The Wedding Seating Plan

Published: 19th April 2007
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Do I need a Seating Plan?

If you have a small, informal reception, you may not feel you need a plan. However for larger numbers, or a sit down meal, both you and your guests may benefit from a seating plan. Guests are saved from a mad panic of trying to find a seat on a table with their friends/family and you can place people where they'll be happiest! The wedding meal may last for 2-3 hours and is a significant part of the day. If your guests are sitting with people they get along with, it will make a big difference to their overall enjoyment of the day.



There are a number of options for the seating plan:

• No plan at all - best for stand up buffets or small and informal events.

• Assign guests to tables - you allocate guests to tables but the choice of seat is theirs.

• Assign guests to seats - you specify the seats at which each guest will sit.



If you remember only one thing...

Do what you think would make you and your guests most comfortable.



The Top Table Dilemma

While the traditional top table (Bride and Groom seated at a long table flanked by the wedding party) is still favoured by most, alternatives are often being introduced as family structures get more complicated. The traditional layout is as follows:







There are alternative arrangements - these are useful when parents have split up and are possibly with a new partner. Alternatively, you may want to avoid the top table altogether and have a romantic table for two, or sit with other friends/family.



Top Tips for Other Tables

1. Seating tables with just one family group will let them relax, but won't do much to encourage mingling. However, a table where no one knows anyone else might be a bit daunting for most people! Try and arrange a mix on each table - so everyone knows a few people. By thinking about guest's ages and interests you can make sure that each table is likely to get on and have fun!



2. Where to sit singles can also create a dilemma. On one hand you might want to try out a little matchmaking, but on the other, this could be rather uncomfortable and awkward for your guests (it might be very obvious too!). Certainly avoid a 'singles' table but generally do whatever you feel is best for your guests.



3. If you are using round tables, the general etiquette is to seat males and females alternately around the table. If you are using long tables, seat couples opposite one another and then alternate male/females along the table.



4. The tables closest to the Bride and Groom should be reserved for the closest friends and family.



5. Give each table a name or number. Table names could be themed - for example people, objects or places that are relevant to you as a couple. Names also remove the perceived hierarchy of tables. You should create a name card for each table (your venue may do this for you) so that guests can easily find their table.



6. If you are assigning guests to specific seats you should create name place cards. These could also show menu choices (if you are offering them) or indicate vegetarians. The waiting staff will really appreciate this and it will allow them to give a more seamless service. You should also give a paper copy of your plan to the venue so that they can see where people are seated.



Creating the Plan

Start arranging your seating plan early. You can start doing this before all your RSVPs have come in as most of your close friends and family will probably be definitely attending, even if they haven't formally replied yet.



To begin creating your plan, get a general idea from your venue how tables will be arranged in the room, determine whether you'll be using round or long tables or a mixture of both, and work out how many people you can sit at each table.



Arranging the plan can take a long time and might involve numerous revisions. Many people cut up pieces of paper for each guest and table and use these to try out different layouts. Thankfully, over the last few years software (web-based, for download or even Excel spreadsheets) has become available to make the task simpler. It can save you not only hours of your time but also reduce the stress in the lead up to the big day by simplifying last minute changes.



Article written by Adam Leyton of toptableplanner.com, an online table planning tool for weddings, parties and events.

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