Are you getting ready to make your wedding table plan? Doing some push-ups, arm-wrestling with your other half, and running alongside the bus instead of getting on it? You’re going to need all the strength to tackle this one. Or… you could just take it easy and read our brilliant advice below. It’s the no-nonsense two-step plan that really works.
It comes with a tiny bit of pre-thinking – you may like to decide whether you actually want a table plan or not. Maybe you’d prefer for your guests to mingle freely, and you believe letting them sit where they want will help the two families integrate that bit better? Click here to read a few helpful words on why you should consider not having one at all.
Still want to proceed? Let’s begin. The key to this plan is to split everything into two – do the first part anytime, and the rest after your final numbers are confirmed.
Image from Tara & Fionan’s real wedding by Daniel from DKPHOTO
Make your wedding table plan – step one
Do the prep. By now you will have found the venue, agreed on the number of guests, and sent the invites. You have a general idea how many people are coming.
Email or call your venue and ask what type of tables they have, how many, what shape, and how many people will fit comfortably at each. How easy will it be to add or take away chairs, add or take away a table, and do they have a smaller one for the kids (if you’re looking to have a kids only table)? Is the venue planning on purchasing new tables before your wedding comes around? Can they help if a guest shows up with an unexpected plus-one? And finally, can they send you their room layout by email? If not, you may have to get creative and do some drawing yourself – stick figures are more than welcome (or have a look about online for a table planner tool to help make your life easier). If you think of another question, you’ll have plenty of time to contact the venue again and get your answers.
Once you have all the answers and the room layout, set aside some uninterrupted time – alone, or with someone who’s actually interested. If your other half isn’t interested at this point, leave them out of it until the second step. Just get someone who actually wants to help. Mum? Chief Bridesmaid? Sister? But don’t involve too many people either, too many opinions can make your table planning quandary even more difficult.
Print a few copies of the layout. Pick a place for your top table, family tables, and all the rest. Note where the toilets are, the speakers, and the nearest exits. Keep kids near parents in case intervention is needed. Keep the elderly away from the speakers and not too far away from the restrooms.
Count the chairs and calculate how many people will sit at each table.
Image from Maeve & Dylan’s real wedding by Tomasz Kornas Photography
Consider your top table – many brides get stuck here, because they have limited space and don’t want to offend anyone. Totally understandable! Click here to see all your top-table options, so you can figure out what works best for you.
Make a tentative note of how many couples you think are coming. Why? You’ll know when you get to step two!
Now, set aside everything you’ve done so far, and only take it out if you think of something you have to jot down. Have a glass of wine and raise a toast to yourself for a job well done.
Make your wedding table plan – step two
Fast forward the clock… you’ve now received your RSVPs and given the final numbers to the venue. You have the names of everyone who’s coming. It’s time to dig out your notes from step one. How is it all looking? Were your numbers far off, or has anything changed at the venue? Sharpen that pencil and get a good eraser.
Discuss mixing people from both families with your fiancé(e). What are yours and your partner’s preferences?
Grab your list of couples, and start with them. A good rule of thumb is to have two couples who know each other per table, with the rest of people filled in afterwards. If it doesn’t work out mathematically, you can have a couple plus two other people who know each other at some of the tables. That takes up four seats at each – so you now likely have only three or four seats to fill in. For banqueting tables, place two or three people between couples who know each other, and across. Proceed down the list of names and fill in accordingly. Start with people you know well, so it’s easy to place them into perfect seats.
Image from Riona & Thomas’s real wedding by Mark Fennell Photography
For people you don’t know very well (most likely your other half’s distant relations and friends you haven’t met yet) ask your fiancé(e), mother in law or anyone else who can help. As long as people who don’t like each other don’t sit in close proximity, you’ll be just fine. Your fiancé(e) should be involved at this point and sharing opinions on the table plan.
If you’re truly stuck about where to place some people, just write their names down and place to one side for now – you’re not finalising anything just yet. Instead of getting upset, put the plan aside. Look at it again in a day or two and see if any amends come to mind, then make them as needed. Start preparing a proper seating chart, the one that’ll be on display at the venue – here are some great ideas to give you inspiration.
Surprise! Some people will call you and ask to be placed next to – or away from – a particular person. Consider granting their request only if it’s a good reason. If you say yes to some people and no to others, it may create an awkward situation at some point – as in, ‘you said yes to Auntie Fiona, why are you saying no to me?’
We should add a word here about the singles table – it’s now a much outdated notion that should be finally put to rest. It does nothing but make people feel awkward, despite the good intentions behind it. So skip the singles table altogether, and mix groups of friends together instead.
Hooray, you’re nearly done! If you only managed a few tables, set everything aside and continue on another day. If you get mad at your table plan, it will start to look like an insurmountable challenge – and that’s not the point. A table plan, like any plan, needs to be made with a cool head, plus solid input from your fiancé(e). And when you’re ready to take a break, look for table décor inspiration like these stunning runners that don’t cost a fortune.
Has this helped? Let us know and share your questions in the comments!
Image from Laura & Moritz’s real wedding by Emma Russell Photography
Main image from Maria & Sean’s real wedding by Tomasz Kornas Photography
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If you think the bride should always have the last word, then Rachel is on your side! A devoted fan of everything quirky, unusual, colourful or crafty, she loves scouting WOL's real weddings for unique and fun touches. When not gazing at pictures, she's dispensing no-nonsense advice on everything from reception entrance songs to bridesmaid problems.