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For nearly every social event, wedding receptions included, there will be attendees who know many people and those who know only a few. Further, some people will make friends easily and strike up conversation naturally. Others will be more reserved, prefer to keep to themselves or to converse only with those they know well. These are just some of the considerations to keep in mind when developing your wedding reception seating plan.

But first, do you need to plan at all, or do you just let your guests seat-select themselves? Bliss Paper Boutique recommends that you develop a plan with these recommendations in mind:

  • You cannot make a plan until you know who’s coming. After your RSVPs are in hand you are ready to create a seating plan.
  • Consider your guests. As an example:
    1. Elderly guests should not be seated near speakers or the band.
    2. People who know each other, or may have similar interests could share a table.
    3. Children should be seated with their parents or other relatives.
    4. For those who like to boogie, seat them near the dance floor.
    5. For those who are not likely to dance, and want to focus more on conversation, seat them away from the dance floor.
  • How to seat the wedding party and VIPs:
    1. Often, the wedding party is seated in a prominent location at a “sweetheart table”. Another option is to scatter the wedding party amongst family and friends at the reception. Our staff recommends the sweetheart approach. These are special people who carried out special duties during the ceremony. This recognition should continue throughout the event at the reception.
    2. Immediate family members of the bride and groom could be seated together. Or, if the immediate families are extra large, the best option may be to seat them by family, but in tables that are adjacent to one another.
  • How food is served has an effect on your seating plan.
    1. If you’re having a large wedding and serving a plated meal, you’ll need a detailed seating plan. There are two reasons for this:
  • One is that people like to take direction and to know where they are sitting; and
  • Two, if you’re serving a variety of entrees the wait staff can match people and food quickly and easily.
  • Create a plan on paper or via computer
    1. Gather your planning team, get a big sheet of paper and pencil and set to work by drawing circles or rectangles for the tables and writing names in each space. For a little more flexibility, write names on sticky-notes so you can move them around with ease.
    2. If you’re handy with a computer and a spreadsheet program, you may already have your guest list in an existing file. If so, add a new column in which you assign invitees by their status such as “groom’s family, groom’s friend, bride’s family, bride’s friend, groom’s work associate, bride’s work associate, groom’s high school buddy, bride’s high school chum,” and so forth. Such classification helps you sort the list and assemble table groups that make sense.
  • Take a flexible approach in considering seating options for bride and groom, the wedding party, parents and other special guests.
    1. The bride and groom, and wedding party are often seated at a traditional long head table. Bride and groom are usually right in the middle with the wedding party fanning out to each side in a man, woman, man, woman rotation. But, you don’t have to follow this pattern. You could opt for having all bridesmaids on the bride’s side and all groomsmen on the groom’s side. An alternative is to have the wedding party seated themselves at one or two round tables and the bride and groom seated at a special table just for two. If you don’t care to be the centerpiece of a large table, the bride and groom could sit with their parents, and the wedding party could be seated at their own tables.
    2. Often, parents of the bride and groom sit at the same table, as well as grandparents, siblings who are not in the wedding party, and the officiant. However, if any of the adults are separated, divorced or have issues getting along, it’s best to have each set of parents host their own table for family and friends.

Finally, we recommend that you don’t wait until the last minute to detail your seating chart. Our staff recommends that you have it wrapped up at least 10 days before the wedding.

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