Dealing with Wedding Guest Imbalance

The daughter of a friend of mine is getting married in the next year and I’m helping out a little with the planning. I have a question for you guys. The groom doesn’t have much in the way of family/friends and she does. They don’t want the seating arrangement to be the whole one side is the groom’s and one side is the bride’s. She wants to have a handout (?) or a hanging/poster/sign (?) with a verse or something to that effect. (Along the lines of ‘don’t pick a particular side–at the end of the ceremony we will be one’). Or should they just have ushers to seat people? Somehow I don’t see that working very well. I haven’t been to that many weddings, so I haven’t seen something to deal with this situation. (Though I have been to weddings where it has been this situation and it is a bit awkward.)

I was wondering if you have any suggestions or have seen it handled well. Thanks!

My first thought was, “Have the bride’s family and groom’s family sit on the same side of the aisle,” as otherwise you will have a “bride’s side” and a “groom’s side” whether you want it or not (because the friends of the bride/groom will tend to congregate near the parents). However, you will end up with everybody sitting on one side of the church / chapel / whatever.

Then again, would that really be such a bad thing?

We had our ushers say “Choose a seat, not a side” and the guests all worked it out for themselves.

We didn’t have ushers, a sign, or sides. People just showed up and sat down where they wanted/where there were seats. I guess some family members made it known that people could sit wherever, but we just wound up with a mixed crowd.

Just ask the ushers to escort people to either side, and if questioned tell the guest that there aren’t assigned sides. Then quit worrying about it. This is the kind of micromanagement that will drive normal, rational people insane.

“Honey, nice dress. Hey, did you remember the masking tape to hang the “Sit where you want” posters at the church?”

This is more of an opinion thing – sending down the aisle to IMHO.

Hal Briston - MPSIMS Moderator

This is not that too uncommon occurrence these days as people marry later in life and are more mobile (as in, move away from their home towns). The seating seems to work its way out. As the auditorium/sanctuary fills up, people will move over to the groom side to get closer seats…it will naturally happen. No need to make a sign.

This issue didn’t even register with me at my wedding. We had a bunch of seats out, and people sat down in the chairs wherever they wanted without any instruction. I wasn’t aware of anyone trying to pick a side, and I don’t remember it being skewed in any way out of this natural course of events.

I believe it happens naturally for the reasons Omar Little states. Nobody wants to be sitting 8 rows back when they could be only 2 rows back.

Inflatable Guests.

What, you never saw co-pilot Otto in Airplane?


We didn’t have sides either. I had exactly one family member at my wedding, my late father’s brother-in-law. My husband had about 25 relatives. We had several friends, male and female, who acted as informal ushers and nudged people into seats on both sides of the aisle. I don’t recall anyone thinking it strange, and he has some pretty old-school Catholic relatives.

Just set up the seatinglike this. Problem solved.

I’ve never been to a wedding that actually had a bride’s side and a groom’s side. People have always sat wherever. But if these folks live in a community where it’s customary…

This is just an idea–maybe a bad one–but I’ll throw it out there. You know how sometimes at a church or wherever they rope off the first couple rows so that whoever is supposed to be sitting in front gets space to sit in front? What about roping off the back half (or whatever) of the church rows? That way, the “bride’s side” can only fill up so much before people will start to fill up the other side.

Brassy–Why do you think having ushers seat people wouldn’t work well? It seems an easy solution. And they don’t have to be official in-the-wedding-party “ushers.” They could just be friends willing to help out.

A handout or hanging poster will come off like you’re making an issue of something that isn’t really an issue. Besides, do you really want to highlight the fact that the groom has fewer people? Just have ushers show people to rows, and if the guests inquire about which is the grooms side and which is the bride’s side, the usher can just say something like “both sides are sitting together.”

Every/most weddings I’ve been to:

Person: whisper"Are there ‘sides’?"

Me/Other person: “I don’t know, let’s just sit.”

In other words, there were no assigned sides, and no usher to point it out, it was just assumed. It depends on how traditional the bride & groom are (or how overbearing the mom(s) are). A sign with “Please be seated wherever you want” might work.

if there is a meal afterwards then it shouldn’t be a problem filling seats. have some wedding party out front with sandwich signs with the menu on them. they hand out tickets to end with the right number of extras.

I don’t even know which side is “supposed” to be the bride’s side or the groom’s side. Is this even still a thing? Count me in as among those predicting people will just sit where they sit, naturally, and it will sort itself out.

Good point, I left that out. I’m not sure if there’s a default side, but I know that if I need to ask, I don’t look for another male, who is equally clueless.

Yeah, I’m in my sixties, and I’ve never run into a “Groom’s Side”. It sounds like a dark ages sort of thing.

The sides thing is still a thing. When walking into the sanctuary, the bride’s side is traditionally on the left, and the groom’s on the right. These are the sides that they traditionally stand with their attendants up front. Also the parent’s and grandparents of the bride and groom are traditionally seated after all other guests are seated in the front few rows of their respective sides.

Yep, and couples stay unmarried for longer so are more likely to have mutual friends coming to their wedding.

Our ceremony was in the round. Voila, problem solved.

We also had our ushers seating people wherever, but they were my teenage nephews so I didn’t really count on them to be experts or anything.