Take A Seat
Taking the time to come up with a thoughtful seating plan will ensure your guests feel welcome and comfortable at your wedding reception. But it’s not always a simple task so here are some options for creating a seating plan that works, and some cool display ideas once you’ve nailed it…
For the majority of weddings, assigning your guests to tables is the simplest way to organise your reception. It also eliminates confusion when it’s time for the speeches or meal to begin.
Creating a seating plan can take a bit of time so try to begin as soon as your RSVPs are in (at least two weeks before your big day). Begin by grouping guests according to how you know them, for example, family members and friends from different aspects of life (childhood, school, work, etc.). Include a mix of familiar and new faces at each table. Introduce people with similar interests and backgrounds, and the people who know each other will kick-start the conversation.
A tried and tested system is to write everyone’s names on post-it notes, draw an outline of your tables and move people around until you find an arrangement you like. Some venues can provide a floor plan, which may be helpful in the process.
Assigned seating is the clearest, most simple way to organise your guests. It ensures they are seated quickly, and that important family members are located close to the head table. You’ll need a seating chart on display, and individual place cards at the table – a great chance to get creative! A slightly more relaxed option is to assign your guests to tables, but let them choose their seats.
For more intimate weddings with, say, fewer than 50 guests, and for cocktail receptions where guests are free to mingle, you can choose to forgo a seating plan. Just make sure there is plenty of seating available, especially for elderly guests.
Traditionally, a head table is long and straight, set up facing the other reception tables. The bride and groom are seated in the middle, flanked by their parents and/or their wedding party. But you don’t have to do it this way. Maybe you’d like to have your wedding party sit at a round reception table with their dates, and have the head table be a sweetheart table for just the two of you!
Located closest to the head table, the ‘table of honour’ is where the parents of both the bride and groom, the wedding officiant, and sometimes grandparents sit during the reception. If there are several people you would like seated at this table of honour, you may have two tables – one for the bride’s family and one for the groom’s. Divorced parents should be seated at different tables of honour with their partners and close family and friends.
If you have a lot of children attending, you might want to have a kids’ table with crayons, paper and other games or toys to keep them busy. If your flowergirl and pageboy are the only children present, seat them with their parents.
Top tip – seat elderly guests closer to the head table so they can hear easily and further from the dance floor.
Your seating plan can be incorporated into your reception decoration. Go with your stationery suite, or get creative and choose a unique design that reflects your wedding theme and overall feel of your day. Upcycled furniture, such as old wooden doors, ladders or blackboards, makes a great base for a rustic-themed wedding. A beach theme could display the plan on a surfboard. For a more glamorous affair, use silver frames or write on a gilded mirror. Fun alternatives include printing photos of each guest, and hanging them from pegs or a tree.
There are endless alternatives to traditional place cards at the table. For example, write names on shells or pebbles, add them to potted plants, or combine them with your favours using a simple gift tag.