When it comes to weddings, there are certain old-school etiquette rules you do and don't have to follow. Although paying for the wedding is no longer just the responsibility of the bride's family and the couple can see each other before the ceremony, there are some big-day requirements that wedding experts, couples, and guests all agree are still necessary. One such example? Reception seating: There should always be enough for all guests invited to the reception. But is it ever okay to ask guests to stand during the ceremony? Here, our experts weigh in.
"If we're talking about a traditional wedding, where there's a prelude, full ceremony ,and recessional with anywhere from 50-300+ guests, the answer is no," says Carly Rose, Orlando-based wedding planner and founder of Orlando Designer Weddings. "Your guests are most likely dressed up, the ladies are most likely wearing high heeled shoes, and it's just not comfortable for them to be standing for anywhere from 45-60 minutes from time of arrival until the end of the ceremony." According to Rose, inviting a guest to your wedding and asking them to stand is like asking someone to come to the store with you and expecting them to ride on the roof. "It just isn't practical and it is not polite."
Amy Greenberg, wedding planner in Sherman Oaks, California, completely agrees, adding that in the majority of instances, guests should not be asked to stand during the ceremony. "Aside from the fact that, in general, people do not want to dress up for a special occasion (sometimes in very pretty but less practical shoes or outfits) and be asked to stand, you never know your guests comfort levels or situations," she says. "For example, people who have back, leg, knee, or foot injuries, pregnant women, and even shorter people who may get stuck behind a taller person would all be uncomfortable standing." For some guests (like elderly folks and those in wheelchairs), standing might not even be an option.
But is there ever a situation that warrants asking guests to stand at a wedding? Planners say there are some. One is small or destination weddings. "Anytime you have just a few guests in a unique location—such as a mountain top in Alaska or on the beach in Saint Lucia—and are having an intimate elopement-style service, it's acceptable to ask your guests to stand," says Rose. "Odds are, shortly after the ceremony ends you will be departing the location, so a couple minutes on their feet will not be a bother."
It's also acceptable to ask guests to stand in situations where the officiant provides instructions to do so during the ceremony. "It's perfectly normal for the officiant to say 'please rise' during the bridal processional, signaling guests to stand for the bride's walk down the aisle," says Sabrina Zeile, of Weddings By Sabrina. "I've also seen guests stand for specific rituals and performances during the ceremony, under the officiant's direction."
Greenberg is a huge advocate of encouraging her couples to have the wedding they want to have, so she wouldn't say that it's never okay to ask guests to stand during this portion of the festivities. However, she does note that many guests won't want to stand during the ceremony. "I guarantee that if guests are standing for the ceremony, many will begin to divert their attention from the couple they have come to celebrate to the question, 'how long do you think it will be until this ceremony is over?'"