This depends on what religion your ceremony is based around. In Christian weddings, the bride traditionally stands on the left side of the aisle. In Jewish weddings, it is more common for the bride to be on the right-hand side.
What is the reason for this?
The tradition dates back to the Middle Ages. During this time, marriage by capture was very popular. This is also referred to as marriage by abduction or bride kidnapping. It has iterations across the globe and most cultures have some version of this tradition.
In the Viking period, the male invaders would commonly kidnap women from pillaged regions. They would then marry them or make them their concubines. Grooms would have their sword mounted on the right side of their body, as this was the hand used to fight.
They needed their right hand free to fight with any alternative suitors who attempted to take their brides. The ‘best man’ term evolved from the best swordsman. They were to stand close to the groom to use their superior fighting skills to defend the happy couple.
Many people think that the reason for the bride standing on the left links to the positioning of the heart. As the heart is on the left side, this position is meant to represent how close to the groom’s heart the new bride will be.
Some people believe that it also ties into when the married couple turns to face their friends and family at the end of the ceremony. The bride will be on the right-hand side of the groom, which symbolizes their partnership and the fact that she is now his ‘right-hand’ partner in life.
Does marriage by capture still exist?
Yes, in some cultures this practice is still undergone. Some cultures will do this in a violent and forceful way. This is most common in Central Asia and the Caucasus and can be determined as a sex crime. This is because there is an implied idea that the woman will be raped after the legal ceremony.
The Circassian people, primarily settled in Turkey and the Middle East, still have a symbolic bride kidnapping as part of the wedding ceremony.
Ala kachuu is a type of bride capture practiced in Kyrgyzstan. It is a broad term and can cover anything from elopement to a non-consensual kidnapping. It is typically a kidnapping and is often carried out by a young man and his friends or relatives.
The woman is taken to the man’s family home and placed in a room. There she will remain until she puts a scarf on, symbolizing her acceptance of the marriage. Some people even see this as an honor as it proves the woman is worthy of being a wife.
Why does the bride stand on the right in Jewish weddings?
This is due to a passage from Psalm 45:9 in the Bible. The line reads, “the daughters of kings are among your honored women; the queen stands at your right hand, adorned with the gold of Ophir.”
In the Jewish religion, the bride and groom are treated like royalty on their wedding day. This is the reason Jewish brides will stand on the right of the aisle.
Does it really matter what side the bride stands on?
No, unless you are incredibly religious there is no real importance to what side the bride and groom stand on. The most important thing on your wedding day is that both you and your fiance are happy and comfortable.
What side does the father of the bride stand on?
The father of the bride will traditionally stand on the right side of the bride as he walks her down the aisle. This means that she will be standing on his left, as she will be for her new husband too. The father is separating his daughter from her fiance until he gives her away. This is again linked to the need to keep the sword-wielding arm free.
In Jewish ceremonies, the father of the bride will be on the other side.
What side do the bride and groom’s families sit on?
The bride and groom’s families will sit behind each of the couple. This means that if the bride is on the left of the aisle, her family will be sat on the left-hand side of the church. The groom’s family will be on the other side.
The parents of the married couple will be seated in the front row of pews on both sides. In some Orthodox Jewish and Muslim wedding ceremonies, the guests are split into their respective genders.
Why does the father of the bride give her away?
This has very patriarchal and misogynistic origins. The tradition stems from a time where women were seen as the property of the men in their lives.
The father would sell his daughter to her new husband for a dowry – often in the form of money or livestock. The act of giving your daughter away was literally seen as a transferral of ownership from one man to another.
In modern times, many women still enjoy participating in this tradition. It is viewed now as a symbol of love and unity. Many brides see it as their father welcoming the new husband into the family and creating a new, larger one. It can also be seen as a bridge between the bride’s old and new lives.
Some brides choose to alter the tradition by having both of their parents walk them down the aisle. This is commonly seen in Jewish weddings. The bride’s father tends to be on her right and her mother on her left.
Some brides choose to walk themselves down the aisle as a symbol of independence and free will. In some ceremonies, both the bride and groom will walk down the aisle simultaneously. This can be used as a way of conveying their commitment to each other.