The Seating Plan
Unless you’re having a very small number of guests when it comes to a seated dinner, it’s generally a good idea to plan exactly where you would like people to sit. This allows guests to find their ‘place’ in the reception room quickly, and also helps your caterer to know exactly where guests with specific menu choices are sitting. It also means you can seat people together who you feel will get on well, or apart if you think they won’t.
Don’t start organising your seating plan until all your guests have responded to the wedding invitations. There’s no point getting started until you know exactly who’s coming. Equally you don’t want to be doing this at the last minute. Try and complete it at least a week before your wedding – you can always make some last minute changes.
Write the names of all your guests on to small individual pieces of paper or post-it notes, draw out the table plan and start moving the names around to see what works. Give yourself plenty of time – this isn’t a ten-minute task!
Spend time thinking where your guests would like to be seated. Try for a mixture of extroverts and those who need drawing out, and for a balance of men and women. Work single people into the plan early on so you don’t use them as ‘fillers’. Pay particular consideration to guests who know very few people, sitting them with guests who will be friendly and welcoming. Equally, separate guests who you know don’t get on well. Your wedding is not the time to mend family feuds or force friends to get along.
Spare a thought for elderly guests. If your evening entertainment is in the same room as your wedding breakfast, it can be best to sit them furthest away from the music.
If you’re inviting children to your wedding, decide whether or not you are going to sit them with their parents. Very young children should ideally sit with their family, but slightly older children might enjoy being on a ‘children’s table’ with colouring pens and a paper tablecloth. But try to keep all children relatively close to their parents so they can be supervised.
Decide on your top table, if indeed you’re having a top table. The traditional top table is rectangular, but you might prefer to have a round top table in the centre of the room, or even a table for two.
Traditional top table
The traditional top table is usually long and faces towards the wedding guests, this makes it easier for guests to see the happy couple and feel more involved in the speeches.
Round top table
A round table can create an intimate atmosphere where everyone is able to talk to one another and no one will feel left out. It also provides a more comfortable atmosphere where you won’t feel as though you are on display whilst you are eating, you do however have to consider the speeches, as a round table may present some difficulty with photographs and block some guests views.
Table for two
Some couples may prefer to stray away from tradition and have a table set up for two. This provides a more intimate atmosphere and allows for the bride and groom to have a moment to gather their thoughts and spend some quality time together.
Traditionally, parents of the bride and groom sit on the top table. However, in some cases, this doesn’t work well. If, for example, parents are divorced and perhaps remarried and relationships are strained, consider an alternative option. The most important thing is that people are comfortable and happy, so scrap tradition and do whatever suits people best. You may even decide to sit parents with their friends, while you and your new husband sit with your bridesmaids, best man and their partners.