Seating Arrangements
By The Editors of RenTrain


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Table layouts 

Guest seating arrangements 

Printed table plans 

Table place cards 

The bridal party entrance 

Top table seating arrangements 

Top table too complex? 

 


Table layouts

The reception room table layout will depend upon the shape of the tables your
venue provides and how the tables are best arranged to make the room look
balanced for the number of guests to be seated. Round tables, for example,
give a much more pleasing and spacious look than two or three long tables
that join to the top table. 

A typical reception table layout (shown left) will have one long top table
for the bridal party and as many round tables as required for your guests.


A round top table should be avoided if possible because the view of the bride
and groom will be obscured by others on the table and several of the bridal
party will have their backs to the other guests.


A small table placed to one side of the top table is ideal for displaying
the cake in its full glory!




Guest seating arrangements

Your close family and friends should be seated nearest the top table with other
relatives and friends sitting further away. If you have round tables, guests
with partners are usually seated side by side. If you choose to have long tables,
partners are usually seated opposite each other. It is customary to alternate
male and female guests. If you decide to split up couples, they should not
be too far away from each other. Children should always be seated with their
parents.


You should ensure as much as possible that your guests sit with people that
are known to each other as this will make them feel more comfortable and facilitate
good conversation. Although this will not be possible in all cases, at least
try to have similar age groups or guests with similar interests seated together
such as aunts and uncles, friends, work collegues etc. Guests may be very uncomfortable
if they are seated with people they do not know. It is particularly important
to bear this point in mind if you have round tables, because the temptation
is to fill up the tables with unconnected guests.


Printed table plans

So that guests can easily find their places, a printed table plan positioned
just inside the reception room will be very helpful. You may also wish to
place a printed seating plan in the pre-reception drinks area. The most efficient
form of table plan is where guests' names are listed alphabetically with
their table number printed alongside their name. An adjacent map showing
the physical table layout with the table numbers marked allows guests to
locate their table quickly.


As an alternative to numbering your tables, why not give each table a name,
particularly if you have a theme running through your wedding. Alternatively,
you might wish to name your tables after people or objects relating to an interest
or hobby you both share or name each table after a poet and have a love poem
written by the poet left on each table. We have a very good selection of poems
and readingsassociated with love and marriage from which to choose if this
idea appeals to you.


Table place cards

To ensure guests sit at the correct seat, table place cards should be used.
They can either be flat for placing in card holders or fold tent-like to
be free-standing. The style of address for place cards should match the style
written on your wedding invitations. If your invitations were written in
the formal, traditional style of, for example, Mr. and Mrs. David Smith,
the place cards should show Mr. David Smith on one card and Mrs. David Smith
on another. Less formal place cards, where the invitation was written in
the style of, say, David and Sarah Smith, should simply have David Smith
written on one card and Sarah Smith on another. As with the names on wedding
invitations, place cards should be hand written.


Specialist wedding stationery companies can provide printed table plans and
table place cards to co-ordinate with your wedding stationery.


The bridal party entrance

Once your guests have passed along your receiving line, they will move into
the reception room and make their way to their tables. If you have engaged
a master of ceremonies, your entrance will be announced and your guests asked
to stand. The bridal party then enters the room to take their places at the
top table (even if you are only having a buffet meal, it is usual to have
a top table reserved for the bridal party). The bridal party is led by the
bride and groom walking side by side, followed by the bride's father with
the groom's mother; the bride's mother with the groom's father and the best
man with the chief bridesmaid. Your guests are seated once the bridal party
are seated.


Top table seating arrangements

Deciding who sits on the top table can be a straight forward matter if both
sets of parents have conventional relationships. However, problems can arise
when there are separations, divorces or tension between people you would
like to include on your top table.


However, by following established tradition, the decision-making process can
be simplified. Traditionally, the wedding party, who sit at the top table,
comprise the bride and groom, the bride and groom's natural parents, the best
man and chief bridesmaid. Even where the parents are separated, remarried or
divorced, it is still usual for only the natural parents to sit at the top
table. Other family members, such as step-parents, are not part of the traditional
bridal party but are treated as honoured guests. As honoured guests, they should
be given importance by being seated on a table close to the top table. Having
an honoured guests' table also solves the problem of where to sit bridesmaids
and ushers. Since these helpers are also honoured guests, they would join step-parents,
and partners of separated parents, on this special table - although young bridesmaids
and page boys should sit with their parents.




Top table seating arrangement for the traditional bridal party:




Chief

Bridesmaid Groom's

Father Bride's

Mother Groom Bride Bride's

Father Groom's

Mother Best Man 

Top table




Should you decide, for whatever reason, to have a different seating arrangement
to the above, there are a few points worth mentioning. It is usual for the
bride and groom to sit in the middle of the top table - with the bride seated
to the left of the groom - and for the gender of those seated to alternate.
It is also generally accepted that the hosts of the wedding, whoever they
are, sit at the top table.


In the case of divorced or separated parents, where you are unsure of their
reaction, the best course of action is to first ask them what they would like
to happen; 

If the parents of the bride (or groom) are hosting the wedding, despite their
separation, they may be happy to sit at the top table without their partners
thus avoiding having too many people on the top table. 

If they have not remarried, or do not have a current partner, they may be happy
to sit alone or be accompanied by another relative such as a sibling or child. 

If they have a new partner and the relationship is generally recognised, they
may like to sit with their new partner. 

In the case of parents whose spouse has died, again ask them what they would
prefer to do. They may feel that they would like some moral support at the
top table. If the bride is being given away by someone other than her father,
that person may be of comfort to the mother of the bride. Otherwise, perhaps
a brother, sister or grown-up child of the single guest could be included on
the table.


You may find that your wishes and those of your parents and others are similar,
or that everyone is happy to go along with your decisions and the wishes of
each other. If this is the case, find a solution you are all happy with and
go for it. If a simple agreement cannot be found, it is down to the bride and
groom to decide the course of action they would like to take, and then ask
the guests to comply. It would not be unreasonable to ask those who have differences
to put them aside for just one day!


Always bear in mind that the number of guests on your top table is, ultimately,
a matter for you to decide. It is possible that there could be twelve or more
people at your top table, if all parents have new partners, or as few as four
if you decide to solve the problems by sitting at your top table with just
the chief bridesmaid and best man.


There are a variety of ways the bridal party can be arranged on the top table.
Here are a few alternative suggestions:




Bride and groom's parents still married and speaking

(alternative to the traditional seating arrangement): 

Groom's

Mother Bride's

Father Chief

Bridesmaid Groom Bride Best Man Bride's

Mother Groom's

Father 

Top table



Bride's parents divorced and remarried: 

Bride's

Stepfather Chief

Bridesmaid Groom's

Father Bride's

Mother Groom Bride Bride's

Father Groom's

Mother Best

Man Bride's

Stepmother 

Top table





Groom's parents divorced and remarried: 

Best

Man Groom's

Stepmother Groom's

Father Bride's

Mother Groom Bride Bride's

Father Groom's

Mother Groom's

Stepfather Chief

Bridesmaid 

Top table





Both sets of parents divorced and remarried: 

Groom's

Step-

mother Bride's

Step-

father Chief

Bridesmaid Groom's

Father Bride's

Mother Groom Bride Bride's

Father Groom's

Mother Bride's

Step-

mother Groom's

Step-

father 

Top table





Tension between bride and groom's parents: 

Chief

Bridesmaid Bride's

Father Bride's

Mother Groom Bride Groom's

Father Groom's

Mother Best Man 

Top table




If the above examples do not suit your requirements, use them as templates
to create a seating arrangement suitable for your particular circumstances.


Top table too complex?

If, because of second spouses, step-parents or inter-family friction, your
top table seating arrangement is too complex or impossible to get right,
you could consider an alternative seating arrangement where couples from
the bridal party each host a separate table (preferably round tables).