Organising where people will sit at your wedding is one of the most complex and stressful aspects of planning your wedding. You will have to consider step-parents, children and single friends and, if my wedding was anything to go by, you will also have to cope with family politics.
However, don’t even consider doing without a table plan. A table plan means your guests can relax over the welcoming drink without having to rush to “baggsy” a table with their friends. It also means that any single people will be welcomed onto a table without feeling embarrassed.
These tips for organising your wedding table plan will guide you through the dos and don’ts of table planning and give you some handy hints on how to ensure a peaceful day.
1. Prepare – although you will probably have discussed the number of tables and layout with your venue before you booked, it is worth contacting them again about 6 weeks prior to the wedding. Although you will not quite have finalised the numbers by then, you will have a pretty good idea. You need to discuss whether the tables are round, square or long tables, how many can be seated on a table and whether extra places can be squeezed in if necessary (can a table for 8 be a table for 9?).
2. Final Numbers – you should have final numbers by 2 weeks before your wedding. You will need to inform the caterers and the venue of the numbers and you will need to put together the table plan to send to your stationer fairly quickly to allow printing and proof-reading.
3. Top Table – start with the top table. The traditional people on the top table are the bride and groom, both sets of parents and the best man and chief bridesmaid. However this traditional arrangement is often not appropriate. You may want to have your own children at the top table and numbers may be complicated by parents having been divorced. Chat with the venue to find out how many you can seat at the top table or, if it is all too complicated, have a sweetheart table just for the two of you. Once you have finalised the top table you can start populating the rest of the tables, bearing in mind the next few tips….
4. Don’t split couples up – the only exception is that traditionally the partners of the best man and chief bridesmaid do not sit at the top table
5. Mix and Match – you do not have to stick with one extended family being together or all the friends together. Instead think of age ranges and interests in seating your guests. If you have a group of teenagers it is worth giving them a young persons’ table of their own.
6. Do not have a “singles” table – sit your single friends and relatives with people you think they will get on with, this is when you may need that extra place on a table. They will not thank you for match-making.
7. Children’s Table – if you are having children at the wedding it is worth having a children’s table, with extra activities available. If you do this, arrange beforehand for a couple of adults to oversee them – pay a childminder if necessary. If the children are very small or there are only two or three, they should sit with their parents.
8. Design – once you have decided on where everyone is going to sit, you need to design your table plan. Your plan should blend in with your overall wedding theme and will often come as part of your wedding stationery. You need to ensure it is simple and easy to read. You will also need to make sure that the table numbers/names are clear both on the table plan and on the tables.
9. Have an organiser – if you don’t have a wedding planner ask either an usher or bridesmaid to help people find their places.
10. Be Flexible – however well-organised you are, there will be changes close to the wedding. Someone will phone two days before saying they can now come and others will call off with illness. It will happen. Make sure you have a right-hand-man who will sort these little hitches out on the day so you don’t have to.