Stand by Me - Or Please Be Seated:

There are No Rules for Your Bridal Party, or for Guests at Your Wedding

by Jennifer Cram Brisbane Marriage Celebrant  © (18/02/2020)
Categories: | Wedding Ceremony |
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Groomsmen wearing blue
                        suits and brown shoes seated at front of wedding
                        ceremonyI confess it. I rather like it when the marrying couple couple are the only ones standing up front during the ceremony. Obviously I have to be close by, so I am there too, but off to one side so you can hold hands, support one another, but still face your guests so they can see your faces, and, more importantly, you can see the love and support on theirs.

But, if you  believe the evidence of what you generally see in photos, you'd be forgiven for thinking that there is some sort of hard and fast rule that requires that your wedding party stands up the front for the whole ceremony.

Some people argue that it is tradition, has always been so, and is the most important duty of bridesmaids and groomsmen. Some people expect that children in the wedding party will stand up front the whole time too, though others will cut the kids some slack and suggest they walk in formally and then go and sit with parents or grandparents. And some people will just assume that everyone stands up front and won't even question it.

But, if you're a fan of royal weddings televised live, or you've ever been to a full Catholic nuptial mass, you will have seen an alternative. The wedding party makes a formal entrance, and then some or all of them sit down for the ceremony. And, of course, they all stand up and follow the couple out in the formal recessional.

Every single episode of Married at First Sight has the bridesmaids and groomsmen seated in the front row.

There are no rules


There are no rules that require your wedding party to stand up in the front, flanking you, for the whole ceremony. It is your choice. However, deciding whether your wedding party will stand with you, or be seated, comes down to a number of things

Your personal preference


Traditions are guidance on what to do, based on what other people have done over the years. But they may not be the best choice for you. When it comes down to your wedding party, the options are
  • The full party stands up with you, deployed on either side of you. Pro-Tip: Wedding parties don't have to be evenly divided nor do they have to be divided by gender. Each of you choose who you want to include.
  • Adults stand up with you, children sit down with parents, grandparents, or other responsible adults
  • Best Man/Chief Bridesmaid (or whatever you choose to call them) stand up with you, the rest of the wedding party sits down in in the first row or two.

The ceremony space


If you're getting married in an open space, such as a wedding lawn in a park or in a field, or the indoor space you're using is large, such as a ballroom in a hotel, having the full wedding party stand up with you can help define the space.

If the space is tight, seating some or all of the bridal party will allow your photographer to capture more intimate shots of the two of you, and allow your celebrant to move around in order to avoid being in those all-important photos such as your exchange of rings and your first kiss

The number of people in your wedding party


The number of people in your wedding party will need to be considered in conjunction with the ceremony space, because the more people you have the more crowded the space will feel. Another thing to think about is that the more people there are standing up with you, the more they will distract the guests, taking attention away from you and your vows.

The length of the ceremony


One of the reasons bridesmaids, flower girls, and page boys sit down at royal weddings is that the ceremony is usually rather long. If your ceremony has a lot of inclusions (like a royal wedding) you might consider a best of both worlds solution. Have them stand up  with you for the early part of the ceremony and sit for the rest.

Whether anyone is prone to fidgeting or fainting


Fainting members of the wedding party might make for funny YouTube videos, but they are not fun on the day because they require medical attention which will hugely disrupt your wedding. Because blood pools in the calves when standing, fainting is always a possibility, especially on hot days. Seating your wedding party, particularly on hot days, will avoid that happening. And, because they will be seated at the front, anyone fidgeting won't be in the field of vision of the guests, or in the photos.

The view!


You've asked some of your favourite people to be in your wedding party. But the down side for them is that they will be in the worst ceremony view of anyone present. If you seat them in the front they will see you make your vows, exchange your rings, and share your first kiss as a married couple. 

At the end of the day, it is your choice, your preference. There are no rules Being able to sit down for your ceremony can make a world of difference to how much your guests enjoy your ceremony, and how much, or little, your photographer's view of the two of you is impeded by standing guests.

You could sit too


Just as there are no rules about your wedding party, there are no rules about you. I've officiated a number of weddings where the couple were seated for the whole ceremony. It can look very elegant if you are seated on a beautiful sofa on a raised platform, as in a chapel. But you could also sit for part of the ceremony. At royal weddings and during full Nuptial Masses it is common for the couple to sit for the sermon. I don't do sermons, but that doesn't stop you from deciding to sit. In Registry Offices in England and Wales it is common for the couple to sit in the front row, or on two chairs placed a little forward of the front row, until asked to stand to make their vows.

To repeat myself. There. Are. No. Rules!

To read about the four myths that tend to drive decisions about wedding parties
Your Wedding Party - Busting the Myths

Thanks for reading!

Signature image
                          reading Jenny xxxx Let's talk soon about how
                          you can have the Best. Ceremony. Ever

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