Choosing your on-location wedding ceremony seating configuration – Part I:Theatre

You have the venue for your wedding ceremony. Considering the space, how will you configure the seating to accommodate the number of guests for your wedding ceremony. Using common configurations, I will show you how this can affect your ceremony look and feel. In Part 1, I explore the most popular seating arrangement – theatre seating.


The “theatre” seating arrangement is by far the most popular configuration used. It is also used in churches and therefore is the most familiar to use in on-location weddings. It is a great way to fit as many people into a room as possible. The theatre seating also allows for a centre aisle so that the bride may process in. As with the classical church design from which it derives, it allows a clear view and hearing of the participants on stage from anywhere in the room. This configuration also lends itself nicely to back drops and other decor.

One key consideration in this type of seating arrangement, is the orientation of the room. Most rooms or spaces are not square but rectangular. Therefore they have a long and short edge. The area where the ceremony is performed can be on the long edge or short edge and the seating is placed around the staging area. The two diagrams below show how that can affect the number of people that can fit into the  room*. Seating in the narrow room configuration where the staging is done on the short edge can accommodate 216 people. If the stage is on the long edge of the room, it cuts the occupancy to 160 people.

Narrow: seating 216 guests
Wide: seating 160 guests

One  advantage of having the narrow room configuration is that it gives the bride a longer aisle to walk down and the room has a more formal feeling. On the other hand, the person in the last row may have more difficulty hearing and seeing you compared to the wide room configuration. The narrow room configuration may therefore require a raised stage and sound amplification. My usual rule of thumb is that for audiences larger than 150 people, sound amplification is a great idea. The most often heard complaint about a wedding ceremony is that the audience didn’t hear what was said.

The wide room design offers a more intimate feeling as the guests are closer to the bride and groom. This means that there is less a need for a stage and sound amplification. The bride will also have less of an aisle to walk down.

With the theatre seating design for a room, that is about the long and the short of it. Part 2 looks at Banquet seating while Part 3 explores alternative seating.

* The seating tool on the Ottawa Convention Centre interactive floor plan website was used to draft up these seating plans.