Arranging your wedding seating plan can be a very tricky and time-consuming task. You need to take all aspects into consideration - from your divorced parents to family feuds and spats between friends - and try to set it up in such a way that everyone is happy.
We have put together some tips to follow to help simplify this process.
Why have a seating plan
You naturally do have the option not to have a seating plan and give your guests the freedom to choose where they want to sit - so it saves you the trouble of setting up the plan plus your guest will all be seated with the people they want to be with.
As perfect as this sounds it can have its drawbacks. You can end up with a situation where guests who came alone have to sit with strangers that they have nothing in common with, or couples have to split up due to space constraints. It can also be confusing and the guests may not be able to decide where they want to sit which can lead them being unseated when the bride and groom enter the reception hall - and the last thing you want to do is to run around sorting out the seating so you can get on with the festivities.
Having a seating plan will ensure that everything runs smoothly, the guests will feel more comfortable knowing that they have a designated seat and it will make the caterers jobs easier as well - especially if there are plater starters or mains.
This option however, can be a practical one for a smaller more intimate wedding; if you are looking at inviting 50 guests or less it will be easier for the guests to “sort themselves out” without any major drama.
Start the seating plan early - as soon as you have your final guest list. This will give you plenty of time so you don’t have to rush to get it done before the big day and when the RSVPs come in you can simply edit the plan.
The Floor Plan
Ask your venue for a copy of their floorplan so you can plan out how many tables you can fit and how to place them in relation to viewing obstructions like pillars as well as where the bathrooms, serving area, bar, DJ, etc will be. Be sure to also discuss this with the venue, they will know how best to use the space available and may already have several different floorplans set out for you to choose from....all you need to then do is just assign the guests to the seats.
There are traditional ways to do this which is great if you are one for tradition but if not, do not feel obligated to follow tradition.
You need to consider what the best option will be all round.
Bridesmaids & Groomsmen
Traditionally the maid of honour will sit next to the groom at the main table, best man next to the bride and then boy-girl from there. And although it may be nice to share a table with your nearest and dearest you need to consider that you will be obligated to mingle with all your guests along with other duties - cutting the cake and the night time photoshoot - and may only be seated for a short time while eating. So, a better option may be to have a sweetheart table with your bridesmaids and groomsmen seated at the tables closest to you with their partners.
You can even go as far as having them seated with the other guests, so they can enjoy the dinner with their family and friends
That being said, once the dinner is done and the dancing starts most guests will rearrange themselves in any case; so, if you prefer to have your bridal and groom parties at the main table with you, you don’t have to feel like you are depriving them. They will have plenty of time to spend with their friends and families after dinner.
Traditionally the parents of the couple often share a table along with the grandparents and siblings. However, if one (or both) of you have a large family or your parents have some good friends that they would like to have at their table, you can set it up so the parents each head their own tables which they then share with their family and close friends.
In the case of divorced parents, the most important thing to consider is the relationship between them. Before you go adding tables and moving people around consider whether they are in good standings - even if one of the parents have remarried it is possible that they all get along perfectly and may not mind sharing a table. However, if they do not get along too well your best option is to put them at separate tables that are equally close to you.
The best way to do this is to put people into groups; start by how you know them - are they family, friends (yours, your partner's, college, work, etc), parents of friends and so on. This exercise is just to help you form a bigger picture in your head of who already knows each other and are likely to get along. You can then take it further by listing each person’s age, personality type (are they out there or more of an introvert) and of course their interests and background.
Once you have all this information you can confidently start assigning seats, try to make everyone feel comfortable by offering a mix of familiar and new faces at each table - matching people of similar age, personality, interests and background. All the while keeping any bad history between certain people in mind and making sure not to seat them to close together.
If you are having a child friendly wedding and there will be several children, you may want to look at seating them at their own table with activities like colouring books or puzzles to keep them busy. Place their table a bit more to the back so they can entertain themselves without disturbing the other guests but not so out of the way that the younger children cannot see their parents.
On the other hand, if there are only one or two children it will be better to seat them with their parents (along with their colouring books and puzzles). Just make sure that the other guests at the table know the children or at least like children.
Another thing to keep in mind is the age of the children, a child of 10 will not be very happy to be seated at a table with a bunch of 5-year olds. So, if you have a bunch of children of different ages you can look at having two tables - one for the older children and one for the younger - or simply have the older children sit with their parents. They will be forever grateful to have had the opportunity to sit at the grown-up table at a wedding.
Before you make a final decision on whether you are going to allow children at the wedding you need to confirm that the venue you have chosen will allow it, some venues do not allow children while others go as far as having a separate room with activities to keep the children entertained. You also get suppliers that specialize in child-care at weddings that you can hire to give the parents some piece of mind and allow them to enjoy the wedding without having to worry about their children.
All I can say here is don’t do it, having a singles table is very obvious and can be embarrassing for the guests that are seated there. They can feel like you are trying to fix them up which will only cause a whole load of awkwardness during the meal. The best option here is to have a mix of couples and singles, don’t seat just one single guest at a table full of couples - you need a good balance of singles and couples to help everyone feel relaxed.
When setting up your seating plan take your guests with specific needs into account - for example, elderly guests, pregnant guests or people with young babies.
Lastly, we urge you to keep in mind that only a small portion of the day will be spent seated, so even if you cannot avoid having two guests who don't get along at the same table, it is only for an hour or two and most people will have enough respect for you to not cause a scene.
Once the dinner is done and the speeches have been given people will naturally rearrange themselves; so, do your best to accommodate everyone but don’t stress yourself out about it - and once you have finalized the chart leave it be.