We’re taking you back to school with this blog but this time it’s to Wedding school. Does anyone remember the 5 W’s & 1 H from English class; Who, What, When, Where, Why and How? Whether it was writing a story, putting together a project, it was the beginning steps of many creative tasks. This time we’re using to help you put your table plan together, all the tips and tricks to help with arguably one of the most stressful parts of wedding planning!
Why – should you have a table plan?
If it’s meant to be one of the stressful parts of wedding planning, why should you put yourselves through it and create a table plan? A lot of couples nowadays are opting for a less traditional, more laid-back vibe to their wedding and we are loving it! However, we hate to break it to you, by not having a table plan and letting people choose themselves, where they want to sit on the day could actually negate the laid-back vibe you might be going for.
Imagine you’ve gone without a table plan and had your venue set up 8 round tables of 10 for 80 guests. In theory, this divides nice and neatly and all your guests would pick a seat randomly at one of the tables for the meal or speeches with no issues. While this might work in some cases, in others it can be a nightmare for your guests. You might find an odd number such as a family of five trying to sit down with 6 couples and one guest from that group will end up having to sit on their own on another table. This then creates an odd number of seats at the next table over and it creates a domino effect of disgruntled guests standing around as the odd ones out. The venue could rearrange the tables or add extra chairs in at tables as needed, but this all takes extra time/chairs which some venues might not be prepared for. It can also slow down the timeline of the day and delay your food – no one wants cold or burnt food at a wedding.
If you have young children at your wedding, you will need the highchairs out and in place. The last thing you want as a parent at a wedding is searching through the crowds, looking around for a highchair to feed your baby in or not having the space to fit a highchair at the table they’re sat on because there are already too many chairs round it.
Table plans can actually help keep family politics at bay. If you have members of the family who struggle to be around each other, putting them on tables on opposite sides of the room or sitting them with people you know they get on with could help reduce arguments.
If you have any guests who have dietaries, your caterers will appreciate knowing exactly where your guests are sat to ensure they’re looked after properly and that there isn’t any cross contamination for any intolerances/allergies.
Fundamentally, people like to feel looked after and thought of at a wedding. Yes, it shouldn’t be about your guests on your special day but unfortunately, you will be the people they complain to when they haven’t got somewhere to sit.
When – should you write it & when should it be finalised?
One of the biggest questions, we’re often asked is when should we be putting our table plan together? Our advice – as soon as you can, maybe even before you start looking at venues. When you write your guestlist to get an idea on numbers for your venue, start to draft out your table plan then. This will help you get an idea on how many tables you’d like or whether you’d like long tables or round tables. If you already have an idea of this when you’re looking round venues, if you find a venue you love but realise the room will only fit 10 round tables and you wanted 12, it might be deal breaker for you. You may realise the venue isn’t right for you or that you may have to cut some guests off your list depending on what’s most important to you!
Once you’ve booked your venue, knowing how many tables and what style of tables you’d like will help you to decide décor. You’ll need to know how many centrepieces, table runners, chair sashes, favours, name places etc you’ll need to order or make. This can also help if you’re trying to work out your budget for decorations.
If you’re ordering table wines or toast Prosecco, you’ll also need to know how many tables you’re having. Sometimes knowing who is on which table also helps with this. Say for example you’d like to order 2 bottles of wine (1 Red & 1 White) and a bottle of Prosecco for each of your tables. However, once you start looking through your tables, you realise everyone on table 5 will only drink white wine and a bottle of red would be wasted. It might be better (if your venue allows it) to swap 1 Red and 1 White for 2 bottles of White instead. Knowing what you’d like to order sooner will make it a lot easier for you.
We have a lot of couples say that they want to wait until their RSVP’s are all back in case the table plan changes. Unfortunately, one thing that is almost guaranteed at every wedding is there will be guest drop-outs right up until the day of the wedding. Illness, childcare, work obligations – the list is endless for reasons why guests might not be able to show up to your wedding. Rather than worrying about it, try as best you can to accept that it will happen as on the day, you won’t be thinking about it as you’ll hopefully be enjoying your wedding. Write your table plan regardless that there might be dropouts, and if a couple of tables need to rearranged, it can always be fixed. Isn’t it nicer to sit down at the beginning of your planning and put together all the people who will be sharing your day? Rather than facing the task of writing your whole table plan a couple of months before the wedding when so many final decisions will be due. Wedding planning will be overwhelming, try and reduce yourself the stress where you can.
If, however you feel that you can’t write your table plan as early, there is a deadline for when it must be finished. It will depend on your venue and caterers, but we’d recommend 2 months if not 3 months before. This is usually when your caterers will start to need your table plan, to order your food menu, know how many dietaries or children’s meals they need to order etc. If you’re making/ordering your table plan from a supplier, you’ll need to allow time for it to be made too. As we’ve covered, there may still be changes that are made. However, is it the worst thing in the world if there’s an extra name on your table plan now that they’ve dropped out? When your guests attend your wedding, they’ll only be looking for their own name on your table plan, not counting out the chairs and saying there should be one extra person here. More often than not, the guests sat on their table probably know that they won’t be coming as they’re usually friends or family of the guest who can’t make it so they won’t mind anyway.
How – do you lay it all out?
Firstly, you’ll need to know how many people can fit round a table, considering highchairs and wheelchair spaces as well. Most 5ft round tables can fit 8 guests round them comfortably, 10 at your maximum. Highchairs & wheelchairs take up extra space so you wouldn’t want any more than 8 chairs round a table if you’re also adding on a highchair or wheelchair.
If you’re opting for long tables, each straight table section is 6ft and can fit 3 people down each side. So if you had 72 guests, you would need 3 lengths of 4 tables to fit 12 down each side. Whether you’re choosing long tables, round tables or a mix, always consider your menu option. If you’re going for sharing boards, make sure each table has plenty of space for elbow room.
You’ll also want to consider where you position each table. Depending on what’s important for you, many couples choose to place their closest friends and family on the tables closest to the top table so they can see you easier. If you have any guests with disabilities or young children, you may want to place them near the exits in case they or parents need to get out quickly and easily. If you’re having a room turnaround in the evening for your first dance, you may want to consider which tables will be taken out to make room for your DJ/band or dancefloor. Try and place guests who are more likely to get up and leave their table to go and mingle or head to the bar on the tables which will be removed. It means there’s less disruption for your guests.
Naming and numbering the tables is also something to consider. If you’re numbering the tables, try and make it as clear as you can. For example, 1, 2,3 across the top of the room followed by 4,5,6 then at the back 7,8,9 to make it easier for your guests to find their seats. Naming your tables is a lovely way to add a personal touch to the table plan as well.
Who – Should sit together?
While we’ve advised to put your table plan together as soon as you can, we still appreciate it can be easier said than done. Where do you start? How do you get around family & friend politics?
Firstly start with your top table (if you’re having one) and who you’d like to be up there with you and work down from there. Or if this is actually one of the hardest tables to sort (if parents are split up and other partners are involved) then you could choose a sweetheart table just for the two of you so no one feels left out from the top table. Depending on your Bridal party, you might put them all on one table or split across two so they can sit with their partners. Go through your guest list and groups will naturally form i.e. families, friends etc and then it’s a case of which groups will naturally sit with each other. Slowly making your way through your guest list crossing them all off until everyone has a seat. Sometimes leaving the harder tables till last is easier because you might find there are other guests, your trickier guests will sit with as you put your other table together. If you think anyone is going to complain, maybe angle their chair away from where the two of you are sat – out of sight, out of mind.
What – is your table plan going to look like?
Now it’s all come together, everyone has a place at a table. How are you going to physically display your table plan. We’d recommend having a physical table plan over just having name places on tables so that all your guests aren’t having to circle every table to find their name.
Your table plan wants to be clear and easy for people to read and use. There are some great interactive table plan ideas on Pinterest and Tiktok nowadays but always consider the logistics. Anything that creates a queue or crowd around your table plan can add extra time that can delay your speeches and your food.
If you really are worried about lots of last minute changes, then you could choose a table plan where each table is written on individual cards so it’s easier to make changes and replace that table’s card.
Where – should it be placed at your venue?
Position your table plan near or outside your reception room. This way the guests can find their names and head straight in to sit down. If you place it in a separate room or area, chances are your guests will be having conversations and forget where they’re meant to be and will have to keep going back to check. Keeping it at eye level for most heights will also make it easier for guests to read.
Finally our biggest tip, try and keep it as stress free as you can for yourselves. Avoid involving anyone else in your table plan if you can and try to make the decisions yourselves about where you’d like people to sit. Once you’ve asked for advice or shown someone where they’ll be sitting before the wedding, chances are they will try and make changes to it to suit them. Creating a table plan is hard enough without more opinions being thrown into the mix. Most importantly, try to remember, depending on your food options and how long your speeches last, your guests are only sat down for maximum 2/3 hours, they will survive on those tables! The room is going to be full of people who love you both and want to celebrate you. So, for all the hassle your table plan might be in the run up, on the day you’ll just be glad they’re all there with you to share in your special day.