Does It Matter Who Stands on What Side of the Altar?

The bride traditionally stands on the left—but why?
The Knot
Updated Jun 14, 2020

Traditionally speaking, it's customary for the bride to stand on the left side in a wedding ceremony. But why?

We hate to break it to you, but you might not love the reasons—the tradition behind the bride standing on the left side of the altar actually stems from the old days of "marriage by capture," meaning the groom needed to leave his right hand (aka, his fighting hand which he used to hold the sword) free in the event that he'd need to defend his bride from other suitors who may try to whisk her away at the last minute.

Yeah, we know. Cue the eye rolls.

But today, most couples still choose for the bride to stand on the left, with the groom on the right—probably because they simply haven't given it much thought. As far as we're concerned, it truly doesn't matter who stands on what side of the altar, so feel free to mix it up. If you're most comfortable standing on the right (so the audience will see your good side, or whatever other reason you may have), go for it — it ultimately doesn't matter which side the bride stands on in the ceremony.

But take note: If you're having a religious ceremony, check with your officiant and make sure that changing your positions at the altar won't go against the beliefs of your house of worship (for instance, brides in Jewish weddings often stand on the right instead).

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