MUNDANE MYSTERIES: Why Grooms Stand On The Right At A Wedding

A lot of our wedding traditions don’t really have the best of origins: brides originally wore veils to safeguard against the groom changing his mind in case he didn’t happen to like her face; and, the garter toss harkens back to the days when guests helped disrobe brides shortly after vows were exchanged. Yikes! And, while couples today probably don’t give much thought to where they stand at the altar, the traditional placement (with the bride on the left & the groom on the right) has its own dark backstory.

According to Reader’s Digest, the reason couples getting married stand where they stand is a remnant of “marriage by capture”. Early European grooms would sometimes literally “take a wife” against the will of her & her family. A man would kidnap a woman from her home, while his groomsmen would fight off anyone who tried to stop them. Then, at the actual wedding, the best man (the guy who had the best sword skills) would stand by the groom, ready to jump to his aid in case any uninvited guests arrived.

The groom had to be prepared to battle his angry soon-to-be in-laws, too. And, since most people are right-handed, the groom standing on the right side of the altar meant his right arm would be free to draw his blade at a moment’s notice.

Thankfully, marriage by kidnapping declined in popularity over the centuries, but the groom’s position on the right side still remains. However, one religion switches up that placement: Judaism. And the reason arose from a different tradition: a line in the Bible that says “at thy right hand does the queen stand”, which, in Jewish weddings, means the bride & groom are treated as royalty. (But, then again, every woman should be treated as a queen, right?)

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