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Sister and top table problems

My sister married a Saudi man she met here in the UK about 10 years ago. He was attending an English course and she was a student. When she graduated they married and she moved to Saudi Arabia and has only been back once or twice since then. She is fluent in Arabic and her husband's English is quite's OK when it comes to exchanging niceties but that's about it. He is also rather 'reserved' and shy about communicating in English. They are coming to visit for my wedding and I have asked her to be my maid of honour. She's my only sister and I feel it's the right thing to do, even though we're not really close (we speak on Skype once or twice a year).

My top table was going to consist of me, my maid of honour (my sister), bridesmaid, my husband,his best man my parents and husband's parents. I was going to seat my sister's husband at a table together some members of my family. My mum (no doubt at the behest of my sister) has 'suggested' that he should be on the top table due to the language issues and it would be awkward for him/family members he was sat with. That being said, I think my granny and good friends would be put out to say the least if some random Saudi guy who none of them know was on the top table... not to mention that the bridesmaids' fiancee and best man's wife will not be at the top table.

In addition, my sister, who converted to Islam when she got married, always wears a face covering when in the UK "because it's not a Muslim country". Yet in Saudi Arabia she only covers her hair. She has told my mum that she will wear the full black regalia including face covering for the wedding and will leave the reception and go up to her hotel room after the meal because she is offended by alcohol consumption. I'm not racist but I can't help thinking that it will look ridiculous, ruin the wedding photos and if I know my sister, she's never even remotely been spiritual and just seems to enjoy the shock value of returning to the UK every five years and prancing round in a black burqa like she's the big I am.


What to do with the seating arrangements and am I being unable re the face covering???? No doubt she'll be offended anyway.


  • Hi, my sister is also my maid of honour and will be sitting at the top table without her other half. They aren’t married, but even if they were I wouldnt seat him on the top table. She isn’t thrilled about this, but she knows that it’s my wedding and I have the ultimate say. And as I keep reminding her, they won’t be sitting togther for a couple of hours, which isn’t all that long.

    Traditionally, as you’ve said it’s just the bride and groom, MoH, best man and either sides parents on the top table. If you're having a very traditional wedding then this could be your excuse as to why you've chosen your seating plan and not to have her husband with her. Maybe you could seat your sister at the end of the top table and her husband on the nearest seat on another table? Depending on how close the tables are, they might be able to have a chat without the need to change your seating plan. 

    In regards to the face covering, if it’s for religious purposes, there’s not much that you could say. I know what you mean about it not looking how you’d want, but at the end of the day that’s her decision. And you have to remember that there will be lots of photos taken, some of which may end up online and if they do i’m sure she’ll feel more comfortable with it on. What about a compromise? Could she wear one to match your theme or colours? 

  • Tbh in this situation I would probably I'll leave the 'traditional' top table configuration and seat your sister on the table with your other family members and her husband.  That way you have no randoms in the top table and she and her husband don't feel uncomfortable.

    I have no help re the burka - I do feel it's a little bit disrespectful to claim she's "prancing about" though. If she's converted to Islam then that is what they wear (whether she feels she needs to dress differently to Saudi Arabia or not) - I don't think you can reasonably dictate otherwise.

  • MrsJ2017MrsJ2017 Posts: 3,017

    do you want her to be maid of honour? It sounds like you only asked her as a courtesy, but now it seems to be making things difficult for all involved.

    We has a lot of Muslims at the wedding and non  them caused difficulties like this, they just requested halal food and soft drinks, and they all dressed nicely.

  • In terms of the top table arrangement, I am in a situation that isn't dissimilar to yours. My sister is my MOH. Her boyfriend is German / Italian but he does speak English. I know that my sister will really want him to sit next to her. But I don't want our top table to be huge. If she has her boyfriend next to her, then my other bridesmaid would need to have her husband and kids and our best man his girlfriend. We are already having quite a small wedding and I don't want half our guests to sit at the top table. So we have decided we either need to put our foot down on this or have a sweetheart table. There will be squabbles and my stepfather will certainly defend my sister. It will be difficult and part of me doesn't want to face the fight. If rather just go with the sweetheart table. However what you and I need to remember in this instance is that it's our wedding. So we do get to decide who sits where. And that's that.

    When it comes to your sister's Burks, I agree with the other girls. You really cannot tell your sister not to wear it. You could talk to her gently and explain that you would really love for her to only wear the one that covers up her hair. I don't know how big your wedding is. Maybe you can point our it's an intimate affair surrounded by family. However in the end it's her decision. 

    Remember that she will only be in a certain percentage of the pictures. My stepdad has decided that he wants to wear a kilt that clashes with our colour scheme and all the other kilts. He is doing this just to antagonize me. So I keep having to tell myself he won't ruin the whole wedding. He is the one who will look like an idiot in that kilt. And in the end all that matters is that you and your man get married.

  • Ambam19Ambam19 Posts: 589 New bride

    I just wouldn't have her and the best man at the top table.

    the last few weddings I've been to they've had a table for bridesmaids and groomsmen and their partners which was right next to the top table (not in line but in front of)

  • just have a smaller top table, and table 1 for the rest of the wedding party and their partners.

    You don't have any choice except to respect her wish to wear the burkha imho - except maybe to ask if there's any compromise on colour.

    And remember, you'll be so busy and distracted on the day, none of this will be a big deal anyway.... unless you want it to be!

  • My advice to you would be to not have your sister as your maid of honour. Its not really about what she wears, who her husband is and what her religion is but the mere fact you said you only Skype once or twice a year. Your MOH should be someone you are very close with and that you are honoured to have stand up beside you on your wedding day. 

    You can still give your sister a role in the wedding and have her sit with her husband and then ask your best friend to be your maid of honour and sit at the top table. Allow her to wear what she wants but if she is a bridesmaid/MOH then can she not wear something that covers her up but is still colourful and will fit in with your day. Why all black? I do not know the ins and out of islam but many Muslims live in this country and do not cover their face. She is obviously used to a very different way of life and this is probably difficult for your parents to see their daughter they raised turned into a completely different person that you guys do not see. I would do your best to make sure she comes for the wedding for your parents sake at least but perhaps ask her to have another role as you want your MOH to be more involved and not leave the wedding early. 

    Best of luck for your wedding when it comes :)<3 xx

  • redhair82redhair82 Posts: 289 New bride

    Forget the usual "top table" arrangements here. I would. I wouldn't separate partners for the top table anyway, especially not if they were going to feel awkward on their own. Either have either of them on the top table or neither of them. And it doesn't sound like you and your sister get on well enough to have her as a MoH anyway...sorry! We are not having a top table at all....for many reasons! 

  • With respect to other posters here, it is not for any of us to tell Anna what she 'should' do or to judge how anyone chooses to practice their religion. Comparisons to 'other Muslims' are unhelpful and irrelevant to the issue here.

    Anna, imho its a fairly simple issue when you break it down.....   do you WANT your sister to be your MOH?  If yes, you'll find a way to make it work. If not, the other issues go away anyway x

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