Sorting out the seating plan can be a real headache, when you have relatives who may not know – or like – each other, work colleagues who don’t know anyone else, family friends who won’t know anyone younger than 60 – apart from you! – and, perhaps, children as well who may get restive and bored ….
First thing to remember – all your guests are there because they love and care about you both and want you to be happy. So try not to stress too much – you can only do what you can, and the rest – having fun, being sociable, cheering you on – is down to them.
The lovely Jane shares her own memories and tips of seating their 90 guests:
‘We originally had 4 tables but the fourth fell away as those were guests that couldn’t make the wedding – just as well else we wouldn’t have had a dance floor!
We basically grouped our guests per table: family, church friends, work colleagues and extras. We felt we wanted everyone to have a good time and not to spend half the night making small talk with strangers, but rather have fun with the people they already knew. I always want people to have a good time and this would ensure that for me.
We have met loads of interesting people at other weddings so it is great to mix it up too. I would definitely have a seating plan though! We once went to a friend’s wedding and they said ‘there is no seating plan, just sit where ever you want to!’ It was a nightmare! Everyone dashed for tables and people were left standing on the dance floor trying to look for gaps. We ended up sitting with the groom’s parents and we weren’t that close to the couple, so it felt out of place and there wasn’t enough space at the table where our friends were.’
With the best will in the world, couples don’t always get it right – I’ve heard of work colleagues being placed with children in a room separate from the rest of the guests, or the wedding where war might break out between the families if they sat too close…. But I’m a firm believer in good will, and these instances must surely be unusual.
I’ve been to many weddings where, as Jane says, you meet interesting, entertaining people that you will probably never see again – and a good time is had by all!
So – where to start?
Decide how you want your tables to be arranged – round tables, or refectory tables, or a mixture of both, with a head table for the couple and parents, or ‘sweetheart table’ just for the couple… talk to your venue to discuss what they offer and what is feasible in the space available.
My personal preference is for round tables, seating no more than 8 or 10 people – it’s much easier to chat with everyone at the table.
Refectory tables work very well in barn style weddings, or where the venue has a long reception room that more easily accommodates long tables. Guests will speak to their immediate neighbours…. which is not a problem, necessarily, …. and the format can actually mean more guests can be comfortably seated with better space for movement of chairs as people move about during the reception.
(This photo is from Pinterest – click the picture to go to the post)
Next – Wait until you have all your replies in, before you start sorting out your groups.
I’ve found some excellent websites with great, and sensible, advice and I recommend you have a look:
Assigning guests to tables is by far the easiest and most practical system, as opposed to allocating guests to seats.
There is a plethora of ways to display your seating plan at the entrance to your reception, from writing on mirrors to a large poster on an easel –
Aren’t these great ideas?! These are all finds on Pinterest – click the pictures to go to the Pinterest post and the relevant blog or seller
Seat friends together as far as possible – if you need to, split groups but keep their tables adjacent or close together
Friends of parents will be happy to socialise with others of similar ages that they don’t know, so can be placed with aunts and uncles and other relatives
Seat children with their parents as a general rule
Traditionally, at the top table will be bride and groom, bride’s parents, groom’s parents, best man and chief bridesmaid or Maid of Honour. When I got married, all the tables were round; my husband and I sat at our own table – called a sweetheart table – while our parents, best man and his wife, and my bridesmaid were at separate tables close by, with tables for guests arranged more or less in a semi circle around us – the reception was in my mother’s garden so table placement was quite informal, but it still worked very well.
Above all, remember that these people come to celebrate with you. You will give as much thought and care in the seating plan that you can – after that, relax – and leave it to them!
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