Wedding Seating Plans

Tips for creating a Wedding Seating Plans for your wedding reception.

Putting together your wedding seating plan can sometime feel like a complicated chore but it doesn’t have to be.

Start Early.

Wedding seating plans can be one of those wedding tasks that keeps getting put off and off but the last thing you want is to be spending the night before or worse the morning of your wedding finishing of your wedding seat plan. It should be all done and dusted about two weeks before your wedding day so it’s a good idea to start working on it at least a month before.
It might be helpful to give it some thought while you are putting together the guest list.

Get Low-Tech

Write your wedding guests names on individual little pieces of paper, clear the dining room table and start shuffling names around. Before you do, talk to your wedding venue and ask about their table sizes, so you know how many people you are putting on each table. You can be a little bit flexible on the numbers but remember it’s easier to put 9 people on a table that seats 10 than it is on a table that is designed for only 8. Be mindful that some venues might charge you extra if this leads to needing additional tables, Also consider the optimum number of tables the room holds.

Use small plates to roughly represent the room and think about who backs on to who as well as who they are sat next to.

Start at the top.

Tick off the easy table first, start your wedding seating plan with the top table. Bride and groom in the middle, parents either side, best man & chief bridesmaid. Guest tables are generally round and will normally sit 8 or 10 but the top table is normally rectangular and can often be made longer or shorter depending on who you want sat there.
You could even make the top table a ‘sweetheart table’ just for two and a little one-on-one time. Or do it your way, Remember it is your wedding day.

Once you have the top table sorted you’ll find putting together you seating plan easier to work out from that and from the outer tables in. The middle ground will just fall into place naturally and before you know it your wedding seating plan will be done.

Lock it in.

Once you have a plan you are happy with make a note of where everybody is going to sit and leave it alone. I love my spreadsheets and would have started the whole wedding guest list with excel and added columns for things like table settings.
To keep track of who is sitting next to who I would use a system like A1, A2 and so on Table ‘A’ place 1, 2 going round the table. Maybe have place 1 as the seat closest to the top table?

To follow on from the ‘low-tech’ theme you could use paper plates and write your guest names along the edge with the table number in the middle.

Parents vs Step parents.

This can be tricky for some couples and your own judgement will guide you here. If things are a little tense then one option might be to have parents & partners hosting their own tables.
Remember, the parent-seating question is a flexible one. Set it up in whatever way best suits everybody. If you’re unsure, don’t hesitate to talk to your parents before you make your final decision.

Similar considerations may have to be made other guests/family members who don’t get on when putting together your wedding table plan. With this said most people are sensible enough to know it is your day and are grown up enough to put aside any differences for your wedding day.

Play ‘Match Maker’

This could be your chance to play cupid, do you have old friends you know would be perfect for each other but would kill you if they thought you were trying to set them up with each other? This is your chance to give them a chance to get to know each other and figure out what you already know.

Have fun.

Like everything wedding it’s easy to feel a little overwhelmed but it’s your wedding. It should be fun and it should be done your way so enjoy

 

 

 


If you found this helpful please click like and share to help others to find it too. Also take a look at our wedding checklist for more useful wedding stuff.

 

3 Replies to “Wedding Seating Plans”

  1. Between me and my husband we’ve owned more MP3 players over the years than I can count, including Sansas, iRivers, iPods (classic & touch), the Ibiza Rhapsody, etc. But, the last few years I’ve settled down to one For many couples, the reception seating chart is one of the most dreaded and stressful parts of wedding planning. It usually starts off easy, but can quickly become complicated (and emotional!) once it’s underway. Plus, since you have to wait for all your RSVPs to be in before you can start working on the seating plan, that often means you’re juggling this gigantic project along with dozens of other down-to-the-wire tasks. To help make the seating-plan process a whole lot easier, follow our best advice:

    1. Yes, you should assign tables.
    Some brides may feel like skipping a formal seating plan, but if you’ve ever attended a wedding without one, then you’ll know how anxiety-inducing it can be when it comes time to find a seat at a dinner table. Taking the time to develop a thoughtful seating plan will save guests from experiencing high-school cafeteria flashbacks and ensure that everyone feels welcome and comfortable.

    The only scenarios where you can get away with not having a seating plan is if your reception is more intimate (50 guests or fewer), or if you’re having a cocktail party-style reception where guests can mix and mingle on their own. (Just make sure your elderly guests have a place to sit down.) Otherwise, for the majority of weddings, assigning your guests to tables is the simplest, most straightforward way to organize your reception.

    2. However, assigning specific seats is optional.
    Unless you’re having an ultra-formal affair, assigning guests to tables but not to specific seats at those tables is totally fine — they’ll be able to choose a seat on their own. However, if you do decide to assign seats, keep in mind that you’re going to need both escort cards (which get picked up at the reception entrance and tell you your table number) and place cards (which are already displayed on the table and tell you which seat is yours). With assigned tables you only need escort cards; or, to simplify things even more, you can skip the individual escort cards and opt for a large seating chart (above) listing everyone’s’ names and table numbers.

    See More: Wedding Planning 101: What to Do First

    3. Decide if you want a “head table” or a “sweetheart table.”
    Oftentimes, the bride and groom opt to sit at the center of a long rectangular or round “head table” with wedding-party members and their significant others. If you can only fit the best man and maid of honor along with their significant others at your table, then go ahead and do so, and seat remaining attendants and their “plus ones” at another table. Alternatively, other couples choose to sit at a small “sweetheart” table for two, which is a more intimate way to enjoy the reception together.

    4. Enlist your parents’ help.
    If you have no idea where to seat your parents’ friends, let your mother and mother-in-law arrange those tables — they’ll be happy to be involved.

    5. Some general guidelines to help you get started:
    • Begin by grouping guests according to how you know them: family members and friends from different aspects of life (childhood, high school, college, work, etc.).
    • Seat younger guests closer to the dance floor and older guests a little further away.
    • Use your seating plan to introduce people with similar interests and backgrounds. Try to make everyone feel comfortable by offering a mix of familiar and new faces at each table.
    • Be tactful: Avoid seating people together who have a history they wish they could forget.
    • Skip the “singles” table: If you’ve been dying to fix your old co-worker up with your cousin, you might take this opportunity to discreetly seat them next to each other. But resist the urge to create a separate “singles” table, which might embarrass your guests. Also, don’t seat your unmarried friend at a table full of married couples—use your best judgement and try to be sensitive to guests’ feelings.
    • Designate a kids’ table: If you have several children at your wedding, seat them together at a separate kids’ table. If your flower girl and ring bearer are the only children present, seat them with their parents.line of players. Why? Because I was happy to discover how well-designed and fun to use the underappreciated (and widely mocked) Zunes are.

  2. Do I really need assigned seating?

    Shouldn’t guests choose where to sit? After all we are all adults! In fact a YouGov survey conducted in February 2006 shows that 84% of wedding guests prefer assigned seating.

    preferred being assigned to a specific seat

    51%

    preferred being assigned to a table (can choose any seat)

    33%

    free for all – no seats or tables assigned

    13%

    Does not apply, do not/ would not attend a wedding reception

    3%

    The results were particularly clear for guests aged over 50, only 8% of whom preferred unassigned seating.

    Unassigned seating sounds great in theory and it is certainly one less job for the organizer. Unfortunately it rarely works out so well in practice.

    There may be a rush for the ‘good’ seats.
    the perils of unassigned seatingIt will take a lot longer to get guests seated. They may still be milling about while the food is being served.
    Your beautiful decor will be spoilt by people leaving their coats on chairs to reserve them.
    The last few guests end up walking around looking for seats, a bit like the unpopular kid at school lunch.
    Couples can get split up. It is not unknown for guests to end up eating outside the venue because they couldn’t get a seat together at the same table.
    Elderly relatives may end up seated where they can’t hear or see anything.
    If people turn up uninvited (common in some cultures) they may take seats intended for your invited guests.
    It can be a pretty miserable experience for guests:

    “I hate going to a wedding where you have to find a table where all your friends and you can sit… or god forbid you are the people who know the couple but no one else… that is so horrible… even if you are assigned a table you still have to find a place to sit at it… yuck. That is just my opinion… can you tell I have been in this spot a time or two. I have a lot of friends that I have known since I was in grade school, but we went to different schools always, and never had the same group of friends… at their weddings there I was all alone, and no assigned seats, you feel like you are standing there and everyone is staring at you as you try to find what looks like a table of amiable people, and you end up sitting at the table with great aunt lucy because that is all that is left, and she tells you crazy stories that you never wanted to know… yikes… assigned seating is totally the way to go! Just from experience.” Kim on the brides.com discussion board

    The larger the event, the bigger the risk you are taking with unassigned seating. Organizers often shy away from assigned seating mostly because of the time involved in assigning seats or tables. But it doesn’t have to be a huge chore if you use appropriate seating assignment software.

    If you still decide to go for unassigned seating then you don’t need to read any further on this site. Just make sure you have more chairs than guests and the best of luck!

    Assigning seats or tables?

    Guests can be assigned to a table (where they can choose any seat) or assigned to a specific seat. It seems that assigning tables is probably more common in the USA and assigning seats is more common in Europe. Both approaches are valid. Which you choose is a matter of personal preference.

    seat assignment

    table assignment

    more popular with guests according to a survey

    makes it easier for waiting staff to deliver meals to specific guests

    you can ensure that speakers and VIP guests are seated in the most appropriate seats

    is a good opportunity for the organizer to do some matchmaking!

    is slightly less work for the organizer

    does not require place cards

    guests have some choice who they sit next to

    Seating arrangements

    You might want to put people next to people they know, or you might want to split them up a bit so they meet new people. But try to put each person next to at least one person they know. People are more likely to get on well if they are similar ages or have similar interests. It might not be a good idea to put your ’alternative lifestyle’ friend with the tattoos and piercings next to your 85-year-old grandmother. A little common sense goes a long way.

    Avoid mixing age groups too much. Young children should be seated with their parents. Older children can be seated with their parents, or on a table together.

    Generally you should try to put families together and put work colleagues together. But if you know people don’t get on, try to seat them at separate tables. It is worth breaking with tradition to have a stress free event.

    Try to create balanced tables, with even numbers of males and females. It is traditional to alternate male-female-male-female guests in some cultures. Some business dinners are seated male-male-female-female for variety.

    If it is a group of people that know each other well you could try splitting up married couples for extra variety.

    Try to avoid putting guests on the same table as ex-partners, unless you are sure this is OK. Remember that every room has 4 corners!

    Resist the temptation to have a ‘leftovers’ table of all the people who didn’t fit on other tables. It is probably better to distribute such guests evenly.

    Table size, shape and layout

    You might want all the tables to be same size and shape or you might want to vary them. Find out what table sizes and shapes are available.

    The figures below give you a rough idea of the venue size required, depending on the number of guests and the type of seating. Note that it doesn’t allow for dance floors and other unused space.

    seating type

    ideal space per guest

    minimum space per guest

    all seated, church seating (in rows, no tables)

    Recommended space per guest

    Example: a room that is 10m x 10m = 100 sq m will hold a maximum of approximately: 200 standing guests, 140 guests at rectangular tables, 100 guests at circular tables and 176 guests seated in rows.

    The image below gives you a rough guide for minimum table spacing.

    table layout
    Recommended minimum table spacing

    Make sure the tables are placed so that serving staff have easy access. Don’t place a table blocking a door, especially a fire escape. If you have a large venue for the number of guests you may want to put all the tables in one corner to avoid the venue feeling empty.

    A good number of seats for a circular table is 10. If you have more than this not all the guests on a table will be able to see/speak to each other. If you have less than this you may have problems fitting all the tables into the venue. The figures below give you a rough idea of the number of guests you can fit on a circular table:

    circular table diameter

    seats

    ideal

    maximum

    Recommended circular table seating capacities
    (based on 1.9 ft and 1.6 ft circumference per guest for ideal and maximum respectively, guests in wheelchairs may need additional space)

    RSVP etiquette

    Before you can arrange your seating plan you need to know how many guests are coming. You can confirm numbers by sending out RSVPs. Typically RSVPs are sent out at least a month before the event. Your RSVP should make clear:

    the nature and location, date and time of the event
    who is invited (are children invited?)
    how they can accept or decline (e.g. telephone, letter or email)
    (optional) choice of meal
    a deadline for accepting (expecting people to reply within a week is not unreasonable)
    RSVP cards often include a space for the guest to fill-in and return.

    You should always include a date by which people must reply, otherwise some people may decide to leave it to the day before the event. Chase up stragglers with a phone call once the reply deadline has expired.

    If it is an important event and you want to warn people to keep the date free long before you send out RSVPs, you can send ‘save the date’ cards.

    Assigning seats

    If you are having speeches or announcements, try to place the people giving them are seated where they won’t have their back to anyone.

    Try to place pregnant, elderly and disabled guests and guests with small children where they have easy access to toilets and other facilities. Don’t seat them at tables that are going to be removed to make space after the meal.

    Older guests will generally have poorer hearing and eyesight. Do try to put them where they can see and hear any speeches. Do not put them next to loud music, they won’t appreciate it. Put children’s tables in the least favourable locations, they have better hearing and won’t be too interested in the speeches anyway.

    Seating charts, escort cards, table numbers and place cards

    Guests will need to know which table they are seated at so they don’t have to walk around every table to find their place. This is usually achieved by displaying escort cards or a seating chart prominently at the entrance to the venue.

    Table number cards are placed on tables to display the number or name of the table. If you have a large number of tables you might want to also display a floor plan to show where the tables are.

    floor plan
    Floor plan (created by PerfectTablePlan)

    Place cards are placed at each setting to ensure guests sit in the correct seats.

    If you have assigned guests to tables you will need:

    seating chart + table number cards; or
    escort cards + table number cards
    If you have assigned guests to seats you will need:

    seating chart + table number cards + place cards; or
    escort cards + table number cards + place cards
    These can be as simple or elaborate as you like. More important is that you have a good table plan that seats the right people together.

    Seating chart

    A seating chart shows each guest which table they are seated at. Whether you prefer a seating chart or escort cards is a matter of personal preference. Seating charts are easier to display. They can also be signed by your guests and framed to make a nice memento of the occasion.

    The seating chart can either list guests by table or alphabetically by name. Listing by guest name is more common in the USA and makes it a little easier to find your table, especially at a large event. Listing by table is more common in the UK and shows who else is on the same table.

    seating charts
    A seating chart listing guests by table (created by PerfectTablePlan)

    seating chart
    A seating chart listing guests by name (created by PerfectTablePlan)

    Whether to display a plain and simple seating chart or a highly decorative/artistic one is a matter of personal preference. If you choose an artistic font for your seating chart (e.g. script or gothic), make sure it is readable by all your guests.

    Many hotels will have an easel you can use to display your seating chart.

    Escort cards

    Escort card show the number or name of the table a guest is seated at. It is usually inside a small envelope with the guest’s name written on the outside. You can also use a blank business card and write the name on one side and the table number on the other. Whether you prefer escort cards or a seating chart is a matter of personal preference. Escort cards can be changed up to the last minute, whereas a seating chart may need to be printed days or weeks in advance.

    Escort cards can be as artistic or as plain as you like. If you choose a calligraphy font for your seating chart or cards (e.g. script or gothic), make sure it is readable by all your guests.

    Escort cards are normally placed on a table, in alphabetical order, at the entrance to the venue.

    Table number cards

    Table number cards are placed on tables to display the table name or number. They should be large enough to read without having to walk right up to the table.

    Table number cards are usually large tent fold cards, or flat cards in a holder. Make sure they aren’t so tall that they prevent guests seeing each other over the table.

    You can use ‘hearts’ playing cards for inexpensive table number markers, i.e. Ace of hearts for table 1, two of hearts for table 2 etc.

    If you have decided to name your tables you can theme the table number cards appropriately.

    Place cards

    Place cards are placed at each place setting to ensure guests sit in the designated seats. They are only required if you have assigned guests to seats (not tables). If you are using tent-fold cards, print the guest’s name on both sides so that other guests on the table can also read it.

    Place card names will usually be in the format “Mr John Smith”, but you can use “John Smith” or “Mr J. Smith” depending on the level of formality you are happy with. Using just the first name is obviously not recommended if there is more than one person with the same first name. Guest names can also be written on personalised menus or favours instead of using place cards.

    Place cards can be bought from wedding suppliers and some stationery suppliers. You can either write them by hand yourself, employ a calligrapher to do it for you or print them on the computer. If you are printing them on the computer we recommend you buy sheets of press out place cards.

    place cards
    Printing place cards from PerfectTablePlan

    If you use an artistic or calligraphy font for your place cards (e.g. script or gothic), make sure it is readable by all your guests.

    Place cards can be a useful way to communicate to the catering staff which meals people have ordered. E.g. add a red ribbon or dot to the place card for chicken and a gree ribbon or dot for vegetarian.

    Table name cards

    If you are feeling creative you can give tables names instead of numbers. This is very common for weddings. Numbered tables are less work and easier to find if they are laid out logically. Named tables add a bit more atmosphere and are useful if you are worried about guests being offended about not being seated on “table 1”.

    Possible table naming themes include:

    flowers (e.g. roses)
    a word or phrase in different languages (such as ‘I love you’)
    gemstones
    actors/films/TV programs
    cocktails/whiskies/wines
    sweets (=candies)
    animals/birds/butterflies
    sports teams
    dances
    countries/towns
    colours
    bands/songs
    Disney characters
    famous romantic couples
    something appropriate to the number of tables, e.g. the names of the 7 seas or 7 dwarves for 7 tables
    cars/motorbikes
    something related to your hobbies/interests
    You can also liven up numbers, for example include a picture of the hosts at age 1 on table 1, at age 2 on table 2 etc.

    Table decorations

    Besides cutlery, crockery and glasses, items on the table may include:

    a table centrepiece (usually one or more of: flowers, candles or balloons)
    a table number card (often in a card holder)
    favours
    place cards
    table glitter
    menus
    disposable cameras
    It is a good idea to lay it all out on an appropriate size table, before the big day, to make sure it doesn’t look too cluttered. You may be able to combine table cards, menus and/or favours into one item to save space and money.

    Make sure any table cards, flowers or other displays on the table aren’t so large that they prevent guests seeing each other.

    If you are putting people who don’t know each other together, it may be a good idea to provide them with a quiz or some other form of ‘ice breaker’.

    Give each child a ‘goody bag’ to keep them amused. This can contains pencils and paper, balloons, a small toy etc. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Don’t give them anything that can cause stains or permanent marks! Bubble blowing kits can be fun but you may end up with soapy tasting food and a slippery dance floor.

    Disposable cameras can be a cheap and fun way to record an event. But make sure you leave clear instructions that you want guests to finish the film (you don’t want 10 half-finished films) and what you want them to do with the camera afterward. You might also need to remind people to use the flash indoors. Be prepared for some very strange pictures!

    Special needs

    Make sure you notify the caterers of dietary preferences, e.g. vegetarian, kosher, halal, nut allergies or gluten intolerance.

    Inform the caterers of any guests in wheelchairs who won’t require seats.

    Order high chairs, or other appropriate seats, for small children.

    Wedding seating plans

    A typical wedding seating plan is to have the wedding party on a head table (with seats down one side) facing all the other guests seated on circular tables:

    wedding seating plan
    A typical wedding seating plan (created by PerfectTablePlan)

    If it won’t cause friction, try to seat members of the bride and groom’s families on tables together. It is their best chance to get to know each other.

    The wedding party table should be placed where the bride and groom can see (and be seen by) as many guests as possible.

    If you have a number of paid attendees you intend to feed, e.g. photographer, videographer etc., you may want to assign them to a separate table.

    Remember that once the main wedding meal (the ‘wedding breakfast’) commences the bride may have taken the name of the groom. Make sure that the place cards, seating chart etc take account of this.

    Don’t forget to leave room for cake and gift tables.

    Note that wedding etiquette varies between countries and cultures and you will have to tailor your wedding seating plan accordingly.

    Wedding top table

    The wedding party is usually seated at a long table with seats down one side. This is usually called the ‘top table’ or ‘head table’.

    Who to put on the top table can be a sensitive issue, especially if the parents of the bride or groom have divorced and remarried. Make sure you resolve such issues long before the wedding day.

    There are many different ways to organize a wedding top table, but traditionally:

    The groom sits to the right of the bride.
    Places alternate male-female
    Partners of the Best man and Chief bridesmaid sit at other tables.
    A typical example is shown below. But you should do what feels right for you.

    wedding top table seating
    A typical wedding top table (created by PerfectTablePlan)

    If the parents of the bride or groom have divorced and remarried it probably isn’t a good idea to put them and their new partners together on the top table. One solution is to invite some family of the step-parent and put them together on a separate table near the top table.

    For a second marriage you may wish to seat children of the first marriage on the top table.

    If you are worried that someone might feel left out because they aren’t on the top table, ask them to “host” one of the other tables. Make it clear who is hosting each table on the seating chart. This will help them to feel involved.

    If the parents of the bride and groom are not in the wedding party they should usually be seated on the table nearest the top table.

    It is fashionable in some quarters to have the bride and groom at their own table (for example David and Victoria Beckham). This is also referred to as a “sweetheart table”. This can be useful for bypassing issues about who should be on the top table.

    Some couples opt not to have a top table at all, but to have two free seats at each table so they can mingle during the meal. This is a nice idea, but it also means that two guests at each table will be seated next to empty seats for much of the reception.

    Assessing your seating plan

    Decide what you want for your event and plan accordingly. Don’t be a slave to tradition.

    It is probably a good idea to show your table plan to a few key guests to ensure that it is OK and you haven’t forgotten anything. Make sure you have enough time to take account of their suggestions. Don’t show everyone, unless you really want to make your life difficult!

    Seating plan software

    The traditional approach to planning seating arrangements is to write down guests’ names on scraps of paper and move these around. But this is time consuming and error prone. Cutting and pasting into a spreadsheet is little better. Given that there are more ways of seating 25 guests in 25 seats than there are grains of sand in the whole world it is little wonder that creating a table plan ‘by hand’ is such a headache.

    seating planning the old-fashioned way
    The old-fashioned approach to seating plans.

    The good news is that inexpensive table planner software is available in the form of PerfectTablePlan. PerfectTablePlan allows you to:

    assign guests to the right seats automatically with a single mouse click
    track RSVPs and meal choices
    experiment with different table sizes, shapes and layouts
    fine tune seating arrangements with drag and drop
    print floor plans and charts
    ensure that you haven’t forgotten anyone
    handle last minute changes

  3. Top Table

    It is traditional for there to be a top table at the wedding meal, but nowadays this is not compulsory. The bride and groom need not feel obliged to sit with their families, particularly when there are step-parents or difficult family politics involved.

    Consideration must be given to the key individuals on the day, such as family members and close friends. They should be seated appropriately with a good view of the bride and groom and the speech-makers.

    TRADITIONAL TOP TABLE

    The traditional seating plan for the top table (facing the table from left to right) is as follows:

    chief bridesmaid, father of the groom, mother of the bride,
    groom, bride, father of the bride, mother of the groom, best man

    This sort of seating arrangement is, however, very formal, and not very sociable for those seated in a long line. Round tables might be more

Leave a Reply