So you’ve got how many guests for your big day – 30, 75, 120? Whether a big or small wedding breakfast or reception, all those guests will need to sit somewhere… Unless you are a hostess with the mostess and used to organising big parties with flair and panache, this may seem like a bit of a challenge. Don’t worry – it’s not as hard as you may imagine.
Forget me not
First thing’s first – you need to have enough seats to accommodate everyone. It seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it? Well, we can tell you from experience that there have been many couples who forgot to include THEMSELVES in the total numbers of guests, or simply assumed there will be enough room at the top table for their entire bridal party, only to find upon arrival that there aren’t quite enough chairs for all the mums , dads, ushers and bridesmaids… so be sure everyone is included and check how large the top table is!
Sooner or later
The good news is, you don’t have to make your seating chart at the same time as the guest list. Come wedding day your guest list will very likely change – some won’t be able to make it, some will want to bring an extra person, and some will come unaccompanied when their invitation was a ‘plus 1’. So don’t fret too much about where they should all sit – you can leave it for now, but no later than a week or two before the wedding! Remember to allow enough time to make or edit your table plan. You can get a head start by using Confetti’s amazing free table planner tool!
Easy way out
Do you HAVE to make a seating plan? Well… not really. Not having one works really well for buffet receptions, and smaller weddings with a more informal feel. If you are having a grand celebration at a top-class manor house or a plush hotel, chances are you’ll want to have a fairly organised group of guests, this also adds formality to the event – the guests will likely expect a table plan and place cards. However, this entirely depends on what the couple want. It’s lovely to allow people to mingle freely and sit where they feel most comfortable, especially if most of them already know each other. Think whether this will work for your wedding – it’s a chance to create a more relaxed atmosphere for you and the guests, not to mention saving yourself potential hours of stressing over the guest list.
There are ways of letting your guests know in a warm way that they may sit wherever they like, such as “come as you are, stay as long as you can, we’re all family, so no seating plan”, or “we’re all family now, please sit yourself”. You can make this sign just as beautiful and personalised as your table plan would be.
Don’t set aside one table just for people who don’t fit anywhere else for some reason – it’s not polite and may make them feel like the proverbial “fifth wheel”. Try to mix all your guests together.
Don’t try to create a “singletons table” (even if “they met at our wedding” makes a good story)! You may cause the guests to feel awkward and like they are forced to couple up with someone on such a romantic occasion. They are there to enjoy your day with you, not to find a potential partner.
Don’t show parental preferences – if you can’t sit all the parents at the top table, then sit them together at the table nearest to the top table. Even if you don’t think of this as favouritism, they might.
Don’t sit couples miles away from each other for the sake of mixing up all your guests – it’s enough to seat them apart at the same table. All guests want be able to have chat with someone they know, and sitting at a table full of strangers is unnerving to many – this is, after all, a very social occasion. It’s reasonable to assume many of your guests won’t know each other, and you don’t want anyone to go home at the end of the night saying “nobody talked to me for the whole evening”.
Don’t ignore any dramas that may affect your seating plan – recent separations or divorces, feuding friends, exes of friends, or any other combination that may cause bad feelings. Don’t sit warring guests at the same table. If you’ve heard of issues that may have arisen since you sent out the invites, do take them under consideration. Ask both mums for discreet help if a situation needs clarifying.
Don’t forget you’ll need someone to mind the children’s table if you’re having one.
Don’t neglect to double-and-triple check your seating plan – don’t miss anyone who’s confirmed their attendance! Can you imagine how embarrassed your forgotten guests will be to arrive at the reception and find that their names aren’t on the table plan…
Don’t forget to check that the right table plan has been set up at the reception, or designate someone to do it for you. A scenario may arise where you’ve sent your wedding coordinator a few drafts of your seating arrangement, and in the hustle and bustle of the day they may put up the wrong one. You don’t want to have guests wandering around looking for their names, or – even worse – the venue to run around setting up extra tables and chairs while the guests are arriving! This really does happen! And have a backup copy handy just in case.
Don’t ignore the logistics – you want the elderly guests away from the speakers, kids close to the bathrooms, and any exes sitting separately. Cliché but true.
Don’t forget about the kids who may need high chairs – check with your venue in advance whether they provide them, and how many! You’d be surprised at how many venues have only a few which may not suffice for your wedding, or they have a particular time they expect you to drop off yours before the reception.
Don’t make your table plan hard to read – a tiny fancy script font looks very elegant, but not everyone will be able to see it! Clear and easy to read is what you want.
So – go ahead and sharpen that pencil! An artfully arranged seating plan will truly help two families merge together in the most delightful way, on this best of all days.
Find more great advice on our Wedding Planning pages!