On your most beautiful day, you love to have your closest family members and friends by your side. You can invite these special guests to form your 'suite' or bridal cortege during your wedding ceremony. How do you organise all the members of the suite according to etiquette? We list the most important things for you!
Photo (top): Wedding Planning: La Sensa - Photography: Wesley Nulens
Arrive in style
Do you want to arrive at your ceremony with your suite according to etiquette? Ladies always sit on the right side of the car. When the father of the bride takes the bride to the church in a two-seater car, the bride will sit on the right. If you have a chauffeur, the father of the bride will sit on the left and the bride on the right.
Your wedding ceremony: entrance
Relatives, friends and acquaintances of the couple take their places before the wedding starts. Then the suite will precede you and escort you to the front as your ceremony begins. The guests already present will stand up as the suite graciously makes its entrance. According to the etiquette, this is the order you are given:
- First come the witnesses who are not relatives.
- Then come the grandparents: the parents of the groom's dad, the parents of the groom's mum, the parents of the bride's dad and finally the parents of the bride's mum.
- Next come the brothers and/or sisters of the groom (youngest first, then according to age), followed by all brothers and/or sisters of the bride (youngest first, then according to age)
- Next comes the mother of the bride, on the left arm of the father of the groom.
- The groom, by the left arm, brings his mother to her place.
- Last of all, the bride, on her father's right arm, comes next to her groom. The father kisses the bride and "gives her away" to the groom.
- Bridesmaids or flower girls throwing rose petals always walk in front of the bride, unless they are holding the bride's veil.
Who sits where?
In a church or Catholic inspired wedding, the bride always sits on the left, the groom on the right. For members of the suite and all other guests, the man always sits on the left of the woman, according to normal etiquette.
For a non-Catholic wedding, the normal etiquette applies: the man sits on the left, the woman on the right. This also applies to the bride and groom.
In a town hall, this varies according to the municipality or city, but there will always be a town host or hostess present to indicate who may sit where.
During the ceremony, the guests of the bride traditionally sit on the left side and the guests of the groom on the right side.
Photo: Wedding Planner: La Sensa - Photographer: Yves Schepers - Function room: Wolvenbos
To avoid misunderstandings, it is always handy to draw up a so-called seating plan in advance. You can work with stylised name cards that you put in front of the seats. This makes sure that everyone knows where his or her seat is, and prevents empty rows at the very front. To ensure that the seating allocation process runs smoothly, it is advisable to actually invite people to the wedding ceremony with the explicit question of whether or not they will be attending.
Photo left: Gert Huygaerts Photography - Right: Wedding planning: Art of Events, Photo: Armando Diva Photography
Interaction during your ceremony
If you would like certain guests to actively participate during your church ceremony, you can do so during the liturgy. Generally one chooses fragments from the Bible or poetic texts to read out loud, or a musical intermezzo. Discuss in advance with your wedding planner or master of ceremonies what is possible, and brief the guests in advance.
If you prefer a symbolic celebration with a ceremony leader, you are free to organise your ceremony according to your most personal wishes. Discuss with your ceremony leader what your ultimate ceremony would look like - we bet that he/she will work out a wonderfully creative concept with fantastic texts, speakers, music and perhaps even styling?
Your wedding ceremony: exit
According to etiquette, after the wedding ceremony, the newlyweds are the first to leave the ceremony. Do you prefer the opposite, i.e. that your guests and suite leave the church before you and wait for you outside? That your suite forms a guard of honour and is ready to throw rice or rose petals as soon as you walk out? Then feel free to discuss this with your master of ceremonies.
Driving away in style
According to etiquette, there is also a fixed order for getting into the wedding cars. The bride and groom leave first (think of the image of the couple driving off in a car with 'just married' written on the back!). If there is a driver, the bride and groom sit on the back seat. The bride sits on the right, the groom on the left. Then follow the cars of:
- Parents of the bride
- Parents of the groom
- Oldest brother or sister of the bride
- Younger brother or sister of the bride
- Youngest brother or sister of the bride
- Oldest brother or sister of the groom
- Younger brother or sister of the groom
- Youngest brother or sister of the groom
- Bride's grandparents
- Grandparents of the groom
- Witnesses who are not family, if any
Photo: Maitha Lunde
Newly composed families
What about the order of the suite in newly formed families? The master of ceremonies or wedding planner should find out what the situation is between the ex-partners, so that the suite can be adjusted in consultation with the bride and groom to avoid any tension or conflict.
Usually everyone keeps their seat, and the mum or dad of the bride (groom) sits next to her or his new partner. Parents who are not in a new relationship will not sit alone: they will be joined by a close family member (for example the brother or sister) who is also present without a partner. Some changes may be made at the start of the ceremony, depending on the situation of the composite family. Children of one of the parents' new partner, known as stepbrothers or stepsisters, will be placed between the grandparents and the non-family witnesses.
In any case, your master of ceremonies and wedding planner will advise and assist you, and you will discuss all the last-minute details and possible sensitivities beforehand. So you can enjoy your most beautiful day to the full!
Article thanks to etiquette specialist & master of ceremonies Davy Steelandt from De Belgique Events.