How To Organise Your Wedding Seating Plan
Okay guys...the seating plan. Entrenched in politics and subtext, never has sitting next to someone for a couple of hours been such a debated issue. So how do we navigate this complex minefield, and ensure that there is no hashtag awkwardness at your wedding meal.
First thing is first, you have to decide how many people you are going to sit around each table. This will depend on whether you have round tables, or long banquet tables. Round tables usually sit 8-12 people each, and banqueting tables can sit anywhere from 20-30 people depending on the length. There are benefits to both; with round tables, you can easily group people you want to sit together. With long tables, you have fewer groups to decide on. So, it’s up to you and what suits your venue best.
Top table should usually be the quickest to decide, so it’s good to tackle this one straight away. In terms of who gets to sit here, etiquette dictates that it should be Bride, Groom, Mother of Bride, Father of Bride, Mother of Groom, Father of Groom, Best Man and Maid of Honour. You can stop it there, or add more people depending on who you want sat there with you. Some people add on brothers and sisters or even grandparents and step-parents. You all sit in a long-line with no-one opposite, so you just have to make chit-chat with the person on either side of you. Luckily it’s mostly your family and if they’re gutted about sitting next to each other for one meal then may I suggest family therapy. Just kidding...
Once this is done, you can turn your attention to everyone else . Unless you have major family rifts then seat your extendeds by individual family groups. And by this I mean: one aunty, uncle + their children = one family group. Sit them on a table along with another family who they get on well with. Keep going until they are all seated. I am from an Italian family and so three quarters of the tables at my wedding will probably be made up of these little family territories. If there are problematic dynamics between some members of your extended family then sit them on tables that are at opposite ends of the rooms - they might not have seen each other in a while, and your wedding is the last place you want them to be throwing digs and snipes at each other. Frosty conversation and biting comments don’t make for a wonderful wedding soundtrack.
Next up, group your friends into their own friendship groups. I’m sure you will have friends from all of the different areas of your life and so it just makes sense to have the ones that know each others sit together. Get your partner to do this with their friends as well as they will know who gets on best with who etc, better than you might. Don’t concentrate on which seat people are sitting in at this stage, just at which table they are going to be sitting at. It will be easier to decide who is sitting next to who once you’ve made all of the table decisions. If you feel like this is the most tedious thing you’ve ever done the you’re probably doing it right.
Once all of your different friends have a table then it’s time to make the hardest decisions - the ‘miscellaneous’ table. Don’t, under any circumstances, let them know that this is what you categorised their table as, but as a point of reference it’s fine. These groups of people are the guys you are invited from fairly separate points of your life - it might be your mum’s oldest friend and her partner, or your old piano teacher who you kept in touch with. They are the people who are close enough to you to be invited to your wedding but may not fit into another category, or know any other people at your wedding. This task is easier if you just have 8-12 people who may not know anyone else, as then you can just form one straight up table for them. It genuinely does make sense for them to sit together as people at this table often have the most meaningful (ie. not phatic) conversations, as they actually take the time to get to know one another, and enjoy finding out how everyone else on the table knows the bride and groom.
Once everyone has a table, you can begin deciding exactly which seat your guests are going to sit in. For this, you need to decide on the dynamics of each group. An example of something to consider is if you have a friendship group in which two people have dated and since split up. You may want to invite them both to your wedding and have them sit at the same table, but common sense will tell you to sit them a few seats away from each other, rather than next to or opposite (awkward eye contact anyone?) Conversely, if you have two friends who you really want to matchmake, then go to town with sitting them next to each other… and making sure their wine glasses are always full to the brim.
Other factors you can use to group people include: political views, vegan extremism and Harry Potter fanatics (there’s always at least two of those at any given wedding).
There are a whole bunch of different methods that you can use to actually map out your seating plan, but I think that tiny sticky notes (you know the ones that you brought for marking the pages of your books back in #uni days?) work best. They’re small enough to fit around the teeny tiny table drawings, and you can move them around without hassle when deliberating over where people should sit. The OCD person in me is literally having a field-day typing this right now.
Before I go, I will just end on some advice for the guests… Now you have read this post, you will appreciate the effort that the bride and groom have gone to to figure out the seating plan and put you in the exact seat that they think is best for you, them, everyone in attendance etc. It is therefore soooooo frustrating when someone at the wedding comes along and swaps the place cards around so that they can sit where they want. My cousin and I did it at a wedding recently, where the tables were long and in rows of about 20, thinking it would not make much difference. Little did we know that the coordinator had allocated everyone’s meals to their seat and so we really could have messed up the whole dinner service. Take a lesson from Ross Geller here folks, swap your place card to sit next to the pretty girl / boy and you could actually find yourself sat at the kiddie’s table. And there’s going to be no-one for you to flirt with there...