The Wedding Seating Plan
For anything larger than a small, informal reception, a wedding seating plan is likely to make a significant difference to the success of your reception. A wedding seating plan will almost certainly help things run more smoothly.
Guests are saved from the mad panic of trying to find a seat on a table with their friends/family, and you can place people where they'll be happiest! The wedding meal may last for 2-3 hours and is a significant part of the day. If your guests are sitting with people they get along with, it will make a big difference to their enjoyment of the day.
The Wedding Top Table:
Who Sits Where?
In the UK, the Bride and Groom would traditionally sit in the middle of the wedding top table flanked by the Bride's parents, then the Groom's parents and finally by the Best Man and Chief Bridesmaid.
Don't feel you need to stick with tradition though as there are plenty of alternative top table layouts you can use, including the US-style head table.
Some layouts can be particularly useful when parents have split up and are possibly with a new partner. In many cases it is helpful to abandon the restrictions which tend to come with top table plans. Perhaps a romantic 'sweetheart' table for two, or even sitting with friends, rather than family might be a solution? After all, it's your wedding!
Seating Planning Software
Using a simple-to-use computer-based seating planner such as TopTablePlanner you'll be able to make major changes with a few clicks, and minor changes in much less time than it would take to draw it all out again by hand.
Printing copies off for the venue is quick and simple too. When it comes to wedding seating plans, thank goodness for the 21st century!Try TopTablePlanner FREE today! »
6 Tips for Successful Seating Plans
- Mix it up: If you seat your guests in family groups, people lose the chance to mingle. On the other hand, seating people on tables where they know no one might not be a good idea either. Try to strike a balance, and bear in mind people's interests and ages.
- Think about singles: Those guests coming with a partner are always seated together. But with tables often having an even number of places, this can be awkward with singles. Matchmaking might be a fun idea - but don't force people, or make it too obvious! Never have a table dedicated to singles.
- Male/female seating: If you're using round tables, then the usual seating plan is to have males and females sitting alternately round the table. For long tables, have couples seated opposite each other. Along the length of the table you should still try to alternate males and females.
- The closest tables: No matter what type of seating plan arrangement you choose, always try to make sure that those tables closest to the Bride and Groom are reserved for your closest friends and family.
- Table names: To simplify people finding their table, why not give each table a number - or better still, a name. Perhaps a theme could be used that's suited to you as a couple? There's no rule that says tables can't be named rather than numbered. If your seating plan has named tables, this immediately removes the problem of having a perceived hierarchy. We've compiled a few ideas for wedding table names to give you some inspiration.
- Place cards: Make sure you use clear name cards for your guests. This will help them find their seat quickly and easily. If you include a few details such as whether they are vegetarian or not, this may greatly help the waiting staff. Don't forget to give a copy of your seating plan to the staff as well in this case.
Want more tips? See our top 30 tips for arranging your seating plan page.
If you remember only one thing...
Do what you think would make you and your guests most comfortable.
Creating the Wedding Seating Plan
When should you start your wedding seating plan? The answer is - as soon as possible! Certainly don't wait for all of your RSVPs to come in or you'll end up having a huge rush to try to organise the whole seating plan at the last moment. You'll know about your close friends and family, so start working out a seating plan as soon as possible.
It's always a good idea to visit the venue and ask them about the availability of tables, whether there are long tables, round, or both. The venue may be able to offer advice on the best way to fit tables into the room. Knowing what's available, and having a general idea about possible seating plans will allow you to start thinking about your own plan.
If you intend to draw a plan out on paper - make sure you have a huge pad, plenty of pencils and a lot of time! There will almost certainly be numerous revisions - some major, some minor. If you decide to use sticky bits of paper, this can become very fiddly. Save time, spare yourself a headache and reduce waste paper - use a more dynamic solution such as Excel, or an online wedding seating planner such as TopTablePlanner.
Seating Plan Design Inspiration
Prominently displayed at your reception venue, your seating plan is likely to get a lot of attention from your guests. Use design ideas from your colour scheme or theme if you have one and perhaps try and match the look of your other wedding stationery.
If you fancy something a little bit different, how about a Periodic Table themed seating plan!
One of my personal favourites is a London Underground themed seating plan. Each line is used to indicate a particular table, with stations becoming guest names. The London Tube map certainly has an iconic design, but there’s no reason why you couldn't base your plan on your own local transport system.
If your wedding has an English country garden or vintage theme, a birdcage seating plan could be perfect. It could double up as a noticeboard for after your wedding too.
If you've visited some interesting places together, a world map themed seating plan would be perfect! It's really easy to make yourself too! Simply frame a map of the world and pin a luggage label to it for each table, each one being named after place you have visited.
For a really 'wow' seating plan, an ice sculpture is going to take some beating! It's likely to be a talking point for some years to come. The seating plan is frozen inside special slow melting ice which should remain looking stunning for around 6 to 8 hours.
Finally, the stunning plan below uses a panoranic photo of a New York skyline. Each table is named after a landmark building with the top table being named "The Empire State Building". You can read more about 'Landmark' themed table plans here.
Article written by Adam. See his Google+ profile.
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