughter is getting married. She has 1 maid of honor, 4 brides maids, 1 flower girl. She also has 1 best man, 4 groomsmen, 1 ring bearer, she with dad as escort. How do the grooms parents and I go in. Are we escorted? And then can the groomsmen walk with the bridesmaids or separately? Jacqueline Vazquez, Professional Bridal Consultant: Wedding ceremonies whether traditional or not have a processional format to follow. Recently wedding ceremony processionals and recessionals have become a popular topic. The following is the traditional processional format for protestant wedding: Groomsmen/Ushers are selected to direct or escort guests to their seats. After the guests have been seated and it is time for the ceremony to begin, the Grooms parents are seated first followed by the brides mother escorted by a Groomsman/Usher. Once the parents are seated it is cue for the officiant, groom, and groomsmen to proceed from the sacristy or waiting area to the altar. Once in place, the Bridesmaids will proceed down the aisle. There are two commonly used processional entrance for the bridal party:

  • The bridesmaids walk down the aisle and the groomsmen meets them midway and walk together to the altar or
  • They can walk down the aisle together towards to the altar. If your daughter and fiance wish to personalized their processional, make sure they run it by the officiant.

Wedding Etiquette Question: My parents are divorced and remarried and have been for the past 15 years. This means I have 4 sets of grandparents on my side of the family alone. How would everybody walk down the aisle?  Expert Answer: Blended families definitely mean thinking more deeply about the seating and introduction at the wedding ceremony. The best way to handle this situation is to have it all planned out well before the day of the ceremony. You must first understand seating protocol in order to decide how it applies to your situation.

  • Brides parents always sit in the first pew on the left and the grooms parents in the first pew on the right. Grandparents or special family members in the corresponding second pews. In years past this was sufficient etiquette but with the emergence of blended families more detail is need.
  • Processing the grandparents down the aisle has no real basis in etiquette. This is done because the bride or groom wants to not because protocol dictates it.
  • The grooms parents are escorted down the aisle first. The usher will escort the groom’s mother with his father walking behind them. Then the usher will escort the bride’s mother. Then of course the groom’s attendants will take their place and then bride’s attendants and so forth.

With all of that said, the main consideration is to place the people whom you feel the closest to nearest to you during the ceremony. So follow the etiquette as closely as you can but it is your day and your preference. We read a great idea recently that doesn’t necessarily comply with standard wedding etiquette that we loved: As guests arrive have the grandparents seated but not processed. When you have several grandparents processing them down the aisle can be time-consuming. Instead, either have them in their seats before guests arrive or seat them as guests arrive. Place all grandparents and step-grandparents in the second and third pews on their respective sides. As for parents seat them in the first pew. Process the bride’s step-mother first where she will sit away from the aisle position. Then process the groom’s step-mother with the groom’s father (if not a groomsman) following her and the usher away from the aisle position. Then the groom’s mother with the usher and step-father following behind. Then the bride’s mother escorted by the usher with step-father following behind. The step-father will slide into the pew first followed by the bride’s mother who will sit next to the aisle. After the bride’s father escorts her down the aisle he will take his place next to his wife (a trick for this is to enter at the opposite end of the pew). This format fulfills the etiquette requirements yet allows for more than one set of parents on each side.

Seating Family: Where should they sit during your big moment?

  • Seating parents: The bride’s parents sit on the left side of the center section and the groom’s parents on the right.
  • Seating widowed parents: Widowed parents of either the bride or groom may prefer to have someone by their side during the ceremony, and it is perfectly correct to do so. Their companion is treated as an honored guest.
  • Seating divorced parents: When either the bride or groom’s parents are divorced the seating needs to be planned carefully and the ushers need clear instructions. It can be tricky: Divorced parents may or may not get along, or the bride may be close to one parent and not the other. Tact and diplomacy will be critical for keeping the peace. In the lucky event that all the parties get along, there’s no reason why the divorced parents cannot share the front row. But when there is strain or outright bitterness, it’s necessary to use a careful, well-thought-out alternative plan that keeps the parties separated.
  • Seating immediate family: Behind the front rows, several rows on either side of the center aisle are reserved for the immediate families of the couple. These guests may have been sent pew cards to show their usher, or the usher may keep a list of guests to be seated in the first few rows.

What Order Are The Parents & Grandparents Sat?

The rule of thumb for the order in which to seat these VIPs is groom’s side then bride’s side categorized in reverse-order of importance:

  • Groom’s paternal grandparents
  • Groom’s maternal grandparents
  • Bride’s paternal grandparents
  • Bride’s maternal grandparents
  • Groom’s parents
  • Bride’s mother

The bride’s mother is always sat last (assuming the father of the bride will be escorting her down the aisle). The seating of the bride’s mother signals the other guests that the processional is about to begin.

What About Step Parent Seating at A Wedding?

If there are step parents in the picture the groom’s father and new wife will be sat before the groom’s mother and new husband. For the bride’s side, if the father is escorting the bride down the aisle the step-mother would be sat alone before the mother of the bride is sat. If the mother of the bride is re-married she may be escorted down the aisle by her new husband or by one of the ushers/groomsmen with her husband following behind.

Ushers & Their Role In Seating VIP Guests

Your VIP guests may be escorted down the aisle by an usher, a groomsman, or a close friend or family member (typically a male). The escort will offer the female guest his right arm and escort her to her seat. If there is a husband/date as well he will follow in behind. When the group reaches the guest’s seat the escort will use his left hand to signal the guest to her place. Ushers needn’t ask guests whose “side” they are on. But should someone express a preference for one side or the other (many guests will say they are friends or relatives of the bride or groom), they should be seated where they want to sit. If one side of the family will have more guests than the other, ushers should try to even things out, explaining that everyone will sit together so guests can get the best view possible.

Other Wedding Seating Tips

  • Don’t start the formal seating until everyone else in the wedding party is ready to go… you don’t want a big gap between the formal seating and the processional.
  • Assign someone to guard the door once the formal seating begins. You don’t want a tardy guest strolling down the aisle in the middle of the seating/processional. Have late guests wait out of sight until the ceremony begins.

 

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