The Wedding Planner’s Guide to Creating the Seating Plan: Part II
Last week, we introduced you to the delicate art of the seating plan. While it’s often a trial for you and your clients alike, a few careful pointers can make the process way less of a headache! Read on for tips on encouraging conversation, seating children, and avoiding the dreaded “singles’ table.”
Mixing and mingling
Create a plan that encourages mingling and conversation. You can’t force your clients’ guests to chat, but you can help them along by dividing guests up in a way that makes sense:
- How your clients know them—Family, friends, coworkers, etc.
- Age—children, seniors, etc.
- Interests—Church-goers, travel junkies, etc.
Be wary of guests that don’t get along and need to be seated apart. No bride and groom will be happy at the sight of a catfight at table 9 on their big day! One way to avoid this is to divide guests into categories, and then separate those who don’t get along and seat those people first. It’s much easier to deal with the more difficult guests first, rather than trying to squeeze them into full tables later on.
If only a few children are attending the wedding, seat them with their parents. If many children will be showing up to your clients’ event, seat all the children together. Make sure that there’s an adult supervising them all to resolve conflicts and keep everything in order. If the parents want to enjoy the wedding without having to worry about their kids, consider hiring a caregiver to attend the wedding and sit at the kids’ table.
Sometimes clients will opt to give children goodie bags to entertain themselves, since they likely won’t be paying much attention to the party. Just make sure that they aren’t given markers, paint, glitter, or anything else that will make a mess of the room or their tables!
Distance makes the heart grow fonder
Guests want to sit as close to the bride and groom as possible. Some guests might feel slighted if they are seated further away, especially if the tables are numbered with the highest ones sitting furthest away. If your clients are having a themed wedding, consider naming the tables instead of numbering them to keep everyone happy.
Usually both sets of parents, siblings not in the wedding party, and the officiant with his/her spouse sit together at a VIP table closest to the married couple, but it doesn’t always work out that way.
Some newlyweds will prefer to sit at the head table with their parents, other times a couple’s divorced parents will be separated to host their own tables. Make sure that your client knows that they are able to take liberties with how they want to arrange their guests. Rules are meant to be broken!
Beware the singles table
Heed the tales of many wedding guests who’ve attend weddings and left early after having a lousy time at the infamous “leftovers” or “singles’” table.
While it might seem like the perfect time for cupid to work his magic, singles’ tables can create a painfully awkward situation for everyone. Especially if the age difference is great, and there are no overlapping interests, it’s best to avoid having a singles table altogether.
Consider allowing the singles to bring their own plus one so that they won’t be totally jumping into the unknown when they pick up their escort card. Try to mix up familiar and new faces and have an equal amount of men and women at the table. Doing so will also help shy people come out of their shell so everyone will have an amazing time!
- How long will guests stay seated for? If the dinner consists of 8-12 courses (a typical East-Asian wedding feast), don’t seat people who wouldn’t get along together.
- Who is giving toasts or speeches? Avoiding seating those giving speeches with their backs to the audience. Try to seat them to face the majority of people at the reception.
- Are there older guests? Older members of the party who are hard of hearing or have poor eyesight should be seated close to the action (the dance floor or head table) but not close to the speakers blasting loud music.
- Are there children? Depending on their ages and heights, children might need special booster seats. A caregiver may also be needed to keep watch over the children as their parents enjoy the night.
- Are special accommodations needed? Seat those with wheelchairs near the exits that are easily accessible to them. Dietary restrictions, from allergies to veganism, could also affect how guests are seated depending on the style of the reception meal (plate style, family style, etc.)
- What if stray people come in who aren’t accounted for? Don’t densely pack all the tables. If needed, an extra person or two should be able to be slotted in at each table if unexpected guests arrive.
- Your role! Be supportive of your clients! You must remind your clients that they can’t please everyone, and the seating plan lasts only until the end of the meal. At the end of the day, it’s supposed to be a celebration of happiness and union, so it’s your job to make sure everything goes as smooth as possible.