I recently went to the wedding of one of my best friends and it was absolutely perfect in every way. Not a detail was missed and my sorority sisters and I had the time of our lives celebrating our girl marrying her dream boy.
Our friend is Jewish and her husband is not. We knew that they weren’t going to have a religious ceremony for either religion, and we knew it would be a beautiful blend of their individual selves coming together as one. But still, even though we knew not to expect the Sheva Brachot (the seven wedding blessings) to be recited or a presentation of a ketubah, and we knew there’d be no religious clergy of any kind to marry them, our group walked into the gorgeous ceremony ballroom and had no idea on which side we should sit.
In a Jewish ceremony, our right side would have indicated the bride’s side. But, in a non-Jewish ceremony, the bride’s side would be to our left. We were some of the first to walk in (SOMEONE had to have the best seat in the house! What a Yenta!) and couldn’t even deduce based on the rest of the friends and family we knew.
So, we gambled (which was appropriate since the wedding was in Las Vegas, the bride’s hometown). We chose the left side, assuming the wedding wouldn’t be a traditional Jewish wedding, and continued to wonder if we’d made the right choice.
According to Rabbi Barry Tuchman of Weddings with Spirit, the Jewish people always maintained brides standing on the right and grooms on the left for no religious reason at all. It was just tradition. The Catholics and Christians also coordinated the same positioning for their weddings, but it wasn’t until the 1400s when it was decided that brides needed to be standing on the side opposite of the groom’s sword. Swords? In a wedding? Is The Princess Bride based on a true story?
Gather round the campfire, friends, and prepare to hear the wedding lore of long ago. Back in the day, like, hundreds of years ago when there were horses and swords and stuff, kidnappers would abscond with the bride so that they could get his paws on her dowry. These bad guys literally shoplifted the bride. Uncool. Because chivalry still existed, obviously the groom had to protect his woman so it was decided that the bride would stand opposite of his sword arm. And apparently, all men back then were right handed, so the sword hand was his right side and the bride would therefore stand on his left. This is the tradition that dictates where the bride and groom stand in mainstream/non-Jewish weddings. However, in Jewish ceremonies, the bride still stands on the right and the groom still stands on the left just as they always had.
Apparently nice Jewish boys don’t carry swords???
Nowadays, it’s becoming common for the couple’s guests to just pick a seat with no affiliation to the bride or groom’s “side.” Most couples share groups of friends and many are already living together and spending time with each others’ families, so the notion of a guest being at the ceremony in support of one of the two people getting married is becoming more and more dated. In fact, photos of signs are showing up instructing guests to sit where they’d like instead of on the side of either the bride or groom.
Meanwhile, back in Las Vegas…
While we waited for the processional to start at our friend’s wedding, we wondered which side each would stand on. We were on spilkes hoping we weren’t committing some terrible faux pas. All suspense was satisfied when the handsome groom stood on the left. Gasp! It was shaping up to be a Jew-ish ceremony after all. And it was! Some sips of wine. Some glass breaking. A hearty “mazel tov!” All surrounded by a beautiful chuppah. No Hebrew, no prayers. Just wonderful, deep-rooted traditions that make sense for any couple of any faith — whole or blended — and in love.
I decided that even though I’m a sap for tradition, I am also a big fan of not taking sides at a wedding. While in this particular case, I’ve known the bride longer and she has been a dear friend since I was a freshman in college, the groom had also become my friend. We’d traveled together as couples. He became friends with my husband. I’d met his family. All of us sorority sisters and our fellas who traveled to Las Vegas to attend the wedding were there for both the bride and groom. Also, another perk to sitting opposite of the bride: we could see her the whole time! Her back was never to us. We could gush over how beautiful she looked. We saw every giggle and tear that graced her face. It was not about having to pick a side. We’d picked her side long ago. The wedding was about them picking us to support them.
What do you think about bride and groom sides at a wedding? Will you tell your guests to sit where they please? Do you make sure to sit on a specific side when you attend as a guest?