The wedding reception gets a lot of attention, but what about the ceremony? Although typically shorter than an hour, the ceremony is ultimately why everyone shows up! Sure, an open bar and a dance floor are great — but at the end of the day, your loved ones are there to see you and your partner tie the knot and make it official.
For those who come out to celebrate your love, you’ll naturally want to ensure they’re comfortable from the moment they get there. But that doesn’t mean you have to settle for traditional design plans if you want something with a bit more pizazz!
Weddings are an opportunity to let your creativity shine, so if you’re considering ways to personalize your ceremony, consider replacing the typical rows of chairs with one of these fun and functional seating arrangements.
Ceremonies in the round
Circular floorplans allow more guests to see the ceremony, creating a 180-degree experience surrounding the newlyweds with their loved ones. “Each person can be closer to the couple when all the chairs are in a circle,” explains Maureen Cotton of The Soulful Wedding. “For the couple, being in the literal center of a circle of love is very powerful.”
If that seems too out-of-the-box, Cotton suggests trying a semi-circle instead. “For example, the front rows might have just one or two chairs in a semi-circle. The back row has three. The next has four, etcetera. This seating arrangement makes even a gathering of 150+ feel intimate.”
Since ceremonies in the round typically require a different processional, work with your venue coordinator and wedding planner to determine the best way for guests to reach their seats and for you to get down the aisle!
Another creative way to play with your ceremony space is by mixing up furniture and creating “pods” of seating for small groups of guests. While this can feel more casual, you can easily level up the design with luxurious pieces and dramatic details.
“If the terrain is uneven or you’re using various types of seating, it’s fun to play with seating clusters instead of rows,” suggests Jamie Chang of Mango Muse Events. “Having clusters of chairs, lounge furniture, or a mixture of seating allows you to group the seating in various numbers and formats. Not only is this more fun, but it’s more casual and comfortable, which can lend itself well to the right couple and wedding.”
Clustered seating can also translate well to cocktail hour, providing small lounge spaces for guests to mingle while waiting for the reception. Talk about a great way to get the best bang for your buck!
If you’re worried about having more guests than you have seats, don’t stress about it.
Cotton assures that “for a ceremony that might be 20 minutes or less in length, it’s ok to allow some folks to stand. Just make sure the officiant invites people to stand in the appropriate area before you begin. Reserve seats for VIPs, the elderly, and anyone who requires a seat.”
Then, “have the rest of your guests filter into the remaining seats and whoever is left (which will typically be the younger crowd like your friends) can stand and encircle the group,” Chang adds. “The upside is that those standing will have a great view; bringing everyone closer will feel more intimate.”
With standing areas, make sure your ceremony is short. Otherwise, your guests may get restless — especially if they have children.
A one-of-a-kind aisle
The aisle is the pièce de résistance of a ceremony, so consider opting for a venue that offers a fresh take on your grand entrance. After all, this is your chance to make a statement!
“Get rid of the traditional aisle and get creative with your processional,” recommends Jacqueline Vizcaino of Tinted Events. “You could have your guests walk through a rose garden, down a long path, or even across a bridge. This will add a bit of excitement to your ceremony and make it more memorable.”
A unique aisle can take the place of creating seating, as it adds the visual appeal that will draw your guests’ eyes to the main attraction: you and your partner!
When it comes to ceremony seating (and reception seating, for that matter), your guests’ comfort should be the number one priority.
“Whatever you choose for your wedding ceremony seating, be sure to experience it as the guest yourself,” encourages Julianne Smith of The Garter Girl. “Maybe that means sitting in that area yourself during a walk-through or just envisioning what your guests will experience in their seats.”
So while a particular seating arrangement might look nice in pictures, don’t place aesthetics or uniqueness over your guest experience! Instead, look to your vendor team to help you find the perfect balance of creativity and comfort.
Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.