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Do brides parents sit with grooms parents?

At a traditional wedding, there are many details to consider when it comes to seating arrangements. One common question that comes up is whether the bride’s parents should sit with the groom’s parents during the ceremony and reception.

Quick Answer

The quick answer is that typically, yes, the bride’s parents and groom’s parents sit together at the ceremony and reception. This symbolic gesture shows the union of the two families through the marriage of their children. However, alternate seating arrangements can also be made if the families prefer.

Seating Etiquette

According to traditional etiquette, the bride’s family sits on the left side of the ceremony space, while the groom’s family sits on the right. The first row on both sides is reserved for immediate family – the bride’s parents, siblings, and grandparents on the left, and the groom’s on the right.

During the reception, the bride’s parents typically sit at the same table as the groom’s parents, along with the newly married couple. This demonstrates the union of the two families. However, it’s also acceptable for the parents to sit at separate tables near the head table if they prefer.

Who Sits at the Head Table?

The head table typically seats just the bride and groom, their parents, and the wedding party. So the bride’s and groom’s parents would sit next to each other with the newlyweds in the center. Grandparents can be included too if there is room.

Typical Head Table Seating

Groom’s Mother Groom’s Father Bride Groom Bride’s Mother Bride’s Father

Reasons for Separate Tables

While sitting together symbolizes the union of families, there are some reasons the parents may prefer to sit at separate tables:

  • The families don’t know each other well and sitting together would be uncomfortable.
  • There are contentious relationships between family members.
  • The parents are divorced/remarried and prefer to sit with their own spouses.
  • Large family size makes one table impractical.
  • Personal preferences for more intimacy with close family.

Alternative Seating Arrangements

If the parents prefer not to sit together, here are some seating options:

Parents Host Separate Tables

Each set of parents can host their own table with family and friends. This allows them to sit with people they know well versus making conversation with the other parents all night.

Sweetheart Table

The bride and groom have their own table for two, allowing both sets of parents to sit with their own families and friends.

Sit with Spouses

If parents are remarried, they may prefer to sit with their own spouses rather than together. Blended families can lead to complicated seating scenarios.

How to Handle Seating Politely

If the parents don’t want to sit together, the best approach is for the married couple to speak privately with each set ahead of time. Present it as an option rather than assuming the parents won’t want to sit together. Here are some tips for handling this diplomatically:

  • Emphasize wanting to honor their preferences on this special day.
  • Make it clear there is no expectation for them sit together if uncomfortable.
  • If they do prefer separate tables, assure them they will be seated in a place of honor near the head table.
  • Send seating charts ahead of time so there are no surprises.

Compromises for Blending Families

For couples with divorced or remarried parents, seating can become extra complicated. Here are some solutions that incorporate all sides of the family:

Table with Stepparents

Groom’s Mother Groom’s Stepfather Bride Groom Bride’s Father Bride’s Stepmother

Nearby Tables

Set up smaller tables nearby so parents can sit with their own spouses but still be part of the head table section.

When Parents Refuse to Sit Together

Hopefully any issues can be resolved diplomatically ahead of time. But if parents outright refuse to sit together, here are some options:

  • Seat them at nearby tables as described above.
  • Add a third table in between the two families’ tables.
  • Seat them farther apart, but still reserve a spot at the head table area.
  • Allow each parent to invite a different guest to sit between them.

The most important thing is keeping communications positive and finding a solution both sides can accept.

Reception Seating Tips

Some additional pointers for reception seating:

  • Create a sweetheart table for the bride and groom to give parents more flexibility.
  • Section off the head table area from regular seating if possible.
  • Arrange the head tables in a U-shape to blend families together.
  • Include grandparents at the head table or with parents.
  • Seat divorced parents’ new spouses with them, not at the head table.

Ceremony Seating

The wedding ceremony generally follows the same guidelines:

  • Bride’s family on the left, groom’s on the right.
  • Parents sit in the front row on their respective sides.
  • Divorced parents may have new spouses sit with them in that row.
  • Grandparents and siblings also sit in the front rows.

However, because the ceremony is focused on the couple, it’s less important for parents to interact here. Separate sides are more traditional and common at the ceremony itself.

Who Pays for What

According to tradition, here’s a breakdown of who pays for what at the wedding:

Bride’s Family

  • Wedding gown
  • Wedding accessories (veil, shoes, etc.)
  • Bridesmaids luncheon
  • Accommodations for bridesmaids
  • Bride’s styling and makeup
  • Bridesmaids’ dresses
  • Bachelorette party
  • Flowers for the bridesmaids
  • Invitations

Groom’s Family

  • Groom and groomsmen’s tuxedos
  • Groomsmen’s gifts
  • Bachelorette party accommodations
  • Rehearsal dinner
  • Honeymoon
  • Marriage license
  • Officiant’s fee
  • Flowers for groomsmen

Both Families

  • Reception venue
  • Catering/food
  • Wedding cake
  • Music/entertainment
  • Photographer
  • Videographer
  • Wedding planner
  • Event rentals
  • Transportation
  • Accommodations for out-of-town guests

However, these days many couples pay for the majority of the wedding themselves, especially if they have lived independent from parents for some time. But parents who can contribute often do so as their wedding gift to the couple.

Gift Giving Etiquette

Speaking of gifts, here are some guidelines around wedding gifts:

  • Engagement gifts are traditionally given only by immediate family.
  • Wedding gifts can be given by any invited guest.
  • The bride’s family gives the couple gifts on the wedding day – often jewelry or heirlooms.
  • The groom’s family also usually gifts items of significance to welcome the bride.
  • Registry information should be provided to guests to simplify gift selection.

Some tips for gift giving:

  • Gifts are traditionally given at the reception, not the ceremony.
  • If invited to pre-wedding events only, gifts are not necessarily expected.
  • For destination weddings, gifts may be sent by mail to the couple’s home.

How Parents Can Support the Couple

Beyond financial contributions, parents can provide immense emotional support leading up to the big day. Here are some meaningful ways parents can get involved:

  • Help address invitations and prepare wedding favors or welcome bags.
  • Share family traditions or customs to incorporate in the festivities.
  • Provide an heirloom or piece of jewelry to wear or carry.
  • Organize a welcoming party for out-of-town guests.
  • Host a rehearsal dinner to thank the wedding party.
  • Give a toast at the reception wishing the couple well.
  • Help gather photos or videos for a wedding day slideshow.

By contributing their time, resources, and love, the bride and groom’s parents can make the day extra special for the happy couple.

Handling Family Conflict

With so many relatives gathering for a wedding, some family drama is almost inevitable. Here are some tips for minimizing and handling conflicts:

  • Set clear expectations for behavior up front.
  • Limit plus ones if certain guests tend to cause issues.
  • Seat feuding relatives far apart.
  • Designate a trusted family member to run interference.
  • Plan activities to distract during down times.
  • Avoid serving alcohol before the reception.
  • Have security ready to intervene if necessary.
  • Focus on your partner and don’t get dragged into drama.

Hopefully any tensions can remain civil, but be prepared just in case. Your wedding should ultimately be about you and your future spouse.


Bringing two families together through marriage is a beautiful symbol of unity and love. Although seating arrangements and other logistics require compromise, maintaining open and respectful communication is key. Traditions can be adapted to accommodate blended families while still honoring both sides. If conflict arises, stay focused on your priorities as a couple and don’t be afraid to break with difficult family members. With the right mindset, you can craft a meaningful wedding celebration and launch your new life together in style.