One of the most important duties that a wedding usher/groomsman has is to co-ordinate the wedding seating at the ceremony. This article takes a closer look at wedding seating and provides tips and advice for both ushers and the couple to consider prior to, and on, the big day.
An Introduction to Wedding Seating
As you may or may not already know, there is one golden rule that applies to seating wedding guests, and it applies to both civil and church ceremonies. The rule is:
When looking from the rear of the venue, seat the Bride’s friends and family to the left, and the Groom’s friends and family to the right
Knowing and remembering this key piece of information is crucial, but there are a few other things you can do before and after the day to help you achieve the perfect wedding seating arrangement - these are outlined below.
Check out the Wedding Venue
Whether it’s a church, a country house, or an outdoor garden wedding, perhaps the most important piece of information you need to know (other than Bride’s party to the left and the Groom’s lot to the right) is how the wedding seating at the venue will look when it's set up.
To find this out, simply arrange to for a visit when the location is set up for a wedding ceremony. Ideally this should be a job for the wedding ushers, but to keep things simple, the couple may wish to check this out then relay the information out to the key groomsmen at a later date.
There are a few things to look out for when ‘casing the joint’, and first and foremost is the seating capacity and layout. Check out how many rows of seats/pews there are, how many guests can be comfortably seated on each row, if there are any seats that will have restricted views and which ones will give the prime vantage points. The other thing to be on the look-out for is accessibility – which seats will be tricky to get to and where will guests in wheelchairs be able to sit.
Know the Guests
Sure, between the Bride and the Groom, they may know everyone who is attending on the day and be able to recognise them from a country mile away, but will the ushers be able to do likewise? The answer to this is sometimes ‘yes’, but more than often it is ‘no’.
If, between them, the usher’s don’t know all of the guests, one good way to help them out is to show them photographs of the guests they have never met prior to the day. Doing this will ensure that on the day the ushers can correctly identify individuals and know what side to seat them on – this will make the guests feel more at ease, the usher’s more relaxed about meeting people and will leave the couple safe in the knowledge that their guests will be seated where they want them to be.
Tricks of the Trade for Seating Wedding Guests
Unless a fixed wedding seating plan is to be operated, then it will be solely down to the ushers to us their best judgement as to where to seat people. To help you/them out, the following points are well worth remembering.
Keep the first row on the left free for the Mother & Father of the Bride and the Bridesmaids.
Keep the first row on the right free for the Mother & Father of the Groom and the Best Man.
If the wedding seating capacity on each row is small, or if there are lots of Bridesmaids in attendance, reserve the second row on the left and seat the Chief Bridesmaid on the first row with the parents of the Bride, and the remainder of the Bridesmaids on the row directly behind.
Keep seats near the front, or seats that the scouting mission highlighted as some of the ‘best seats in the house’, free for ‘special guests’ such as grandparents and close relatives.
The rows behind the wedding party and special guests on each side are normally allocated to close members of the Bride and Groom’s extended family – aunties, uncles, godparents, cousins etc.
If possible, keep the back row of wedding seating completely free - this will provide a suitable location for any latecomers to be seated without disturbing the proceedings - it also provides the ushers with an ideal spot to sit themselves (make sure that the seats nearest the aisle are reserved for the ushers).
Seat elderly guests nearer to the front than the back and in seats easy to access (normally near to the aisle).
Seat guests in wheelchairs at the end of an aisle in a position that will not block passage for the Bride as she enters, but will allow them to sit beside their family. If necessary, and if possible, remove chairs prior to the arrival of the first invitees and create extra room between aisles to accommodate any wheelchair bound guests.
Seat tall guests or guests with large hats (or big hair!) at the end of a row, in the furthest seat from the aisle.
Seating wedding guests with babies and very young children towards the ends of the aisle is a good idea. This way, if their little terror strikes up a screaming fit, they can make a quick dash out.
For guests with children around the primary school age mark, try to seat the kids in the middle of the aisle - on the off chance that they decide to get up and run amuck their progress will be blocked at both sides.
If you have any other wedding seating tips you'd like to pass on, please drop us an e-mail and let us know.
Related: There are hundreds of wedding articles on the site, each filled with superb ideas, advice and inspiration. Check out the links in the left hand column to read more. Alternatively, to search for a local wedding venue, product or service provider, try our Wedding Directory. With over 13,000 companies already listed, you're sure to find what you're looking for.