The invitations have been sent out and the wedding or event RSVP’s have been returned to you – what next? If you have not done so already I always advise to log your guest names and any rsvp information (e.g. dietary requirements) electronically – I find Excel is best for this and make sure you write in the cell exactly how you will be displaying the names on your tables e.g. ‘Natalie’ or ‘Natalie Wood.’ After logging the information it’s time to pull the seating plan together.
Now decide what format you will use to start allocating people to tables and my biggest tip here is to try not to over complicate things. Sometimes venues will have their own seating plan templates and this is a great place to start.
If you are using round tables I have used both table planning apps and sometimes for the more complicated plans, designed the seating plans myself using a graphics programme. For long and square tables I find an Excel sheet is easiest and does the job perfectly well.
For a small wedding or event there is nothing better than a pencil and paper or post it notes to start allocating guests to seats.
1. If you are not using a venue or caterers guidelines for the seating plan, before you start allocating guests to tables check the seating plan with the venue and caterer to ensure it works for them.
2. If it’s your wedding, anniversary or a birthday event place yourself or the special guest first – this makes it easier to place the other guests.
3. Check you can see everyone you want to and there are no obstructions from columns, flowers or other objects.
4. Look after your parents or other special guests – if they are not at the main table make them feel special with a memorable table name or a flower or gift at their place setting.
5. Sit much older guests together or, with people they know well and make sure it’s a table that won’t get moved later in the evening. They will also need to be able to hear any speeches so be aware of this. I would also ensure they didn’t have to walk too far and are perhaps near the toilets if possible. Space for any wheelchairs/frames or sticks would also be helpful.
6. Children and babies – If the children know each other then sit them next to each other if not, with their families is best. Be careful of sitting children too close to a PA system, power point, candles or other hazard and if they are babies or young children I would tuck them away or near an exit so parents can take them elsewhere if needed. For babies remember to allow room for a high chair.
7. Be aware of the tables you are using – with long tables especially, there are table legs and joins to consider. I will always try and place the younger or more agile guests at these.
8. Interests of guests – sit guests together with common interests. This is a nice one to do, especially at weddings as you are generally mixing different groups of friends and families together.
9. Be mindful when naming the tables – especially if they have negative connotations for your closest family and friends (e.g. your friend split with his girlfriend in that resort) but equally if positive (e.g. they got engaged there) then do sit them on that table!
10. The ex factor – I don’t think I will ever forget a friends birthday dinner and I was sat within arms reach of 3 ex boyfriends and their new partners – it totally ruined my evening! I’m absolutely certain my lovely friend didn’t mean to do this (yes we are still really good friends!) but it just shows how important it is to take the time and be thoughtful when designing your seating plan, it really can make or break an event for your guests.
Once you have allocated all your guests then your seating plan is almost complete. I find by using a different colour for babies, children and those with dietary requirements is useful.
Now you have completed your seating plan this information can also be used for your ‘Escort Cards’ or ‘Table Plan.’ These are less detailed and more design oriented and are displayed on the day to help guests find their table.
If your RSVP’s are in and you are feeling a little overwhelmed do contact us to see if we can help. The Black Sheep Wedding Company is a wedding planning company based in Surrey and can help you whatever stage you are at from planning your whole wedding or event, to helping just a few months before.