10 Tips for Planning Seating at Your Reception

29865437236_d3ac2eef02_zThere are plenty of options for reception seating plans. It’s worthwhile to understand what the traditional choices are, but there are no hard and fast rules: we advise the bride and groom to follow their instincts and make sure their seating plan, like their wedding and reception, reflects their style.

At the Gardens of Castle Rock, we’re seeing some popular trends which diverge from the traditional head table overlooking round eight-tops. While many couples are devising seating charts for their guests, many others are foregoing them, so guests find their own seats with family or friends. Parties are also embracing a variety of different table types. One particularly popular seating arrangement is the long farm-house style table.

We suggest you consider these factors when planning seating at your reception:

The larger the party, the more likely assigned seating is a good idea. It takes a long time for 200-300 people to negotiate finding seats. We recommend aiming for a balanced blend of friends and consciously selected strangers. Guests appreciate that you took the time and care to match them up with compatible people. They’re usually grateful to connect with someone new, and it’s a wonderful opportunity to cross-pollinate friends and family from each side of the new family.When the meal is plated, and especially when there are dining choices, assigned seating saves time and makes life easier for guests and caterers alike.

At smaller events, numbering 150 guests or fewer, open seating can work well. 29002367673_4cd762d4f1_z-1

Make sure seating assignments are completed at least a week ahead of time, and be prepared to make last minute tweaks. It’s one of the few tasks that is hard to delegate, because no one knows the guests as well as the bride and groom.

You may choose to assign seats, or simply to assign tables and let guests seat themselves.

Decide on the placement of the head table first, then build around it.

Traditionally, the bride and groom sit at the head table along with members of the wedding party, and perhaps their dates as well. This table is often on one side of the room, overlooking the party. The parents and grandparents of the couple are seated together at a nearby table.

Alternate choices abound. Some head tables are composed of the bride and groom along with their parents and family members, and some couples choose a sweetheart table–just the two of them together. Also, some parties prefer to place the head table in the middle of the room, for better access to all the guests.

29782517951_3ef7c94615_zYou might not be offering every guest the chance to bring a plus-one, but extending that consideration to guests who don’t know anyone at the event will make them much more comfortable.

While it may be tempting to put all the “singles” together at one table, this can be awkward: weddings are a place singles may be extra self-conscious about their status.

If you’re offering a cocktail party or buffet with just a few tables, guests can roam, mingle and eat. Consider the special needs of elderly guests or guests with children, and make sure they have a place to settle down.

While devoting energy to arranging the seating is worthwhile, don’t overthink this game of musical chairs. Before and after the meal, it will mostly be mobile mingling, so everyone should have a chance to connect with the friends and family they’re excited to see, even if they weren’t placed at the same table. See more seating ideas at The Gardens!

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