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Inspiration Detail | Sitting Pretty

Sitting Pretty

The main focus for your reception should be to make your guests feel comfortable with the surroundings and to put them at ease with the event. Although it seems logical that guests would enjoy sitting with whomever they wish, an open seating plan may cause stress for many guests. Think of your reception as a very large dinner party at your home wherein you would want each and every guest to feel welcome and completely comfortable. Seating charts can be an essential element when creating a welcoming atmosphere for your guests. Assigned seating has the added advantage of putting your guests at ease since they will not find themselves in search of an open seat. Whether you design a seating chart or decide upon an open plan for your reception, there are some important aspects to keep in mind.

It is proper etiquette that your wedding party should never be separated from their dates or spouses during your reception. By including the bridal party and their dates at the head table, everyone will be more comfortable and will not be retreating to other tables to visit and check in on their loved ones. If your wedding includes a large bridal party, there are several options for seating arrangements. The first option is to construct a large rectangle with your bridal party situated around all four sides. This can be arranged as a beautiful focal point, while still allowing you to converse with your bridesmaids and groomsmen.

The second option is to seat your maid of honor, best man and their respective dates with you and your groom at a table. This allows you to spend the dinner hour with them, while allowing your bridal party to still sit together with their dates at nearby tables. The final option is to have a sweetheart table. This table is set for only you and your groom allowing for some private time together.

The head table should be the main focus of the reception space since the attention will always be on you throughout the evening. You can showcase the head table in a variety of ways, such as with a larger floral arrangement or a collection of candlesticks. Make certain your table décor is not too tall however, so guests can enjoy watching the special toasts as well as first dances from their vantage point. 

If you are opting for an open seating plan, arrange a few tables for immediate family members or special guests near the head table. Your parents, grandparents, ushers, readers and special attendants should be the closest to you. By placing a few reserved signs on nearby tables, other guests will know that these should remain open. Prior to the reception, inform your family members and special guests that they will be seated at these designated tables so they know their seat has been prearranged.

The key to any seating chart is organization. Start assigning guests to tables as soon as your RSVP cards come in the mail. Group guests by mutual friends, family members or simply common interests. A thoughtful hostess always thinks of her guests’ comfort first and foremost. If you know two family members often clash, simply seat them at separate tables. 

When designating guest placement on your seating chart, only assign table numbers. This way they are free to select their seat at the table and you will have less stress planning each and every seat. Keep the number of guests at each table low. The highest number of guests at each table should be twelve. Most often, you will seat eight at a standard round table. Guests should be able to sit comfortably and enjoy the meal without feeling crowded. When you plan a realistic number at each table, it provides an opportunity for guests to visit with each other around the table. 

To ensure each guest has a place to sit at your reception, regardless of whether they have sent their RSVP or not, leave several spots open at tables while also planning an extra table for last-minute RSVPs. Keep track of any tables that have not reached capacity so you know exactly where to place any guest who attends your reception without notice. 

If your reception will have an open seating plan, it is especially important to provide extra space for guests. Since those in attendance will be able to select their own table, they may leave an odd number of chairs at some tables. By planning an extra reception table or two, you will ensure all guests have a place to sit even if they arrive late. 

For a quick reference guide to seating, check out our “Seating Guide” in FROM OUR NOTEBOOK in the back of this issue. |NWD|