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Who Stands on What Side of the Altar

A bride and groom during their wedding ceremony standing near the officiant in front of all of the guests

Planning a wedding often involves incorporating traditions, and deciding who stands on what side of the altar is no exception. While there are standard practices for the arrangement of the wedding party, many couples choose to personalize this aspect of their ceremony. This guide will explore both traditional and modern approaches to positioning at the altar.

Traditional Altar Placement

Traditionally, in Christian ceremonies, the bride stands on the left and the groom on the right as they face the altar. This tradition dates back to medieval times, when the groom needed his right hand – his sword hand – free to defend his bride from potential kidnappers. On the other hand, Jewish ceremonies traditionally place the groom on the left and the bride on the right.

Modern Altar Placement

In recent years, many couples have started to personalize their altar placement to better suit their needs and preferences. For example, some couples choose their positions based on which side is their “good side” for photographs. Others may consider the layout of the venue or the background scenery when deciding their positions. Ultimately, the choice of where the bride and groom stand is up to the couple and what feels right for them.

The Wedding Party

As for the wedding party, the bridesmaids traditionally stand to the bride’s side, and the groomsmen stand to the groom’s side. However, modern weddings often mix this up, with bridesmen, groomswomen, or a mixed gender wedding party standing on either side. It’s also common for the best man to stand next to the groom and the maid of honor to stand next to the bride.

Parents and Guests

Parents and guests also traditionally have designated sides at a wedding. The bride’s family and friends would sit on the left side of the aisle, and the groom’s on the right. Nowadays, many weddings opt for “pick a seat, not a side” to encourage guests to mix and mingle.

Final Thoughts

While tradition can be a helpful guide, remember that your wedding is a personal event that should reflect your preferences as a couple. Feel free to arrange your altar placement in a way that makes you comfortable and enhances your wedding ceremony experience.

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