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A Ceremony Seating Plan – Is It A Good Idea?

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by Laura Howes

Is a seating plan necessary on the day of your wedding?

Of course you want your closest family to have front row seats to your big day, but at the expense of so much stress and upset? We consider whether having a rigid seating plan for your ceremony is the right way forward.

Understanding wedding seating plan etiquette

Positioning guests in order of importance and dividing his and her family… some might say it’s a recipe for disaster! On the other hand, it’s a tradition that still exists today because when you have dozens of guests gathering to watch you say ‘I do’ you need some kind of organisational system.

So, what are the general rules?

Without a doubt, it’s parents and immediate family who matter the most, and who are mostly likely to care the most. It is, therefore, worth giving some thought as to how you might seat them. Happily married parents are quite straightforward but what about if they are divorced, separated or widowed?

According to tradition, parents always sit at the front, with the bride’s on the left and the groom’s on the right. At a same-sex marriage, the couple can designate sides as they so wish.

If one set of parents are divorced, ask yourself whether they get along well enough to be seated next to one another. If you don’t feel comfortable with them being in such close proximity, then it may not be worth the hassle. It is your choice if you squeeze both parents and their partners onto the front row, yet diplomacy is key so avoid seating your father’s new wife next to your mother, for example.

For widowed parents, you may like to give them the option to have a partner or friend accompany them in the front row.

Also, let’s talk grandparents. Usually, elderly guests are offered seats at the front – better accessibility and closer to the action so they can hear what is happening!

Breaking away from tradition

Not keen on taking sides? It is absolutely fine to opt for a ‘no sides’ layout, interspersing family members on either side of the aisle.

Alternatively, you might like to keep it very simple by inviting guests to sit where they like… but we all know that nothing is simple when it comes to wedding planning!

While most guests respect the hierarchy of family first, you may wish to reserve the front two rows for direct family only, leaving all the other seats up for grabs on a first come, first served basis.

No matter how you decide to organise this, make sure that your ushers are fully aware of the plan ahead of the ceremony.

 

Different ways you can label seats

Okay, so you’ve decided to create a seating plan for your ceremony, but how do you make sure that your guests adhere to it?

A3 Poster

Having a seating layout poster as guests enter the church or ceremony room is one option, though it is likely to cause chaos, crowds and confusion if your ushers aren’t proactive at moving people along to their designated seats efficiently.

Printed Name Cards

It’s easy enough to print everybody’s name on separate A4 sheets, and you can make these fit in with your theme by adding borders in your chosen colours. Laminating them is a possibility too, but may not be kind to your budget, not to mention the fact it will eat away at precious time in the run up to your wedding day.

 

Polaroids

A very nice, but more expensive option is to have a small square polaroid-style photo printed of each guest to place neatly on their seat. You may prefer to do this if you are only reserving the first few rows to keep your wedding stationery costs down.

A bonus of going down this route is that ushers will have a visual guide to VIPs which could save awkwardness and embarrassment (you wouldn’t want one of your ushers asking your favourite Grandma “Who are you?” now, would you!).

Wedding favours

If you happen to still have room in your stationery budget, then why not consider having gifts awaiting your guests on their seats? You might have personalised keyrings made that match your theme, or you may like to have wooden, laser-cut names on display. Both are very special touches and will add the wow factor to your wedding.

Did you know that in a Christian ceremony, according to convention, the bride’s mother should be seated last?