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Wedding Seating Etiquette


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Even if your plans are to have a smaller wedding ceremony and reception, you are probably going to need a wedding seating plan.  For larger guest lists and sit down meals especially, you should put together a wedding seating arrangement.  Observing proper wedding seating etiquette when formulating your seating plan will help make the process easier.

The wedding reception meal is a big part of your wedding day and a point of enjoyment for guests.  With a wedding seating arrangement, you can ensure that guests will be spared from attempting to find a seat at a table with their friends and family – an exercise that often leaves wedding guests who know few people feel unwelcome.  Instead, you can seat guests in an arrangement where they’ll be happiest, sitting with people that they get along with.  wedding seating etiquette, wedding seating arrangement

Wedding Seating Plan Options

When you start thinking about your wedding seating, you have a few different options:

1.       Have no seating plan – this may be appropriate for buffet meals or informal events with fewer than 50 guests

2.       Assign each guest to a table – this is where you would assign your guests to tables but leave the seating choice up to the group at each table

3.       Assign each guests to a seat – in this scenario, you would choose the table and specific seat for each guest

Arranging the Top Table

The first thing that you need to do when thinking about your wedding seating arrangement is to determine whether you would like a top table or not.  The top table (also called the head table) is typically central to the reception seating plan.  The table can be placed at the front of the room against a wall or in the center of the reception hall.  Sometimes the top table is further distinguished by a special centerpiece.

Traditionally, the wedding seating arrangement for the top table consists of the bride and groom, the bride’s parents, the groom’s parents, the best man, the maid of honor, the groomsmen and bridesmaids or any combination of these.  It is completely up to you who you include in the top table seating plan; the only sure rule for wedding seating etiquette is that the bride and the groom sit side by side. 

A sample wedding seating arrangement for the top table is as follows: the best man sits next to the groom’s mother who is then seated beside the bride’s father, then the bride, the groom, the bride’s mother, the groom’s father and then the maid of honor. 

Just remember that you are not bound by wedding seating etiquette and you can change up the top table seating arrangement to fit your needs.  For example, if your parents are divorced and have remarried, you may want to include their current spouses in the seating plan.  Alternatively, you may choose to forgo a top table and have a romantic table for just the bride and groom.  You could also decide to sit among your family and friends at the reception.

Seating Tips for Other Tables 

1.       While seating you guests at tables with just their group of friends or family will help them to be comfortable, it is likely to encourage a clique like atmosphere and discourage mingling at the wedding.  At the other end of the spectrum, a table where strangers are all seated together will be very uncomfortable for your guests.  You should attempt to strike a balance and arrange a mixture of guests where everyone knows a few people at their table.  Also, it helps to think about the interests (like travel) and age groups (like seniors versus college students) of the guests at each table.  Conversation will flow between guests who have something in common. 

2.       Seating singles may be a challenge that needs a little more creativity on your part.  Wedding seating etiquette frowns upon assigning a designated singles table.  Try to seat groups of singles among couples that they know.  This way, singles won’t feel so conspicuous and they won’t feel like the only single person at the wedding either.

3.       If you the tables you are using are round, the general etiquette is to assign seats for men and women alternately around the table.  If you are using rectangular tables or tables set in a horseshoe or E-shape, arrange couples to sit opposite from one another, again alternating men and women on both sides of the table.

4.       Also, depending on where your top table is located, the tables closest to the bride and groom should be assigned to the closest friends and family.

5.       Each table should be assigned a number or better yet a name that goes along with your wedding theme.  For example, if you are having a garden wedding you may name the tables after different flowers like “magnolia,” “daisy,” or “sweet pea.”  One of the great things about using table names in lieu of numbers is that it removes any perceived hierarchy of the tables. 

6.       To help wedding guests find tables, you should have the table name placed conspicuously on the tables and you should create a name place card for each guest.  If there are any special menu requests, you can indicate them with a special symbol on the place card.  When you are only assigning tables and not seats, you can place cards (informing guests which table they’re assigned to) on a table at the entrance to the wedding reception.  When you assign guests tables and seats, you will additionally need place cards for each setting at a table.  Have fun creating and displaying the place cards and keep in mind that they don’t have to be printed on plain paper.  You can incorporate the wedding favor into the place card as well.

7.       Inform your reception location about your wedding seating arrangement by giving them a copy.  Discuss any problems with the site manager. 
Creating the Wedding Seating Plan

You’ll want to start work on your wedding seating arrangement as soon as you have a rough head count for the wedding day.  You can put the seating plan together before all of your RSVP’s have arrived, but if you do this be prepared to make a few minor changes before the big day. 

To start creating your plan, ask your wedding reception site about the types of tables they provide.  Then decide what sort of layout you’d like to use for the tables.  You can arrange the tables in a circular form, a horseshoe, an E-shape or any number of ways.  Find out how many seats fit at each table and work from there.

Arranging the plan should take about a week’s time and once it’s completed you may still need to revise it before the wedding.  It’s a good idea to make paper cutouts of each table and smaller paper pieces representing each guest.  Figure out the best seating arrangement by placing the cutouts into different layouts and then sketch the end plan on a sheet of paper.  If you have a very large wedding, this may not work for you.  In this case, you may want to use a computer program to help you create a wedding seating arrangement.  These programs are available online and are typically very easy to use, possibly saving you hours of frustration in your wedding planning.