Three steps for designing a simple seating plan that will turn your wedding or dinner party into a roaring success.
It can feel uncomfortable telling people where to sit. As a result seating plans are often overlooked and left until the stressful last minute. Here’s a fresh approach to help boost motivation early on: you’re seating guests for their benefit. When their seat is well planned guests can relax and enjoy the occasion, as opposed to being stuck between Great Aunt Meryl’s war stories and Uncle Bertie’s stamp collection. For you, as the host, where your guests are seated has an impact on the overall tone of your event. Seat party animals together and dancing is likely to follow. Seat certain family members together, and there could be a scene.
Step 1: Choose a style for your seating plan
If your occasion is large, like a wedding or engagement party, a seating plan poster is a must. This helps guests know which direction to head before they enter the reception area. Match the poster styling with your event décor, in both colour and design, to create an atmosphere of entering another world. Now your guests can relax and enjoy themselves because you’ve done all the hard work in advance. Aimless wandering around tables searching for a seat isn’t fun for anyone.
If your occasion is smaller, like a dinner party or birthday, place cards will elevate your table setting from functional to gorgeous. For larger events a place card can help wait staff manage dietary requirements without fuss.
Styling Tip: Avoid numbering your tables as it suggests a hierarchy. We’ve all felt the sting of being seated at table 12! Instead try unique theme based names for your tables. Spring table cards could include a Daffodil table, Rose table, and an Apple Blossom table. For your next Christmas function try naming your tables after Santa’s eight reindeer!
Step 2: Determine your venue seating options
Events held at function centers or restaurants can have rigid table layouts. Be sure to check how much you can re-arrange the furniture before starting your seating plan. Does your venue have enough tables and chairs for your guests? Does it have space to hide surplus tables and chairs so the venue doesn’t look messy? If you prefer a different style of furniture can you bring your own tables and chairs? Do you need to provide table cloths and chair covers?
If you’re hosting the occasion at home or in a local park, don’t forget to measure out the space and do a trial to test that you can comfortably fit the furniture you need in the space available.
Step 3: Seat your guests
Ready for the grand finale? You’re in a good spot to start seating your guests. No need to procrastinate step 3, we’ll walk you through it!
Most importantly, you need the best seat in the house. This is your occasion after all. If you’re hosting a dinner party seat yourself in the middle of the table length so that you can easily chat with everybody at once. If you’re hosting a wedding, you may want to be at a head table. It helps to be a little elevated so that you can see everybody, as they want to see you too! A modern approach is to seat the partners of the bridesmaids and groomsmen with them at the head table.
Where you seat your guests depends entirely on the tone you want to set for your occasion. Refined, casual, celebratory, or riotous. If you seat extended family together they will most likely talk it up among themselves with subdued conversation. After a more upbeat tone? Seat good friends together. Simply imagine how they’d naturally sit if you didn’t have a seating plan, and seat them accordingly. If you’d like your guests to mingle, seat them beside strangers with similar interests to encourage fresh conversation.
If you’ve invited fringe friends who don’t know anyone else at the event, seat them with a considerate friend of yours who will make the effort to include them in the festivities. Another good trick is to avoid having a table devoted to people sans plus one. Intermingle couples and singles to keep everyone included.
Bonus Tip: Avoid setting up your single friend with your partner’s single friend. They’re not fooled. Your guests aren’t fooled. It’s going to get awkward.
Of course, there will be changes to your guest list. So, the sooner you have a seating plan in place, the sooner you can simply move people around as guests are subtracted and added. Too easy. Have fun!
Header Photography: Slava Bowman