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Seating Your Guests

Photo: Carla van Dyk Photography

You have arranged the reception venue, chosen the caterers, selected a menu and picked the cake. The music has been finalised and the flowers will look fantastic. But now comes the tricky part. Seemingly a simple task, creating a seating plan for your guests requires patience, diplomacy, and quite probably the assistance of both your mother and your groom’s mother if you are to avoid a possible faux pas.

Although there are a variety of traditional seating plans, it is entirely up to you whether you are guided by one of them, or adopt a more individual approach. The first step is to check with your reception venue to find out how many guests can comfortably be seated at each table. You can then calculate the total number of tables you require.

You should aim to create a seating plan that takes the comfort of all your guests into consideration. Start by placing people together who you know will mix well. Think of their ages, backgrounds and interests. Where possible, seat mutual friends beside one another and avoid splitting up couples. Guests who don’t know anyone can be placed next to people who are friendly and easy to talk to.

Keep in mind recent divorces, strained family relationships, and guests with different personalities. The seating arrangements for children, and elderly or disabled guests will also require special attention.

Should you have a number of children attending your reception you may decide to have a special children’s table. However, this might result in some fairly exuberant behaviour during the event. So angelic during the ceremony, a small guest fuelled by sugary wedding cake can turn into a wild child during the reception. An adult willing to supervise is often a good idea. Or, place two or three children together on different tables (think divide and conquer). For your older guests, consider their comfort by seating them in easily accessed positions that are close to amenities and, if applicable, to other family members.

So that your guests know where they are seated, you can either put individual place cards on each table, or a single card listing each guest’s name in the centre of the table. You can also draw up a room plan, which should be placed at the entrance to the reception area, showing table positions and listing the guests seated at each table.

The bridal table usually faces your guests, or is placed in the centre of the room. The closer guests are seated to the bridal table, the more honoured they will feel.

Traditionally, both sets of parents sit at the wedding party’s table. Or, you can arrange a separate table for each set of parents, and seat them with close friends and relatives. The MC and minister are usually seated at the bride’s parents’ table.

However, you might also decide to break with tradition entirely and create a more informal atmosphere by seating the bridal party with their partners or friends, while you sit with those closest to you at a centrally located table.

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Seating Arrangements
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