Seating Plans – Who Sits Where At A Wedding Reception?

One of the key markers of the formality of a wedding reception is the use of a wedding seating plan.  This guides your guests to their tables, ensuring they sit in appropriate spots. 

The use of a wedding seating plan avoids confusion between your guests as they search for a space to sit. It also ensures your tables are filled to their proper capacity. Without assigned seating or seating plan, people have tendencies to leave a space between them when they sit next to someone they don’t know.

Who sits where at a wedding reception

There are many ways to show guests where they will be seated, through seating charts, place cards, and escort cards. But, how do you work out who to seat at what table?

Beautiful wedding table decoration and setting in rustic / village style. Italian wedding.

Wedding Reception Seating Etiquette – The Head Table

The head table was traditionally reserved for the newlyweds, their parents, and the best man and maid of honour. The top table is arranged from left to right, facing the guests. Maid of honor, groom’s mom, bride’s dad, the bride, the groom, the bride’s mom, the groom’s dad. Finally, the best man. In this traditional seating arrangement, the bride should always be seated to the left side of the groom. 

We’ve got some alternative ideas for the head table.

Modern Wedding Head Table Seating Arrangement 

The typical top table these days is centered around the wedding party. From left to right, facing the guests): groomsmen, best man, the groom, the bride, maid of honor, then the bridesmaid(s).

Sweetheart Table 

What is a sweetheart table?

Instead of a head table, a sweetheart table is one reserved just for the newlyweds. It’s a lovely and intimate setup where you can connect with your new spouse. 

Other wedding table arrangements 

Here are other table arrangements to consider depending on your setup.

Family tables. – The tables closest to the head table or sweetheart table can be reserved for the close family. The parents of both parties, the grandparents and siblings. This might need to be split into several tables depending on the size of the family. 

A table for the wedding party. – Reserve a table for the bridesmaids and groomsmen to sit.

Close friends and extended family. – Have these be the next closest to the head table, after the immediate family and wedding party. 

Colleagues and friends or family you’re less close to– These tables can be seated a bit further away.

A kid’s table. – Not everyone wants children at their wedding. If you do, consider seating them at a separate table. You can place kids’ activities is a great way to ensure they are entertained while the adults eat and chat. 

kids table wedding seating
kids activity kits… if you do have kids to entertain!

Things to consider.

Group your wedding guests into categories of how you know them. This will help with seating them.

Your tables can be a mix of both familiar and new faces. This is for your guests so they can still feel comfortable whilst getting to know new people. It’s very likely you won’t get perfect numbers for all your tables, but don’t worry about that. Often there will be a table of people that are a bit more awkward to place than others. Just do what you can even if it’s not perfect.

People you cannot seat next to each other for whatever reasons, seat them first on your plan. That way you can just work around them.

Keep in mind accessibility needs for people who have wheelchairs or who may need the restrooms during the reception. Children may be best seated at a table further away from the head table. Tables with elderly guests might be best seated a bit further from the dance floor.

PLANNING YOUR WEDDING SEATING ARRANGEMENTS

This is a bit of wedding planning that’s difficult to delegate. Your fiance, your close family, and maybe a trusted bridesmaid just have to sit down and nut out who will sit where at the reception.  Only you have the knowledge of past dramas and family feuds… and know which guests will (potentially) hit it off.

Round table with a white tablecloth with a brown runner on the table. Vienna nested in brown napkins, a bouquet of flowers is on the table. White Chiavari chairs with pillows.

HOW TO PLAN OUT YOUR SEATING PLAN

The first thing you’ll need to do is find out the size and shape of the tables. You’ll also need the size of the room. Then you can see how many people will fit at each table and how many tables can fit in the reception room.

For the visual types and low-tech among us, draw tables onto a large sheet of paper, and use guest names written on post-it notes. This makes it easy to shift guests around and visually see the spread of guests.  Then type out the assignments, ready for going into the formal Seating Plan.

A seating plan during this planning phase is a long, puzzle-like process of moving people back and forth until you find a solution that works.

wedding seating plan idea

You can also use software for seating charts. There are a lot of great apps and software out there for seating planning help, such as Wedding wire or Allseated

Seating plans are one of the last big items to tick off your wedding planning list. You can’t really get a head-start on it because you’ve got to wait to get your RSVPs back before you can finalise numbers. Make it a fun process with your fiance, perhaps over a glass of wine. Don’t stress if it’s not perfect or panic if you get it wrong! At the end of the day, your guests will only be sitting with each other for a couple of hours, with food and speeches to distract them.

Seating plans – any advice?

Are you tackling your seating plan? Do you have any tips or advice that you’ve picked up?

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2 Comments

  1. My one and only wedding melt down was over our seating plan! I had to re-do it 3 or 4 times in the weeks leading up to our wedding as guests contacted us to ask if they could bring a +1 or weren’t able to make it at the last minute. 🙂

    1. Ugh, that’s very cheeky of your guests! I planned our weddding like a military operation but got to the seating plan and just said stuff it – and we went without one. Looking back on it (5 years down the track) I probably should’ve done it, but hey we are still just as married 🙂

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