Wedding Seating Etiquette

Amy Hoover
guests in pews at wedding

Brides and grooms planning a wedding need to pay careful attention to the seating arrangements, both at the ceremony and the reception. Make sure the important people are up front for all of the events, from the time the bride walks down the aisle until the last glass of champagne is raised.

Ceremony Seating Etiquette

Honor parents and other special people in your life by making sure they are seated at the front of the ceremony, while seating guests behind them at the venue.

Reserved Seating

Parents, grandparents, and siblings not in the ceremony should be seated in the first few rows at the wedding ceremony. Most venues and churches will have reserved signs to place on the front rows so ushers remember not to seat anyone else in these prime spots.

Seating arrangements don't need to be tricky at the ceremony. The bride's parents should be in the first row on the left, with grandparents behind them. If the bride's parents are divorced and remarried, seat one set in the front row and the other behind, with grandparents in the same pew as their child. The groom's parents should be in the first row on the right, with similar seating as the bride's family if there is a divorce in the family. However, if divorced parents get along, they can be seated in the same row as their former spouses.

If close friends are attending the wedding they can also have a row reserved. Let ushers know who these guests are before the ceremony and they will be seated appropriately.

Guest Seating

Wedding Guest Etiquette

Traditionally, ushers would ask guests whether they wanted to be seated on the bride's side or groom's side of the ceremony. However, many couples have done away with this practice and request the ushers simply seat people evenly in the church. This is also nice when the guest list is lopsided, with a greater number of guests attending on behalf of either the bride or groom, eliminating empty space in seats on one side and allowing guests to get closer to the front of the ceremony.

Reception Seating Etiquette

Figuring out the seating at the reception is often more difficult for brides and grooms who want to assign spots to family and friends. There are several options available when it comes to this arduous task.

Head Table Seating

The bride and groom should be seated at the center of the head table, with their attendants flanking them. Some couples include the ushers in the head table seating, while others choose to reserve a table near the front of the reception for them. Flower girls and ring bearers usually sit with their parents.

Family and Honored Guest Seating

Even if the bride and groom are not assigning seating for the entire guest list, they usually reserve several tables at the front of the reception hall for their families and other important people who helped with wedding preparations. The actual seating arrangements will vary depending on the couple's particular family situation, size of the reception tables, the table layout at the reception, and their personal preferences. However, these general tips can apply to creating this seating arrangement:

  • Parents and the ceremony officiate should be seated in front of the couple. If there is room at the parents' table, seat all grandparents there. Otherwise, seat grandparents to the left for the bride and right for the groom at the next tables over. If the dance floor happens to be in front of the head table, seat the groom's parents and grandparents together on the right, nearest to the groom, and the bride's parents and grandparents to the left, nearest to the bride. The officiate can be seated at whatever table the couple feels she or he would be most comfortable.
  • Close relatives and honored guests, like the bride's personal attendant, and their families should be seated at the front of the wedding reception. Again, the bride's honored guests should be seated to the left and the groom's to the right.
  • Spouses, children, and significant others of the bridal party should have reserved seating at the front of the reception as well.

Create your own seating arrangement by using blank seating charts. Download the following ones and write in everyone's name for each table. This way, you don't have to worry about seating arrangements when you decorate for the reception. If you need help downloading the printables, check out these helpful tips.

Guest Seating Options

Couples have several options when it comes to where guests sit at a reception.

Specific Seating Assignment

To create a specific seating assignment for guests, couples will usually consider who gets along and who doesn't, and which guests have things in common, such as similarly aged children. This helps foster conversation and makes guests feel at ease. Guests will pick up table assignments at the favor or gift table and then find their names near their place settings at their assigned table.

Figuring out where everyone sits can be difficult, especially when couples have large guest lists. However, it is ideal for couples who have smaller guest lists, or those who want to have a more formal reception.

Table Assignments

seating assignments

Rather than figure out who sits next to who at a wedding, couples will often put certain people together and assign them a table name or number. This allows guests to choose their actual seat at a table, but allows the couple to keep feuding relatives apart or group those with similar interests together.

Guests usually look for their name on a place card on the guest book or favor table and then find the table on the reception floor. In both the specific seating assignments and in table assignments, those who are closest to the couple, like their bosses and favorite relatives, should be closer to the front of the reception.

No Assignments

Not every couple chooses to assign seats or tables to their guests. Instead, they may reserve several tables near the front for close family and special guests and then allow other guests the freedom to choose their own reception seats. This eliminates a lot of stress for the couple, while allowing their guests the ability to choose who to sit near. However, if you have several guests who don't know many other guests, it may be uncomfortable for them to try and find a seat, and close friends without a reserved table may end up in the back of the reception hall.

Honor All Your Guests

While the seating for your honored guests should be reserved at both the ceremony and reception, you should remember to greet each guest personally. This is done by holding either a receiving line at the church or by visiting each table at the reception. No guest will leave feeling unappreciated or slighted by their seat if the bride and groom take the time to thank them for their attendance.

Wedding Seating Etiquette