When planning a Catholic wedding, the bride and groom consider many details for the liturgy. One important decision is where they will sit, stand, and kneel through the duration of the ceremony.
Seated next to the Sanctuary, Facing the Congregation
Imagine the way a priest sits, in a sacramental way, at the head of the sanctuary during the Mass, facing the congregation. In the same way, a bride and groom may choose to sit at the periphery of the sanctuary with their bodies facing the wedding guests.
In their essence, the bride and groom embody beauty and love. They naturally attract the attention of their beloved family and friends. As they sit on the altar throughout the Liturgy, many wedding guests may gaze in admiration at the subtle movements and interactions between these living icons of love.
One reason brides and grooms may choose to sit facing the congregation is to serve God as a visible witness of holy love and participation in the Mass. While wedding guests hear the word of God and see the bride and groom, their senses are filled with an image of unconditional, divine love.
Seated in front of the Sanctuary, Facing the Altar
A bride and groom may opt to sit facing the Altar, with their backs to the congregation throughout the Mass.
The Sacrament of Matrimony is an exchange between bride, groom, and God. The three become one through the mutual consent and exchange of marriage vows. The congregation of wedding guests attends as a crowd of witnesses, lifting the couple in joy, prayer and celebration for their new vocation.
When a bride and groom choose to sit facing the altar throughout the duration of the wedding ceremony, their bodies, eyes and hearts are completely directed towards God--on the crucifix and in Scripture. Through their exemplary position in the front of the church, they lead the eyes and hearts of wedding guests to God.
A Combination Option
The Liturgy of the Word, the celebration of Matrimony, and the Liturgy of the Eucharist (if included) are three different movements of the wedding ceremony. By speaking with your priest and wedding coordinator at your church, there can be a way to include different seating arrangements for the bride and groom during different times of the Mass.
Perhaps you and your soon-to-be spouse yearn to be a visible sign to your wedding guests, yet desire to point your eyes and hearts to God as well. Think creatively about how and when your bodies can communicate these desires throughout your wedding ceremony.
It may be possible, for example, to sit facing the congregation during the Liturgy of the Word, move to the front of the church for the Celebration of Matrimony, then remain in new seats and kneelers—facing the sanctuary—for the duration of the Mass.
The only way to know the right option is by praying through these decisions and discussing them with your fiance and priest. The physical structure of your church may impact your decision, or your priest may have personal preferences based on his own past experience.
When planned with intention, the little details of your wedding ceremony help create a meaningful and powerful experience for everyone present on the day you enter the Sacrament.