Whichever trends weddings are going through, the seating plan is one of the elements that always seems to stick. Although the humble seating plan has gone through its fair few reincarnations over time, it’s generally agreed that to have a wedding that doesn’t descend into pandemonium at one of the earliest possible points, couples need to provide at least something to let their guests know what the seating arrangements are. They can be super daunting though, both in theory and in practice, so let us guide you through them.
The who’s who and who’s where
The politics of seating plans can get tricky, no matter how lucky you are with your family and their relationships. Firstly, ask the venue for a clear idea of how many people you can fit on tables, and the layout of the room for your particular day. Also ask them for the absolute maximum leeway that you have to play with – this way, you know what’s absolutely not doable.
Though everyone works differently, seating plans are definitely best done visually. Write every guest’s name on post-it-notes or ripped up slithers of paper, and arrange them literally as the tables would be, whether this is just on your kitchen work surface, or on a piece of cardboard. If you want to go full Monica, you can colour-coordinate your post-it-notes for easier sorting.
Weddings are definitely times for everyone to come together in love and recognition of the happy couple, but if you know you have some people best kept apart, it may be a good idea to start with fitting them into places you’re happy with. If you’re still worried about them causing problems, think about contingency plans – think about some of your other guests who you’d entrust with handling and minimising the situation. Let them know beforehand what you’re asking them to do, and put them on the same table. Also, if you feel this is appropriate, carefully raise the point with the people in question themselves, or get someone close to them to raise it for you in advance. (Again, deep breaths; we’re sure it’ll be absolutely fine, but being over-cautious here won’t hurt.)
Wedding tables are never as big as we’d like them to be, unless you’ve got huge long trestle tables. Instead of trying to stretch them to their absolute limit – always factor in elbow room! – just rest confident in the knowledge that people will talk to the people on the table next to them, and that there’ll be plenty of time for everyone to mingle and mix later.
It’s not all doom and gloom, then there’s the fun bit! Work out where everyone else will be sitting, and imagine how you’re going to feel when you’re announced as bride and groom and everyone’s there and beaming at you. As slips of paper aren’t the most sturdy of resources, susceptible as they are to the slightest wind or an inquisitive pet—make a hard copy of the plan as soon as its finalised – draw a tiny table map and then write accompanying lists.
Make sure you use names that are easily recognisable by the guest, too – don’t take it for granted that 3 Roberts will each of them be able to identify whether they’re Rob, Robbie or Robert. If you have guests with the same name who are easily distinguishable by their other half, think about writing them in as a couple on the seating plan – for example, Robbie & Mohini. Little things like this will vastly reduce the throng of guests all squinting to work out where they are when they’re called through – who knew weddings would involve traffic management too?!
For people who are still entirely clueless – and as an Ellie who once worked in a place where my colleagues were called Ella and Ellen and thus knows it can all get a bit too confusing—it might be worth having a bridesmaid, usher, or member of venue staff with a knowledge of the table plan to help completely lost souls.
Forget politics, think about the aesthetics
Now you know how to construct a fool-proof seating plan, you can turn to the fun bit of deciding how it’s going to look. The days where the only viable plans were A3 boards on an easel are long gone, and everyone is flexing their creative muscles here. If you fancy departing from tradition too, we’ve got some inspo for you below:
Update the easel with a blackboard, mirror, photoframe, or pallet
We love these examples from The Chalk Spot.
Don’t have a seating plan – have a painted sign telling people they can sit wherever they like, and place it near a table full of escort cards or gifts for people to take to their table with them
This is a great example from Heather Elizabeth Photography.
Depart from the 2D with a wishing tree, crates or a ladder filled with pot plants, or a bicycle wheel, chest of drawers or typewriter.
How cute is this daisy decorated bike wheel from Magpie Eye Photography?
Use photos instead of names, embarrassing your guests just before your best man embarrasses you!