So most of the wedding planning is in the bag and you’re on the home stretch… now the really fun part (or not..hello family politics?!?) of your wedding planning where you have to decide who sits where! These days, guest wedding seating possibilities are as varied as the type of catering you choose to have, so let’s run through your options.
What kind of wedding are you having?
If it’s a traditional wedding with a conventional top table, seat yourselves, best man, maid of honour, and parents of the newlyweds around a long rectangular table looking out at the rest of the wedding party on round tables. Create a seating plan that guests can check and find their own way to their tables, where there can be a place card that lets them know where to sit at the table.
If you’re going for something a lot more relaxed and informal then choose loose seating and trust your guests to choose their own seats and dispense with a table plan completely. Of course you could compromise between the two options and create a table plan to allocate tables but then allow guest free seating at the tables. Note if you’re having any kind of served meal with special dietary requirements your caterers will want to know who is sitting where so may insist that you have placecards so do check with them.
An alternative to the long top table is to have a small sweetheart table just for the two of you instead of a top table. The meal may be the only time you get to spend a little quiet time together. This can be a good solution if your parents are not together anymore and maybe have new partners. Your parents (and grandparents) can then host their own tables with their immediate family and friends. You could also have a round top table that is just for you and your bridal party, i.e. best man, bridesmaids, ushers and their partners.
Long tables can also be a nice option as you can have larger groups of guests sitting together and sometimes it’s easier to talk across a narrow long table then a large round table.
How to sit those guests at the tables?
Think about grouping family and friends from different areas of life: relatives, school, uni, work colleagues etc.
Put younger guests near to the dance floor (potentially on tables that may need to be moved to create a dance floor later on), older ones a little further way.
Try partially mixing groups: split the table up into small groups of friends/family so at least everyone knows some of the guests at their table. Be careful of breaking up groups of people too much though as one of the things many people look forward to at a wedding is catching up with old friends and family.
Although some people will be unfazed by sitting next to a stranger, you might run the risk of having a wedding breakfast with no atmosphere if guests are too shy to talk to people they don’t know.
Undoubtedly you will have small clusters of guests that don’t fit a natural group so you will need to mix it up a bit, just make sure the people you are mixing have something in common other than just that they know you; they’re more likely to get on if they’ve got more to talk about.
Put some kind of icebreaker or game on the table to encourage people to chat with each other – perhaps a quiz about you both so they can be unified in laughing about you.
How do guests find their seats?
Traditionally in the UK we have large table plans where guests can easily see the table they will be sitting on. Put the table plan somewhere easily visible during the drinks reception. Guests should look at it in advance so there won’t be a bottleneck when they get the call to dine.
A great alternative that we are seeing more of in the UK is the US escort card table, where you have cards inscribed with guests’ names alphabetically and each card has the table number/name on it. Rather than having a whole seating chart, the escort cards can be displayed waiting at the entrance of the dining room or another focal point location. Escord card displays give you a great opportunity to get creative and you can also combine their escort card with a favour/gift.
However, you choose to seat your guests, it’s a good idea to give the venue coordinator or wedding planner an alphabetical list of guests with their table name/numbers to assist people to their seats.
If you think there might be some last minute changes to your guest list, create an easily updateable table plan such as a blackboard or mirror where chalk writing can be quickly wiped and rewritten or escort card display that names can easily be swapped in and out of.
When it comes deciding your guest seating give yourself plenty of time to plan your seating chart and utilise table planning software, websites and apps. Alternatively, use the old fashioned method of post it notes around a plate that you can easily rearrange.
With enough time, preparation and thought arranging where your guests sit during the wedding breakfast should be an enjoyable experience so don’t put it off to the last minute!