Wedding Ceremony Seating Protocol

Reserved Signs for Wedding Ceremony Seating
Q: What is the proper timing for seating the immediate family at a wedding ceremony?


Here is a run-down of everything you need to know with regards to wedding ceremony seating:

Ushers should be used to escort guests to their seats. The standard formula to determine the number of ushers required is one usher per every fifty guests. Friends and relatives of the bride are seated on the left side of center aisle in the church or ceremony site, while friends and relatives of the groom will be seated on the right side of the center aisle. (Note:  The “reserved” sign shown in the photo above is very cute, but that’s really the only point of it – to be cute. Reserved signs are not needed for seating at the wedding ceremony, because proper etiquette requires that ushers escort all guests to their seats. The ushers should know where immediate family will be sitting. Guests should never have to seat themselves at a wedding ceremony).

When seating guests, ushers should ask if they are friends or family of the bride or of the groom and then seat the guests accordingly. When escorting a lady up the center aisle, the usher should have her take his left arm if escorting her to the left side of the church and have her take his right arm if seating her to the right side of the church. If the lady has a gentleman with her, the gentleman walks a few steps behind the usher and the lady. If escorting a single gentleman to his seat, the usher walks along side the gentleman.

The principals in the family are seated in the first few pews. This area is reserved seating and may be marked off using a ribbon, which is where the expression “within the ribbon” comes from, to refer to the reserved seating area.

A list should be made of the names of all relatives who should be seated within the ribbon. This list should be provided to ushers at the rehearsal in order for them to review in advance. It should be on hand at the ceremony for them to refer to if required. Alternatively, ‘pew cards’, also known as ‘within the ribbon’ cards, may be printed and included with the invitations mailed to those who should be seated within the ribbon. Guests present these cards to the ushers, who then recognize that they should be seated within the ribbon. Siblings of the bride and groom are typically seated in either the second or third row, however, if preferred, they may be seated in the first row alongside the parents.

Seating of the grandparents should be done just prior to the start of the ceremony, beginning with the groom’s paternal grandparents, followed by his maternal grand- parents, then the bride’s paternal grandparents, followed by her maternal grandparents. A special musical selection may be played for the grand parent’s entrance. If the grandparents should be in poor physical condition, they may be seated about 20 minutes prior to the ceremony in order to prevent the possibility of them feeling uncomfortable with attention being drawn to them if they are seated just prior to the ceremony start.

The mother of the groom should be seated immediately following the grandparents of the bride. The groom’s father follows a few steps behind her. The bride’s mother is the last to be seated, signaling that the ceremony is about to start.

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