Is your Seating Plan driving you nuts?

It’s time to organise the dreaded Wedding seating plan! Where do you start when your Groom’s mother and her mother-in-law cannot stand each other, your Father’s new partner insists on being at the top table, your pregnant cousin needs to be seated near the toilets, your Auntie Frances and Uncle Tony have been arguing for 20 years, your friend from Uni only knows you, your best friend has had a recent break-up and is paranoid about coming to the Wedding on her own and you are only inviting your overbearing boss out of politeness but do not want her sitting with any of your family? With all the issues you know are apparent, is it really worth the stress of making a seating plan? Why not just let everyone sit wherever they like?

Simon’s Studio

You may feel like skipping a formal Wedding seating plan but if you have ever attended a Wedding without one, then you will know how stressful this can become for guests. Think though the scenario of the those who run to grab a full table so all their ‘pals’ can sit together, bagging seats with jackets; elderly relatives who are not so fast are left to sit at the back of the room effectively being able to hear nothing of the speeches; your best friends who will spend all afternoon at the bar chatting and making other guests feel at ease, miss the call for the seat scramble and end up sitting at the kids’ table; your single girlfriends cannot sit together as there are only odd numbers left at tables so they all end up split up and feeling awkward and that horrible boss strolls right up to the front and places herself at the first table in front of the top table so she’s right in your eye line all, day, long!

John Carroll Photography

The only scenario where you could get away with not having a Wedding seating plan is if your reception is more intimate with 50 guests or fewer. Otherwise, grab some paper, pens and post-it notes, open a bottle of wine and take a little time together to discuss and develop a thoughtful seating plan. You can create an enjoyable Wedding dining experience that will make almost everyone feel welcome and comfortable, saving guests from experiencing dinner school dash flashbacks. If nothing else, think of this as the greatest power trip ever as you get to tell everyone where and with whom, they will sit!

Denise McDonald Photography

Where to Start

Before creating your Wedding seating plan, it is a good idea to obtain the floor plan from the Venue and make several copies. This way, you can experiment with various different arrangements before making your final decision. Find out from the Venue if the reception will be seated using round or long tables and how many guests can be accommodated comfortably at a table before you do anything else.

Begin by grouping guests in lists according to how you know them: family, friends from different aspects of life like childhood friends, high school pals, college roommates, work colleagues and things will be a lot less daunting.

If you are using round tables, the general etiquette is to seat males and females alternately around the table. If you are using long tables, seat couples opposite one another and then alternate male/females along the table.

John Carroll Photography

Top Table Arrangements

The Wedding Party table should be placed where the Bride and Groom can see and be seen, by as many guests as possible. While the traditional top table, the Bride and Groom seated at a long table flanked by the Wedding Party, is still favoured by most, alternatives are often introduced as family structures get more complicated.

The traditional layout of:

Groom’s Father-Bride’s Mother-Best Man-Groom-Bride-Chief Bridesmaid-Bride’s Father-Groom’s Mother

does not suit all and you should never feel restricted by convention. It may be more sensitive for example, when parents have split up and are possibly with a new partner to not have parents sit at the top table. An alternative is to have the Bride and Groom’s parents host their own tables, consisting of their family members and close friends. In the case of divorced parents, each parent may also host his or her own table, smoothly diffusing any awkwardness or discomfort. Remember that every room has 4 corners if needed!

Gail Photography

If you are worried that you cannot fit all Wedding Party attendants at the top table and someone might feel left out because they aren’t on the top table, ask them to host one of the other tables. Make it clear who is hosting each table on the seating plan in order to make them to feel involved.

You may want to avoid the top table altogether and have a romantic table for two, called a sweetheart table like David and Victoria Beckham had, or sit with other friends and family at your own round table, still within a top or central position. If you do choose to sit at a round table, do make sure that the Bride and groom are still facing the room and that you have thought through where the speeches will take place so no speaker has their back to the room or anyone at their table.

Lorna Thorburn Photography

wedding seating planDenise McDonald Photography

Tips For Other Table Arrangements

The tables closest to the Bride and Groom should be reserved for the closest friends and family.

Seating tables with just one family group will let them relax, but won’t do much to encourage mingling among both families. Try to seat members of the Bride and Groom’s families on tables together, if it won’t cause friction. It is their best chance to get to know each other and that is important for your future together.

Should you put friends together or seat them with unfamiliar people? The answer is a bit of both. While it is a great idea to mix in a few new faces at each table, remember that people are most comfortable when they know some of their dinner companions so try to be considerate. Not even your most outgoing friends will want to sit at a table full of complete strangers, so put some acquaintances together when you can. If you have a group of friends that cannot fit at one table, split them down the middle, and fill in each table with other guests. Whatever you do, don’t leave one of the gang out on their own. Try and arrange a mix on each table – so everyone knows a few people. By thinking about guest’s ages and interests you can make sure that each table is likely to get on and have fun!

wedding seating planMaureen Bell Photography

If you’ve been dying to fix your cousin up with your fiancé’s best friend from college, you might want to wield this new found power to very discreetly seat them next to each other but make sure it isn’t obvious or you’ll be rumbled. Resist the urge however, to create a completely separate singles table though, as this might embarrass your guests, particularly female guests. Don’t seat your one unmarried friend at a table full of gushing newlyweds. Use some good old common sense and imagine yourself in their position at that table.

Generally you should try to put work colleagues together as they possibly will not know anyone except each other.

If you have guests who don’t know anyone at all, seat them near guests with similar interests.

wedding seating planGail Photography

Try to place pregnant, elderly and disabled guests and guests with small children where they have easy access to toilets and other facilities. Don’t seat them at tables that are going to be removed to make space after the meal. Elderly guests may have poorer hearing and eyesight. Do try to put them where they can see and hear any speeches.

If you have several children at your Wedding, you could seat them together at a separate kids’ table equipped with colouring books and crayons. If your flowergirl and page boy/ringbearer are the only children present, just seat them with their parents.

If you have a number of paid Wedding Suppliers you intend to feed, like the photographer or videographer, you may want to assign them to a separate table. Do remember they will need to be fed as they have been on the go all day and may still have another few hours ahead to cover.


Naming Tables

Give each table a name or number. Table names could be themed – for example, people, objects, songs or places that are relevant to you as a couple. Names also remove the perceived hierarchy of tables. You should create a name card for each table or check if your Venue may do this for you, so that guests can easily find their table. If you are assigning guests to specific seats at each table, you should also create name place cards.

Remember that once the Wedding meal begins, the Bride may have taken the name of the Groom. If you are, make sure that the Wedding seating plan and place cards take account of this.

wedding seating plan
Gail Photography

Assigning your guests to tables is the simplest, most straightforward way to organise your Wedding reception meal but no matter how perfect your final Wedding seating plan seems to you, you will undoubtedly receive at least one last minute phone call begging you to change something to make a guest happy or may have last minute cancellations which knock out your numbers. Try to be accommodating but do not get overly stressed over it, you have enough to be contending with and people only have to sit at that table during dinner, after that they will move and mingle as they wish.




When in doubt with the Wedding seating plan, trust your instincts and if you need any guidance, please feel free to contact us at

15th July 2018