Typically brides will cite the wedding table plan as the most difficult to navigate part of wedding planning. With the eagerness of everyone having a ball and the nervousness of appeasing strained family relationships, the wedding table plan can feel like a giant game of Tetris. But never fear, because we've heard it all and we know the pitfalls. So if you're keen to have a room full of glowing family and friends laughing and chatting amongst each other, read on and we'll walk you through it.
First Thing's First
Before you start to stress out about who your Aunt Barbara isn't speaking to now... Wait until all of your RSVPs are in. There's no point mapping out a room full of people until you know exactly which people are filling that room. Once you're armed with your RSVPs and you've chased up any rogue replies, you have yourself a guest list.
Now you have a fair idea of how many people are coming, it's time to think about the actual tables. Are you having round tables? Trestle tables? No tables, just picnic blankets? How many people will be at each one (table or blanket)? Will you be having a top table? Or a sweetheart table for just you and your new Mr/Mrs?
Who Sits Where?
Now you have some (more) choices to make. You can either divide your guests up into groups, close family, distant relatives, work friends, school friends etc. And try your best to sit like with like. Or you can truly embrace the blending of the families and mix your guests with your partner's guests according to who you think would get on well. Try your best to not leave any single friends alone, but sit them next to someone who will be warm and chatty.
Oftentimes we see this strained relationship dynamic most when it comes to the top table. Divorced parents and possible partners can make for difficult seating arrangements but this needn't be so. You can either choose the traditional top table set up and seat them at opposite ends of the long table from one another. Or better yet, you can give them a table of their own each and surround them with their nearest and dearest, leaving you to have your besties surround you and your other half at the top table. OR you can choose to have a sweetheart table for just you and your beau and spread out the wedding party at other tables.
Sometimes the people you love, or the people you have to invite can have traits that you don't necessarily want to be the focus of your wedding day. Like a loud and opinionated Uncle/Aunt or a cousin who will inevitably drink too much and cause a fight with their own shadow or cry into their gin. Just know that this particular challenge is shared by brides and grooms up and down the country and is perfectly normal. You can either choose to not invite said problematic personality (your day your way) or you can mitigate the damage by pairing them with someone you know can handle them well. Then you can relax and enjoy your day knowing that Aunt Colette is going to call Jim a cab if he gets too rowdy at the end.
Some couples choose not to have kids come to their weddings and some see them as an integral part of the celebrations. If you're the latter then have a think about where you want to seat the little ones. Options are typically either with their parents or maybe even have a dedicated 'kids table' with parents close by. Children will often entertain each other but as back up you could fill the table with trinket favours to keep them occupied during the speeches.
Plan It Out
Finally, it's time for a birds eye view. Once you’ve got an idea of what the actual room will look like you can either plan it out digitally or with good old pen and paper. Either way, we have some options for you.
Get thee an excel/numbers document. Detail all of your invited guests and track your RSVPS in there. You could easily create a table with all your table names/numbers and lists of guests in there. It's very easy to chop and change as you go then. Alternatively, there’s an app for that and some good’uns are:
The Top Table Planner
Paper lovers unite! This method is the RMW team favourite. Get a big-ole sheet of paper or card. Draw out a birdseye view of your venue space and table set up (taking the table shape and capacity into account). Write all of your attending guests names on individual post it notes and have at it. Moving John, Susan and Arabella around accordingly as you plan out the tables with your partner. If you want to really geek out over this process, you could use colour co-ordinated post its to highlight your family and your spouses. Or differentiate between family and friends.
Wedding Table Plan Decor
Your guests are all going to be having a good look at that table plan on the day so feel free to keep it simple or create a masterpiece. And there are scores of ways to create a beautiful but useful decor piece in our inspiration links below.
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If you'd like to hear Charlotte and Becky talk all things Wedding Table Plan in the RMW Podcast (including what to do when an unexpected guest arrives!) then head over to the Seating Plan episode