Picking Sides at Your Wedding

The focus of a modern day wedding is primarily love. The love between two people, the joining of two families through that love – we are all mostly aware of this fact. But it would be a falsity to state that a wedding isn’t also about looking and feeling like your best self. Humans can be vain creatures and when you pay thousands of dollars on attire, hair, makeup and flowers, you want to look your best. 

Kelly here: the main reason behind this blog, while thinking of my own wedding (if that is part of my journey) as I do almost daily, is the thought of why (in a heterosexual scenario) the bride stands on the left and the groom stands on the right during a ceremony. Personally, my best side is my left side. But, if I follow tradition, the entirety of my guest list will view the side I think less gorgeous than the other. This got me to think: why is it that the bride has always stood on the left and the groom has always stood on the right? And what’s stopping anyone from changing that tradition?

As with many of our deep dives into traditional wedding practices, we weren’t thrilled by the answer we concluded from our research.

The tradition or practice stems from the idea of “marriage by capture.” Like most wedding traditions, the way this practice began was not in favor of the bride and dates as far back as Greek mythology, with mentions in the Bible. Marriage by capture is exactly how it sounds, as the groom would kidnap or capture his bride. To ensure the groom could fight off any angry family members or other potential suitors for the bride, he would stand on the right of the altar with his hand free to grasp his sword. This is also how the practice of selecting a “best man” came in to play, as you would need your friend who was the “best man” in combat to stand at your side in case of an altercation.

Though the custom of kidnapping a bride is still practiced in modern times (see this Vice documentary from 2012 about bride kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan), it’s not a legal or sanctioned part of modern Western culture and tradition. As wedding trends continue to stray from the norm, we don’t see why the practice of who stands where can’t also change with the times. (Unless, of course, your specific religion or religious practices dictate otherwise. In that case, we suggest seeking guidance from a religious leader within your community.)

Kelly again: After learning more about this practice, I’m going to shake it up for my wedding – stand on the right, opt for 360-degree seating around the altar, the possibilities are endless.

All of that to say, when planning your Big Day, don’t worry about common practice or tradition – blend your family and friends together and stand where you’re going to feel most beautiful and comfortable.