The results were particularly clear for guests aged over 50, only 8% of whom preferred unassigned seating. Unassigned seating sounds great in theory and it is certainly one less chore for the organizer. Your beautiful decor will be spoilt by people leaving their coats on chairs to reserve them. The last few guests end up walking around looking for seats, a bit like the unpopular kid at school lunch.
If people turn up uninvited (common in some cultures) they may take seats intended for your invited guests.
If you still decide to go for unassigned seating then you don't need to read any further on this site.
Guests can be assigned to a table (where they can choose any seat) or assigned to a specific seat. You might want to put people next to people they know, or you might want to split them up a bit so they meet new people. If it is a group of people that know each other well you could try splitting up married couples for extra variety. Try to avoid putting guests on the same table as ex-partners, unless you are sure this is OK. Resist the temptation to have a 'leftovers' table of all the people who didn't fit on other tables. The figures below give you a rough idea of the venue size required, depending on the number of guests and the type of seating. You should always include a date by which people must reply, otherwise some people may decide to leave it to the day before the event. If it is an important event and you want to warn people to keep the date free long before you send out RSVPs, you can send 'save the date' cards.
Guests will need to know which table they are seated at so they don't have to walk around every table to find their place.
Escort cards are normally placed on a table, in alphabetical order, at the entrance to the venue. If you have decided to name your tables you can theme the table number cards appropriately. Place cards can be a useful way to communicate to the catering staff which meals people have ordered. You can also liven up numbers, for example include a picture of the hosts at age 1 on table 1, at age 2 on table 2 etc. It is a good idea to lay it all out on an appropriate size table, before the big day, to make sure it doesn't look cluttered. Make sure any flowers, table cards or other displays on the table aren't so large that they prevent guests seeing each other. If you are putting people who don't know each other together, it may be a good idea to provide them with a quiz or some other form of 'ice breaker'. If it won't cause friction try to seat members of the bride and groom's families on tables together, it is their best chance to get to know each other. The wedding party table should be placed where the bride and groom can see (and be seen by) as many guests as possible. Remember that once the main wedding meal (the 'wedding breakfast') commences the bride may have taken the name of the groom.
Note that wedding etiquette varies between countries and cultures and you will have to tailor your wedding seating plan accordingly.
Who to put on the top table can be a sensitive issue, especially if the parents of the bride or groom have divorced and remarried.
For a second marriage you may wish to seat children of the first marriage on the top table. If the parents of the bride or groom have divorced and remarried it probably isn't a good idea to put them and their new partners together on the top table.
If the parents of the bride and groom are not in the wedding party they should be seated on the table nearest the top table.
It is becoming fashionable in some quarters to have the bride and groom at their own table (for example David and Victoria Beckham).


Some couples opt not to have a top table at all, but to have two free seats at each table so they can mingle during the meal. It is probably a good idea to show your table plan to a few key guests to ensure that it is OK and you haven't forgotten anything.
The traditional approach to planning seating arrangements is to write down guests' names on scraps of paper and move these around.
The good news is that inexpensive seating plan software is available in the form of PerfectTablePlan.
I know it's something you've been trying to put off, but you are going to just have to face up to sorting out your seating plan and your top table seating plan. Your wedding breakfast is a main feature of your wedding day and seating your guests in the correct place can make or break it.
Knowing where you are going to have your wedding breakfast is essential for deciding upon your seating plan.
Remember, if the tables are spread too far apart your guests will feel very isolated at their tables. Talk to the wedding or venue coordinator beforehand and ask them for advice on what works best for the number of guests you wish to invite.
The number of people you have at each table depends on how many guests you have, how many tables you have and how big the venue is.
The Top Table is usually rectangle in shape, this allows guests to see the Bride and Groom and their parents easily. Away from the Top Table guests traditionally sit at round tables, with the Bride and Grooms family positioned closest to the Top Table, while friends of the bride and Groom tend to be positioned slightly further back. Here are a variety of alternate ways in which the Top Table can be arranged depending upon your circumstances.
As you can see Dave and I did not have a 'traditional' Top Table, but it worked perfectly well. This, however, can be time consuming and as more and more couples break from tradition, the Bride and Groom now tend to receive their guests without the assistance of Top Table party members. It’s one of the more stressful jobs when planning a wedding and with family politics, singles and even friends with dislikes, a major headache or two can come about just THINKING about it. It’s up to you how close you decide to place your parents, grandparents and other close family members, but wedding etiquette teaches us that they should be as close to the head table as possible. Sit friends that know each other together, but in perhaps couples of two and then mix with friends that don’t.
Try not to get too stressed with planning the seating chart, use post-it notes so you can jig about as you need to. It is not unknown for guests to end up eating outside the venue because they couldn't get a seat together at a table. In truth, organizers shy away from assigned seating mostly because of the time involved in assigning seats or tables. We don't have exact figures, but it seems that assigning tables is probably more common in the USA and assigning seats is more common in Europe. This is usually achieved by displaying a seating chart or escort cards prominently at the entrance to the venue. If you have a large number of tables you might also want to display a floor plan to show where the tables are. An escort card is usually inside a small envelope with the guest's name written on the outside.
You can either write them by hand yourself, employ a calligrapher to do it for you or print them on the computer. But make sure you leave clear instructions that you want guests to finish the film (you don't want 10 half-finished films) and what you want them to do with the camera afterward. One solution is to invite some family of the step-parent and put them together on a separate table near the top table. This is a nice idea, but it does mean that two guests at each table will be seated next to empty seats for much of the reception. The shape of the room will play a large part in determining the way in which the tables are arranged to best create a great atmosphere in the room whilst the physical size will dictate how many tables you can have and therefore how many people you sit at each table.
If you place the tables too close together your guests will feel uneasy and maybe claustrophobic.


If you intend to have wedding entertainment during the meal, such as musicians or perhaps wedding magicians, make sure you keep your coordinator up to date with your plans, as this may also impact on the way in which the tables are arranged in the room. It is better to have fewer tables that are full, but not crowded, than many tables with a few people on each. This also works well as all parties on the Top Table feel part of the event and communicate more easily with guests.
My niece was our Chief Bridesmaid but she was only eleven years old at the time, so it only seemed right that she should sit with her parents. You should arrange your guests in a way that works best for you and offers your guests the opportunity to mingle - you can only help encourage a good atmosphere - the rest is up to your guests! How many of you are sick and tired of going over your seating chart again and again and again…. Roping your future OH into deciding on the seating plan can help and think about doing it with just you two. Your wedding day should be a day to enjoy the celebrations, not panic over finding a seat for 100 of your nearest and dearest.
In fact a YouGov survey conducted in February 2006 shows that an overwhelming 84% of wedding guests prefer assigned seating. If you have a large venue for the number of guests you may want to put all the tables in one corner to avoid the venue feeling empty.
Listing by guest name is more common in the USA and makes it a little easier to find your table, especially at a large event.
You can also use a blank business card and write the name on one side and the table number on the other. If you are using tent-fold cards, write the guest's name on both sides so that other guests on the table can also read it. Using just the first name is obviously not recommended if there is more than one person with the same first name. If you are printing them on the computer we recommend you buy sheets of press out place cards, for example ones available from Avery, DecaDry or Sigel.
Too close could also leave your wedding guests without the room to extend their chairs in order for them to go and powder their nose, or go to the bar. If your Top Table was round, it would not work so well as some of the people would have their backs to the guests.
Parents or the future mother-in-law can take a front seat with demands of long distant relatives you haven’t seen in years being seated further up the chart than best friends and close colleagues you see on a daily basis.
It could get rather messy if certain people insist they MUST sit together or friends who insist they must NOT, and you’re left to sort it all out.
Grouping singles together on a table at the back isn’t kind and can be quite embarrassing. It might not be a good idea to put your 'alternative lifestyle' friend with the piercings and tattoos next to your 80-year-old grandmother.
Guest names can also be written on personalised favours or menus instead of using place cards. Given that there are more ways of seating 25 guests in 25 seats than there are grains of sand in the whole world it is little wonder that creating a table plan 'by hand' is such a headache. If you are tight on space remember that children take less room and may help to space things out a little. A seating plan is just a polite way of getting everyone seated without any extra anxiety, they may not like it, but they are the rules. Bubble blowing kits can be fun but you may end up with soapy tasting food and a slippery dance floor.
I never know the etiquette when planning the top table but I sure know that it’s your choice who you sit up there with you. Escort cards have the advantage that they can be changed up to the last minute, whereas a seating chart may need to be printed days or weeks in advance. If you want JUST your divorced parents and not their new wife or husband, then everyone will just have to accept that its your choice and grit their teeth for one day.



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