Now a wedding seating plan may seem horribly formal and people have visions of their guests all going from table to table in a futile search for their name. But seating plans are vital if you want to ensure your reception runs smoothly. It may seem like a lot of hassle but there are some very distinct advantages to having wedding seating plans:
- It encourages guests to mix and mingle with others that they might not otherwise get the chance to meet.
- Guests can be seated sympathetically so that you can avoid any clashes of personality or awkward moments involving exes.
- Nobody feels left out and dumped on a table where they don’t know anyone.
- It avoids the rush for the good tables.
Many couples and wedding planners would much prefer to leave out assigned wedding seating altogether because of the effort involved in deciding who goes where, but it is worth it, trust me! I’ve been to a wedding where I’ve ended up on the last table, by myself, seated with a group of elderly guests who quizzed me relentlessly on why I was at a wedding without a partner. That’s what happens when you’re in the loos when the guests make their dash for the best tables.
Some couples get round this by assigning guests to tables but allowing them to choose their own seats, however if you’re going to that much effort you might as well just print out some name places and seat them appropriately. Your guests will appreciate it, trust me!
Now when assigning seating to wedding guests, a little common sense goes a long way! Here are a few tips to remember:
- Seat children and pregnant women near the toilets for easy access and quick getaways if the child becomes fractious.
- Elderly guests may need to be seated near the front so they can hear the speeches without having to strain.
- Make sure that everyone knows at least one person on their table.
- Don’t place singletons on family tables.
- Have a few more chairs on stand-by in case of unexpected guests.
- Number your tables to make them easier for guests to find.
Wedding Table Etiquette
The bride and groom obviously take centre stage on the top table but who sits with them? Well etiquette dictates that the bride sits on the left of the groom and to her left is her father next to the groom’s mother with the best man at the end. To the right of the groom is the bride’s mother along with his own father and then the chief bridesmaid.
However this can be complicated if there are step-parents involved or just one parent, so these days the top table arrangement is flexible, but it is traditional to have the best man and chief bridesmaid plus parents sitting at this table next to the bride and groom. What order you put them in is really up to you! If you have step-parents it might be an idea to get a longer table to accommodate the extra people.
Those tables closest to the top table are usually reserved for close family and friends of the bride and groom, but again you need to think about how to arrange tables so that everyone is happy (well nearly everyone!).
Wedding Reception Seating Chart
A wedding seating chart is an essential if you are to have assigned seating. This is a large plan of the numbered tables along with seating arrangements that is in a prominent position for guests to view before they enter the dining area (you don’t really want a crowd of guests all trying to find their name on the chart as they enter the dining area). This avoids lots of confused guests going from table to table trying to find their name.
You can put your ushers to good use by helping guests to find the correct table and place.
Wedding Table Planning Software
There are a few online seating plans that include a wedding seating chart and these can be incredibly useful. The best one we found is the wedding seating plan by TopTablePlanner which has a free trial for you to use and the paid version includes lots of options including the size and shape of the tables and printable place cards and tableplans. You can edit this as often as you like, so can update it as and when the RSVPs start arriving. A 6 month subscription is just £10 and for the money it’s well worth it.
Perfect Table Plan looks similar but is a little more advanced and costs £19.95. This package gives you a lot more options and allows you to also manage your guest list. This isn’t an online tool – you have to download the software to your PC which may be beneficial if you don’t want to rely on an internet connection to edit your seating plan and guest lists. There is an unlimited free trial offered with this package but you’ll need to pay in order for the more advanced functions to work. If you can manage with the reduced functionality then the free-trial version may be all you need though?
You may find that a simple excel spreadsheet is all you really need to organise your seating plan – it’s easy enough to sketch a basic floor plan if you need to visualise your reception layout after all? There are a few seating plan spreadsheet templates you can download for free – or you can make your own by having a new column for each table and filling each space with colour as you receive the RSVP’s and confirmations of attendance.