Wedding Reception Planning

Wedding Reception Planning – is it necessary to assign seating?

This is a question I am often asked by brides preparing for their wedding reception. Planning where each guest at your wedding should sit can bring on a serious headache, and many people hope they can avoid that particular chore altogether. Well I’m afraid the answer I give is generally ‘yes’. There are a number of problems with using unassigned seating in your wedding reception planning, including the following:

There may be an undignified rush for the ‘good seats’

It takes longer to get all your guests seated

Bad feeling is created by people saving chairs or whole tables for their friends

The last people to arrive will have to take the single seats that are left over

Couples and families with children may get split up

Hard of hearing guests may have to sit at the back where they can’t hear

Wedding Reception Planning – facts you need before you begin your seating plan

Wedding Reception Planning - table seating 1 Your seating plan will be governed to some extent by the size, shape and furniture of the venue you have chosen. As part of your wedding reception planning, call the venue well in advance to find out how many tables you will have access to, how these will be arranged, and how many people are seated at each table.

Your first decision, once you know the layout of the room, will be whether to assign specific seats, or just tables.

It is more common to assign seating in Europe, and this has the advantages that you have more control over wedding reception planning and can indulge in a little matchmaking!

In the US it is more common just to assign guests to a table, as this gives your guests the final choice over who to sit next to and means less work for you in designing the seating plan.

Take account of your guests’ special needs

When you send out your invitations make sure you ask whether your guests have any food allergies or special nutritional   needs. Having this information to hand can be a great help in wedding reception planning. If you have a large number of vegetarians and guests with food allergies or intolerances, it may be worth opting for assigning places, rather than simply tables, so it is easier for the caterers to get the right dish to the right guest.

You also need to take into account where you will place elderly guests, those with limited sight or hearing, parents with young children, pregnant women and disabled guests. Your wedding reception planning may need to ensure they have easy access to the toilets, or space for special equipment such as wheelchairs or highchairs. Many of these guests should be seated at tables that will not be cleared away for dancing space at the end of the meal, so they can remain seated if preferred.

Wedding Reception Planning – here are a few tips on arranging your seating plan

Try to group people of similar age or who have similar interests to keep conversation flowing

It is fine to mix the bride and groom’s families if that is more practical, after all you hope they will be meeting again many times in the future

Young children should sit with their parents but if you have a lot of older children you could consider a special children’s table

Try to get a balance of men and women on each table. If the bride and groom have a lot of single friends a singles table with alternate men and women can produce interesting results

Couples do not need to sit next to each other but should be placed on the same table. I once saw a couple leave the reception and eat at the pub down the road because they had been placed on different tables

Don’t worry about splitting up large groups of friends; they will have plenty of time to socialize over welcome drinks and dancing, so they do not all need to sit together during the meal

Make sure there is at least one person on each table that will try to start up a conversation, and if possible try to make sure that everybody knows at least one other person on their table

Wedding Reception Planning – dealing with family feuds

There are bound to be some people in your wedding party that don’t get on very well. Unfortunately you do need to factor this into your wedding reception planning if you want the day to go smoothly. Whether they are ex partners or family members that have a longstanding feud, it is best for you and your guests if you can keep them as far apart as possible during the meal. Try to make sure both parties have seats equally near the bride and groom so that you don’t appear to be taking sides in their argument.

Don’t be afraid to be different in planning your wedding reception

My final piece of advice is that it is your wedding so do whatever feels right for you. I recently attended a wedding in Sweden where there were a lot of guests that did not know any other people. The couple had decided to place a leaflet in each guest’s place listing the names of every other guest and a few interesting or amusing facts about each one. The description of my husband mentioned that he was a big fan of fast cars, and as luck would have it the guy sitting on my right worked for a motor racing team. Needless to say there was no shortage of conversation on our table.

Author: Priscilla Bernstein

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