Wedding seating plans that ensure everyone is sitting comfortably

Wedding reception seating plan closeup on table with decoration
Wedding reception seating plan closeup on table with decoration

You obviously want your wedding to be a joyous occasion where you and your guests celebrate the best day ever.  But then you begin the seating plan for the meal and realise that this part of the proceedings poses a few problems.  

Your parents have remarried, your sister has never found the true love of her life and is hyper-sensitive about any perceived attempt to introduce her to Mr Right, and your husband-to-be has invited a couple from abroad that only he knows. These might provide great plot ideas for a good Hollywood movie - but you could do without them at your own wedding!  

In this post, we share a few thoughts that, with a little diplomacy and tact, should help you come up with a plan that has everyone sitting comfortably.

A plan is usually better than no plan

Why not keep everything loose and informal, let people go with the flow and just provide enough seats so it all feels free and easy?  Although this may sound like a great idea it’s probably not so smart in practice, especially when you have more than 50 guests.  People like to be led, and don’t want to make a faux pas by sitting somewhere they shouldn’t, or ending up amongst people they don’t get on with.  If you provide no guidance you’ll probably end up with a crowd of people all stood around and puzzling over which tables are for family (which family?), for friends (of the bride or the groom?), for kids (and does that include those over 16 but going on 30?) and who qualifies to sit with the happy couple.  

Do you need a seating plan if it’s a buffet?  That’s probably advisable, for the same reasons – you don’t want the same melee and confusion when people are juggling plates and glasses, plus half your guests can’t even get to the food as the buffet table is ringed by those unsure of where to head next.

A final reason for having a seating plan, and place cards, is that it makes everyone feel special – it shows you’ve thought about them, and taken the effort to make them feel welcome personally.

Fewer guests give you more freedom

If you have less than 50 guests a detailed plan is less essential.  You might want to pick one or two head tables for the two of you, best man, parents, bridesmaids and ushers (with name cards) then leave your other guests to seat themselves.  

Or you could choose a cocktail party or buffet format so that people drink standing up, eat sitting down, and alternate between the two.  If you opt for this format make sure you have enough seats and tables for older members of the party.

The Wedding Party Table

The newlyweds should sit at a long head table or round table, placed at the focal point of the room and usually identified by grander decorations and floral displays.  However, if the style is less formal another idea is to leave a few seats empty at every table so bride and groom can leave their places to spend a little time with each group.

The groom traditionally sits to the bride's right and the best man sits to her left. The maid of honour sits to the groom's right.  If the table is sufficiently large the other attendants can also be seated on this table.  In years gone by their partners would sit on other tables but this is seldom the case now.

Where do close family sit?

There is usually a large table for the immediate family with your parents and the groom’s parents sat opposite each other, accompanied by grandparents, the officiant and maybe some especially close friends.  Alternatively, each set of parents can host their own table, with their family members and close friends. When parents have divorced each may host his or her own table to avoid any possible issues or awkwardness.

Tips for guest tables

The dilemma here is whether it’s better to put groups of friends together or to split them up.  Use your judgement but the best idea is probably to mix a group of friends with a few fresh faces.  The chances are that a single bunch of good mates won’t fit on a single table so divide them into two and then add people they aren’t familiar with.

People are most comfortable when they are seated with those they know, so don’t ask an individual or couple to share a table where all the others are total strangers.  Even the most outgoing will struggle in these circumstances so at the very least try to place them next to an acquaintance or two.   In the case of guests who have never met any of the others try and pair them up with an individual or couple who share their interests or whose personalities are likely to be compatible.

Try to avoid creating a separate “singles” table as this might embarrass some guests.  A “children’s” table, however, is fine.  

We’re here to help

Whatever size or style of wedding you have in mind we have a wealth of experience we’re happy to share with you.  Arranging a seating plan that works for your family and friends can be stressful - but with our assistance, you can be sure we’ll find a way to make it all go swimmingly!