to the left or to the right and other conundrums

Where do we all stand?

Just where should everyone be during a wedding? Its a question one of the most common questions I get and there's no real hard or fast answer except: anywhere you damn well please!

The one thing that couples ask me about more than anything else: where do we stand? Often at the last minute too like at the rehearsal, or worse - just before the ceremony if they've chosen not to have a rehearsal. The next thing that generally happens (if we're at the rehearsal) is that everyone will have an opinion on which side the bridge and groom should stand. Some of those opinions can be very strong too.  As with which hand the rings go on, the actual "traditional" side depends on which tradition you are talking about.

Catholics and other christian religions

For people of the catholic faith particularly, but also many other christian religions its bride on the left and the groom on the right from the persepctive of the guests. Generally the story goes that the groom may need to draw his sword at some stage and for the most part people were right handed which put the sword on his left hip. This made it easier to push his bride out of the way and draw his sword. It also bears noting that this tradition started around the 1400's when the couple would often have their back to the guests to be facing the priest.

The Jewish way

The Jewish faith has it completely the other way around. The guests see the bride on the right and the groom on the left. I've yet to hear a good reason for this, except to deduce that there may not have been any swords around when this tradition came into play. I did find one comment that suggested as much, but I'll keep searching for the answer.

....but, we're not getting married in a church or a synagoge, so....?

So, what about modern day civil ceremonies? Well here's the best bit: do what ever you want! Bride to the left, bride to the right - its all good.  If anyone has a really strong preference that isn't the bride or groom then take it under advisement and do whatever you want to do anyway. One of the great advantages of a civil ceremony is that you can break with any tradition so long as the law is satisfied and all it requires is that you show up, say a particular vow after you've reminded of the definition of marriage and you're done.

Why not get creative? You could blend the groomsmen and the brides maids up and have them on both sides and even slowly change your sides as couple from one part of the ceremony to the next!

Ok, what about the guests?

Another good question - if you care about it at all. "Traditionally", the families sit on the same side as their family member getting married. So for the christians thats the groom and his family on the right and the bride and her family on the left. In modern civil ceremonies its becoming much more common place for there to be "no side" for the guests at all, often with be a sign indicating as much. Having said that there's always someone's Auntie Abercrombie or Uncle Reginald that will insist on sitting on the "traditional side". Just make sure your celebrant knows where the empty seat for the one(s) giving the bride away are so they can be directed accordingly.

One last thing - the celebrant is going to be in my photos, can they be somewhere else?

Absolutely! I always offer to stand to the side, but most couples like to have me there front and centre as an anchor for themselves.  It also makes some logistics a little easier with microphones, but there's nothing that can't be overcome. If you want your celebrant somewhere else then make sure you tell them.

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