Traditionally, in Christian ceremonies, the bride’s family and guests sit on the left while the groom’s sit on the right. In Jewish ceremonies, the opposite is the case: Bride on the right, groom on the left.
Many modern couples throw this tradition out the window in favor of a “pick a seat, not a side” seating arrangement. If this is your plan, be sure to let your ushers know so that they don’t ask guests, “Bride or groom?” (Of course, if a guest prefers to sit on a certain side, seat them there.)
The couple’s families, of course, get VIP treatment at the ceremony.
The first row on each side is reserved for parents and siblings (and their spouses or families). If your parents are divorced, the parent responsible for raising you sits in the front row, and the other parent sits in the second row. If they’re amicable, everyone can sit in the front row. Be sure to discuss this with your parents beforehand and let your ushers know.
Immediate family is seated just before the ceremony. The couple’s mothers are seated last, with the bride’s mother usually being the last one to be seated, signaling that the ceremony is about to begin.
In the second row, seat grandparents, great-grandparents, and any siblings who don’t fit in the front row.
The third row – and fourth if you need it – is reserved for other special guests such as: Aunts and uncles, readers, elderly relatives, godparents, and the parents of children in the ceremony. These guests are seated along with other guests, not when immediate family is seated.
Many couples will mark or tie off reserved rows to prevent guests from sitting in them.
From there, the ushers should seat guests as they arrive, filling in on both sides from front to back. Ushers should also be aware of how each side is filling up and try to balance it so that an equal number of people are sitting on both sides of the ceremony.
Another way you can help your ushers? Give them a list of VIP guests and the rows in which they should be seated. Or, give those guests a “pew card” that they can hand to the usher to let them know they should be seated in a certain row.