It’s that time of year when lots of you will be making your final wedding plans and tackling the big wedding elephant in the room, that of the wedding seating plan. Today’s post is not about how to plan who sits where.
Wedding Seating Plans
Here, I’m focusing on how to best present your plan to allow guests to find their seats easily and quickly on the big day, but not forgetting the eye-catching design factor. And in that sentence is my order of priorities – a seating or table plan needs to function in a practical sense and that should always be borne in mind when you design it. I often see gorgeous plans presented in some simply stunning ways but if you have a big guest list (over 80) then beware!
So here’s what to consider:
The Big Alpha
Where possible try to organise your visual seating plan where people can find their names in alphabetical order (up to you if it’s first name or surname but if you have lots of guests with the same surname this might dictate) for speed. Now this works well on an easel-based wedding seating plan, although lots of couples are tempted to list their seating in terms of actual table order.
There’s nothing wrong in that and I’m a big fan of showing a rough room layout if we can but if your guest numbers are more than 80-100, think about providing two lists. One in room/table layout order and the other a pure alphabetical list with table name/number next to each name. Having 300 guests trying to scan a plan that’s only in table number order will be very frustrating and slow down your guests taking their seats which can have a knock-on effect on meal service.
When working out how you’re going to present your plan, think about your guest list and how likely it is that you’re going to have some cancellations and last-minute changes. Fact: every wedding I’ve ever organised has had some last-minute unexpected changes (maybe 2-3 guests) but some have much more than that and those couples tend to know that their guest list will be prone to lots of adjustment. If that’s you, be realistic about how best to present your plan.
Handwriting or calligraphy on one easel-based plan is not for you, nor perhaps are complex print processes that involve lots of time such as engraving or foil blocking. The most flexible system I know for making guest changes on the day itself without affecting the look of any plan is to use a placement card system – this way tables can be changed and guests removed or added without anybody knowing anything different and the wedding seating plan table can be quite a lovely pretty feature. Guests see their name arranged alphabetically and inside the envelope or on the back of the card is their table name or number.
Seeing it twice
If you’re going for an easel option, think carefully about positioning. Some guests will be organised and check their seating location whilst they are enjoying a pre-dinner drink, others will only want to look just as they are called for dinner. Think about having the seating plan positioned in two locations to hit both of these requests but if you only plan to have one plan, position it just before entry to the wedding breakfast.
Going pretty and a backup plan
If you really can’t resist a true visual spectacle of your wedding seating plan (and there are some beauties that I’ve helped design), then go for it and make it stunning to your heart’s content but my advice is always to have a simple backup plan in alpha order to hand, as guests enter the wedding breakfast too.
As a planner I always position myself at the entrance to the wedding breakfast as guests take their seats; my reason for this is twofold – one I get to enjoy the gasps as guests take in the beauty of the room design that we’ve worked so hard on and secondly, I’m there to assist guests who have not found their way around the pretty seating plan and just want to know what table they are headed for and where.
I hope today’s tips are useful. One final tip, if you have your heart set on a beautiful feature wedding seating plan and last-minute changes upset that, bear in mind that you can produce that stunning plan after the wedding and have it framed. That way it’ll be 100% perfect, a reflection of who was actually there and not likely to have any mucky fingerprints on it!