The wedding planning process is scattered with vital yet tedious tasks that are essential in maintaining a structured and organised reception, and creating a seating chart is one of the most frustratingly complicated. Tijan Biner explores the dos and don’ts of crafting the perfect seating plan to ensure your reception goes off without a hitch.
Very few wedding planning tasks strike more fear into a bride and groom’s hearts like the seating plan. It involves juggling, editing and revising, but with a little tact, diplomacy and common sense, you and your partner can create a seating plan that’s sure to make everyone happy.
What To Consider?
Seating charts should not be created until all RSVPs have been received, and you should also have the majority of your wedding planning tasks completed before attempting to assign guests to tables. Your seating plan should also complement the reception space and your wedding style to ensure you’re happy with the overall layout of the venue.
First and foremost, you should have an idea of the style of wedding reception you’re after. If you want guests to mingle with one another, consider a cocktail-style reception. Cocktail parties generally don’t have assigned seating, but make sure you provide high tables and stools for those who want the option to sit. For a sit-down soiree, there is a variety of unique and modern ways to seat guests. Ideal for the fashion-forward couple, turn your reception space into a chic urban hotspot with lounge-style seating and coffee tables.
Before creating your seating plan, ask the venue’s wedding coordinator for a floor plan, and make several copies. This will allow you to experiment with various arrangements before deciding on where to place tables. You’ll also have a good sense of where the DJ, bar and dance floor will be positioned, and you’ll be able to seat your VIP tables as closest to the action. Consider older guests or invitees in wheelchairs, and seat them further away from the dance floor if they need space to manoeuvre.
The size and shape of your tables will give you an idea of how many guests can be seated. Wedding tables generally come in four shapes; round, square, rectangle and oval. You can fit more rectangular tables into a space and they’re easier to talk across, whereas round tables will give your guests more leg room. In terms of how many guests to seat, six or eight people on a round table may look too spread out, but 10 are ideal. Rectangular tables can seat anywhere between six to eight people, depending on whether you include end caps (seats on either end of the table).
Who Sits Where?
Create a spreadsheet with all of your guests’ names, and insert a column to categorise invitees by relationship; your family, your partner’s family, your friends, your partner’s friends, and so on. Write each guest’s name on a Post-It note and start to place them together, keeping in mind the size and number of people per table.
The newlyweds will generally sit at a long, rectangular head table at the focal point of the room. They will be seated with the maid or matron of honour and best man, as well as the bridesmaids and groomsmen. Some couples may opt for their own sweetheart table, whereas others will forego a table and leave a few empty seats at each table to mingle with guests. Classically, the groom sits to the bride’s right, the best man sits to her left, and the maid/matron of honour is then seated to the groom’s right. Other attendants, such as bridesmaids and groomsmen, can also be seated near the couple.
The parents of the bride and groom will sit opposite each other at a large family table, often with grandparents and other family members or close friends. You may even want each parent to host their own table with their family members and close friends.
Categorise remaining guests from different areas of your life; work, school, university, and so on. This doesn’t mean you must seat them in these groups, but it will help to form a picture of who already knows each other. You may even want to group your guests based on their ages, interests and backgrounds, and try to make everyone feel comfortable and at ease with a mix of familiar and new faces at the table.
If you have several children attending the wedding, it’s a good idea to seat them all at one table and provide games or activities to keep them amused. However, make sure you don’t position this table too far from their families. If you have only a handful of kids attending, seat them with their parents.
Directing Guests To Their Seats
After you’ve figured out where to seat your loved ones, decide on how you’d like to lead them to their tables. Whether you opt for quirky place cards, escort cards or a chic seating chart, make it as simple as possible for your guests to find their seats.
Place cards will list the guest’s full name and are positioned at each seat. Whether you opt for a traditional tented card or small bottle of champagne with an attached note, the names on your place cards should be clear and correct.
Escort cards are displayed alphabetically on a table at the front entrance of the reception, and will list the guest’s name and their table number. Once at the table, your guests can then select their own seats.
Positioned near the entrance, seating charts will list each guest’s name in alphabetical order, as well as their table number. You may also want to include place cards on the table for each invitee. Position your seating chart somewhere that guests can see while they’re enjoying pre-dinner drinks, which will ensure a smooth entrance when they’re called inside to take their seats.
After ticking off most of the tasks from your wedding to-do list, seating your guests is one of the last hurdles. Regardless of how you choose to position tables or seat invitees, remember that your wedding guests will be delighted to just be part of your special day, no matter where they are!
Image Credit: Kevin McGinn Photographer