Some receptions don’t require a wedding table plan. For example, if you’re hosting an intimate buffet with just your closest family and friends, then you can probably save yourself the hassle.
However, if you’re serving a larger sit-down dinner, then it’s likely you’ll need to assign people places.
Why bother with a seating plan?
Not all couples are a fan of this formality and let’s face it, this task isn’t something to take lightly. So, you’re probably wondering whether it’s worth the hassle? The simple answer is yes, yes it is. Namely, for these three reasons:
- People like to know where they’re sitting. It immediately removes any social politics from the equation, and your guests will appreciate the time and effort you’ve gone to, to create a seating plan.
- Your caterer will thank you for it. When you have a larger group of people you’re bound to have a few guests with intolerances, allergies, or special dietary requirements (vegetarians, vegans, etc.). This helps to ensure that the right dinners go to the correct people!
- Quash any drama before it happens. If there are known tensions between your guests be sure to seat them at different tables, the last thing you want is for world war three to break out on your special day!
So without further ado, let’s dive into our top tips on how to create the perfect wedding table plan.
1.) The Earlier the Better
Would you believe that some couples put off doing this until the night before?! Don’t let this be you, this task is often way more complicated than you’d first think!
You’ll need to free up the week before your wedding as much as possible because you’ll have plenty of bits and bobs to attend to, so undoubtedly you’ll have limited time.
We always recommend starting your seating plan a few months before your big day. Don’t get us wrong, you’ll probably need to make a few final tweaks to factor in any last minute cancellations, etc. However, your table plan should be pretty much done at least a week before your wedding.
Top Tip: Before you start to craft your seating plan, source a floor plan of your reception venue, this way you’re forced to take your floor space into consideration. Naturally, this info is essential when you’re renting chairs and tables!
Plus, you’ll need to bear in mind how many people can fit comfortably around each table (otherwise your table plan won’t work).
2.) Keep Things Logical
Our best advice to you is to open up a new spreadsheet and break everything down logically. You may want to consider creating the following columns:
- Friends (split them into specific social groups)
- Your family
- Your partner’s family
Once you have all these lists together you’ll start to see natural groups of people that would work together on a table. However, don’t feel restrained to stick to those ‘cliques’ it’s okay to mix things up a bit (but more on that later).
Alternatively, if you and your partner are more visual, you may want to draw out your wedding table plan. Grab a large-size piece of paper and draw circles (to symbolize the tables) and then write names inside them.
3.) Top Table Etiquette
Traditionally, the top table’s long and straight, and placed at the head of the room, on a raised platform. Typically, the bride and groom are sat in the middle so they can see everyone, and so that everyone can see them.
Then from there, the best man sits next to the bride and the maid of honor next to the groom. Then, your close family is sat in alternative male/female placements.
However, don’t feel pressured to conform to tradition. You should organize it how you feel most comfortable, if the thought of sitting on display freaks you out, then don’t. There really isn’t a ‘right way’.
Other favorite top table combinations include:
- The bridesmaids sitting to the bride’s side and the groomsmen to the groom’s
- You and your spouse on a sweetheart table, and your wedding party sat on a separate table/(s)
- You and your new husband/wife sat with your parents. Then, the rest of the wedding party at their own tables.
You get the idea, you can pretty much work it any way that suits you!
4.) Think About Your Parents
Traditionally, both your parents and your partner’s parents sit on the top table (alongside your grandparents and siblings who aren’t in the wedding party).
However, this can get a little tricky if your parents are divorced and can’t stand to be near one another. In situations like this, we recommend allowing each parent to host their separate tables with their own friends and family.
At the end of the day, you know your parents best so pick a seating situation that works best for you and your guests. The aim of the game is to minimize the likelihood of any dramas breaking out on your big day.
Top Tip: Be sure to speak to your parents. There’s no use guessing what they’re comfortable with, you should consult them before you make any final plans. That way you eliminate the chances of them experiencing any nasty shocks on your special day.
5.) Mix and Match
Once you’ve figured out the top table, you can then begin to seat the rest of your guests. This then begs the question, should you force people to mingle? Or, just keep people in groups they already know?
If you’re planning on shaking things up, be aware that people feel most comfortable when they’re sitting with people they already know.
So, try and make sure everyone knows at least one other person on their table. The chances are, even your most outgoing of friends won’t enjoy sitting at a table full of strangers.
In the event you have a guest who doesn’t know anyone, then try and seat them with other like-minded guests.
Alternatively, if you have a group of friends who won’t fit on one table, split them down the middle and fill them with other guests, just don’t leave one person out!
When it comes to placing your parent’s friends, this can be a little trickier because you may not be fully aware of all the social dynamics involved. If you fall into that category then let your parents or your partner’s parents handle that. Trust us, they’ll be thrilled to get involved!
Other Things to Consider
If you’re opting for traditional round-style tables, then usually, you’d sit people so that men and women alternate with one another. i.e., you sit boy/girl around the table.
This is one of the easiest ways to balance your tables with even numbers of males and females. Plus if you’re worried about things getting too cliquey, having an array of men and women is an excellent way of ensuring the conversation stays varied.
Whereas, if you have longer tables, typically, you’d sit couples opposite one another.
The closest tables
Whether you opt for table names or numbers, we recommend reserving the tables closest (in proximity) to the bride and groom for your closest friends and family.
It makes sense for tradition to dictate that because chances are you’ll want to be surrounded by your nearest and dearest on your special day!
It’s becoming increasingly common for couples to choose table names rather than numbers.
This is because even if you’ve sorted your tables completely randomly, some of your guests will attach a kind of ranking system to the numbers- one being the table of honor, and gradually working their way down the ranks from there
Obviously, not all of your guests will be as touchy as this. However, you could see how quickly this lends itself to becoming awkward.
In an upcoming article we’re covering ideas for table names, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for more inspiration on this topic!
Alternatively, for smaller receptions, table assignments work. So, instead of giving your guests a set place, you provide them with a table name or number, and they just take a random seat on that specific table.
This is great if you’re having a more intimate reception, and you know that the people on each of the tables will get on with one another.
Plus, you save a bit of money on place cards- win-win!
Placing Singles and Couples
Weddings are a fabulous opportunity to play cupid. If you have two friends you’ve been itching to set up, then this is a prime opportunity to do so!
However, we urge you not to create a designated singles table as this can really embarrass your guests. Likewise, putting one lone singleton on a table of newlyweds may not make for a comfortable dining experience!
We also recommend keeping families together, this often makes things easier for everyone concerned especially if they have young children.
However, the only real rule you should follow (mainly for your own peace of mind) is to NEVER place exes on the same table. Even if they’re ‘friends now.’
Weddings are emotional at the best of times, without complicated feelings rising to the surface on your special day. This day is about you, so don’t let any other dramas steel your thunder.
When it comes down to it, it’s just about treating the situation with a little sensitivity and using a bit of common sense. Trust your gut- it usually knows best!
Place Cards, Escort Cards or Seating Chart?
Hopefully, the above advice has helped to steer you in the right direction when it comes to planning your wedding table plan.
Now that’s sorted, let’s dive into a couple of accessories that’ll help you pull off the logistics.
What are place cards?
Place cards display the name of your guest, just pop them at their specified table setting, that way they’ll easily see where their designated seat is.
To see a plethora of beautiful place card designs by Minted, click here!
What are escort cards?
Escort cards are typically displayed somewhere close to the entrance and are arranged in alphabetical order.
Usually, these display a name and table number for the guest to see. They then head over to their designated table and select their own seat.
However, you can use escort cards in conjunction with place cards to designate seats- you choose whatever works for you!
To browse through stunning escort cards, click here!
What’s a seating chart?
Your wedding table plan is usually displayed in table groups (i.e. a table name or number and then a list of names on that table), in a gorgeous frame, close to the entrance of your wedding breakfast.
We hope this article helped you out! This process may seem long and tedious but trust us, when you’re wedding reception’s underway, and it’s running like clockwork, you’ll be thankful you made the effort.
The long and short of it is, that there aren’t any ‘wrong’ decisions, trust your gut, and hope for the best- we’re sure everything will work out fine!
If it all gets too stressful, try not to worry about it too much because eventually most of your guests will get up and start to mingle anyway!
P.S. If you’re on the hunt for beautiful place cards or escort cards we recommend checking out Minted’s collection. We can personally vouch for their quality, and they’re designs are to die for!
P.P.S If you enjoyed this article then we’re confident you’ll love this article we published a couple of weeks ago; 7 Versatile Favor Tags All DIY Brides Should See! Enjoy!
Also, if you have any further advice on how to organize a wedding table plan, please feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!
Rosie Greaves- Freelance writer, and wedding and relationships expert.
*Please note, our affiliate links are used throughout this post. However, we only feature brands with whom we have a good working relationship with, and can provide excellent quality products. Happy planning!