A wedding table plan, also known as a seating chart, is a way for you to organise where each of your wedding guests will sit. By creating a 2D representation of your table layout, you can assign guests to certain tables or even specific seats. This is displayed prominently at the entrance to the dining room, so that everyone can easily find their place.
With assigned tables, you can choose which guests sit at which table - for example, Table 1 is for the bride’s immediate family. But it’s up to your guests to decide who sits in which seat, so they’re allowed some freedom. If you have assigned seats, you can choose exactly who sits in which chair - you’ll need to order place cards to help your guests find their seat.
Unless your wedding is extremely small - under 20 guests - or you’re having a casual buffet instead of a sit-down meal, you definitely need a table plan. Otherwise, couples and families may not be able to find seats together, creating confusion and awkwardness. Table plans are also immensely helpful to caterers, who’ll need to know where to find the guests that have food allergies or other dietary needs.
If you’re not going to have a seating plan at your wedding, you need to make this very clear to your guests. They’ll be expecting to be told where to sit, and might be confused if they can’t see a table plan anywhere. Make sure to have an obvious sign saying “sit anywhere you’d like”, or something of the sort.
Why Do You Need a Table Plan at Your Wedding?
There are many reasons why you should have a table plan at your wedding. Although it requires a little extra effort and money to organise, a seating chart will help prevent many potential problems including awkwardness between guests, family drama and catering mix-ups.
1) Prevent Awkwardness
The number one most important reason why your wedding needs a seating chart is to prevent awkwardness and discomfort. Put bluntly, wedding guests prefer to be told where to sit. Do you remember the uncomfortable feeling of entering a class full of strangers or a cafeteria at school, and not knowing who to sit next to? A wedding without a seating plan is this exact situation, but on a bigger scale.
A great many of your wedding guests won’t know each other - your work colleagues won’t know your family, your partner’s old school friends won’t know yours, and so on. A seating plan will make your guests feel more comfortable, as you can make sure that everyone is sitting near people that they’re acquainted with.
2) Put a Stop to ‘Musical Chairs’
‘Musical chairs’ is a term used in the wedding industry used when guests keep switching seats with one another, and sitting at different tables. It refers to the childhood game involving circling a group of chairs and trying not to be caught without a seat.
The childhood game might be a lot of fun, but you don’t want guests playing musical chairs at your wedding. If you don’t have assigned seats, and guests keep changing their mind on where they’re sitting, it’ll create chaos and confusion. Drinks will get mixed up and your caterers won’t know who’s where (which could be dangerous if food allergies are involved).
It may also create a problem for venue staff - they need to move swiftly around the room, and won’t appreciate constantly being blocked by guests in the middle of switching seats.
3) Avoid Family Drama
In every family, there are people that don’t get on - whether it’s because they’ve had a falling-out, or just because their personalities clash. At best, there’s an awkward silence whenever they’re together. At worst, a full-on fight could break out (especially after a tipple). These are the types of people that might refuse to go to an event that the other one is attending. But, what do you do if you want them both to come to your wedding?
The answer is to have a seating plan. If Uncle Chris and Uncle Rob always end up arguing, seat them at separate tables, as far away as possible - ideally at opposite ends of the dining room. It’s a perfect way to prevent drama. If you have free seating, it’s impossible to have any control over family dynamics.
4) Introduce People
Weddings can be a great opportunity to meet and introduce like-minded people. But let’s be realistic - if left to our own devices, most of us would be reluctant to socialise (let alone sit) with people we don’t know. By having a seating plan, you can remedy this.
For example, if you just know that your work colleagues would get on very well with a certain group of your friends, you can seat them at the same table. This will act as a natural conversation starter for them. You can also slyly act as ‘matchmaker’ if you have any single friends that you think would get on well (but avoid having a dedicated “singles’ table”, as it’s embarrassing).
5) Ensure Couples Sit Together
A common problem with weddings that don’t have a seating chart is that the guests that enter the room last might not be able to find anywhere to sit. Even if there are 40 guests and 40 seats, this doesn’t take into account that people tend to avoid sitting next to someone they don’t know. Some guests will inevitably leave a single empty seat between themselves and a stranger.
This means you’ll end up with several empty chairs scattered randomly throughout the room. When the last few couples and families come in, they won’t be able to find seats together. It’s a bit like getting onto a bus with a friend, and having to split up because all that’s left are single seats next to other people. If you have a seating plan, on the other hand, you can ensure that every couple and family is able to sit together.
6) Help Out Your Caterer
Your caterer will deeply appreciate you having a seating plan. This is especially true if:
● You’re having a large wedding (over 100 guests)
● Not all of your guests are eating the same thing - e.g. they’ve chosen their own meals, or your younger guests are having kids’ meals
● Any of your guests have allergies, intolerances or other dietary requirements - even if they don’t seem relevant to the food you’re serving (the chefs will still need to prepare their food separately)
Providing your caterers with a seating chart, indicating which guests have chosen which dishes and any allergies, will be immensely helpful to their staff. It’ll allow them to serve your guests much more quickly and professionally. In fact, some venues/caterers will insist you make a seating plan for this very reason.
7) Stick to Your Schedule
The key to a successful wedding is ensuring that everything goes according to schedule. If something on the itinerary is delayed, or takes longer than anticipated, the whole day can be thrown out of whack.
Having a table plan will enable your guests to quickly find and take their seats. All they’ll need to do is locate their table and name tag according to your seating chart. If you don’t have a table plan, every one of your guests will need to scope the room to try and find spare seats that aren’t next to strangers. If they’re part of a couple or a family, this will take an especially long time, and could adversely affect the timing of the rest of the day.
How Do You Make a Wedding Table Plan?
So, how do you actually go about making a wedding table plan? First, get an idea of the floor plan in the dining room. Figure out (with the help of your venue) how many tables you’ll need, and how many places there’ll be at each one. This may vary according to the table’s shape (round, square, etc).
Next, decide whether to go with assigned tables, or assigned seats. Decide if you want a top table or a sweetheart table, and any other special tables (e.g. a kids’ table).
For your first draft, use pencil and paper to roughly plan out where your guests will sit. Make sure that you seat couples together, as well as immediate families (parents with children). Ideally, all of your guests should sit on a table with at least one or two people they know.
When it comes to making your final table plan, you have three main options:
● Design it yourself using spreadsheet, design or word processing software. This is the cheapest option, but it can be a hassle and take a lot of time.
● Use specialist seating chart software. This may be expensive - you’ll have to purchase it or pay a subscription fee to use it.
● Order your table plan from a professional wedding stationer, such as Bride and Groom Direct.
Purchasing your table plan from Bride and Groom Direct is the easiest option. All you have to do is input your table names or numbers, and your guests’ names - we’ll do everything else for you. You can also purchase wedding stationery, such as invitations and thank-you cards, that will match your table plan.