Planning

How to seat guests at your reception (and keep everyone happy!)

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Just in case you weren’t aware, you’re now officially the peacekeeper in a political hotbed we like to call ‘the wedding reception’. Okay, it’s not as extreme as that, but sometimes organising a reception can involve some degree of politics – whether it’s separating your feuding uncles or just making sure the kids are alright. Plan a peaceful (and fun) reception that’s mindful of everyone, with these helpful tips.

From the wedding of Sarah and Billy

Do I even need a seating plan?

“We’re all (mostly) adults here, surely everyone can find their own place to sit?” Here’s a big tip – even if you’re opting for a free-flowing, festival style affair we strongly recommend having some sort of plan. Casual areas are great for mingling and keeping things relaxed, but when it comes to an actual sit-down meal it’s best to avoid the mad rush of guests dodging each other to grab ‘the best seat’.

Getting the right mix

Obvious statement: try to seat long-term friends and work colleagues together where possible, but don’t be afraid to mix things up a bit. If you can’t fit a group of friends at one table, split them down the middle and fill with other guests who have common interests or ages. Whatever you do though, don’t leave one person out of the group – the last thing you want is to make someone feel shunned.

If you’re expecting guests who don’t know anyone else, seat them with people you think they’ll get along with and, ideally, are quick to start a conversation. So maybe don’t put your friend who works as a butcher next to your vegan, earth-mamma aunt!

Getting to know you…

Whether they’re the best of buds or total strangers, your guests are sure to start a conversation with a ‘minglo’ sheet. Similar to bingo, the game involves finding a guest that identifies with what’s on the sheet – fill it with anything you like, from ‘is an only child’ to ‘passed a driving test first go’ or ‘has multiple pets’. The first to get five in a row wins, while getting a ‘full house’ earns an extra special prize.

Playing matchmaker

Let’s say you’ve been itching to set up your workmate with one of the groom’s friends. Do you seat them next to each other or not? We say go for it… as long as it’s discreet. A singles’ table may make your single friends feel as if they’re on a speed date, so instead seat those you think are ‘destined to be together’ at the same table among other guests, or call on fate to let them simply find each other on the dance floor or at the bar. Some more words of advice? Never, ever, ever (ever) sit your single guests among a table of gushing newlyweds, blissfully in love. Remember that dinner party scene in Bridget Jones’s Diary?

From the wedding of Sophie and Clint

The cool kids’ table

Want to start a wild and crazy debate among your guests, with no possible hope of a unanimous agreement? Ask whether you should have kids at your wedding or not. Note: we do not recommend opening this up to discussion! If you’ve come down on the ‘yes’ side of the munchkins debate, you’ll definitely consider a kids’ table at some stage. There are plenty of mixed opinions about this. Will it let the parents relax? Will the kids be happy? Will they band together, start screaming at the top of their lungs and make the whole reception feel like a giant kids’ party at Sizzler? We hear you, they’re all valid points – especially that last one. Ultimately, putting all the kids together at one table can be a great idea, but be sure to seat them close to a few responsible adults, and keep them occupied and entertained.

Get creative

Use butcher’s paper as a tablecloth, provide crayons and markers, and let them go wild and draw all over it. Provide a few colouring-in books and other ‘quiet time’ activities like old-school Etch-A-Sketches, or take a more high-tech approach and organise an iPad for each child.

Only expecting a few children? If you don’t have enough littlies to fill a table, seat them with their parents or carers, but make them feel extra special with a little activity booklet or puzzle. Oh, and forget about serving kids the posh nosh from the adults’ menu. Stick to things you know they’ll all love (hello, chicken nuggets).

Final words of advice

  • Try to avoid the temptation to start working on the seating plan extra early. It’s handy to have a general idea of how you want to organise the reception, but wait until you get the final headcount and RSVPs to properly plan the seating. There is no point agonising over something that’s going to change anyway.
  • It’s an obvious statement but it has to be made: don’t over think it. Go with what feels right and who you think will get along.

Seating plan sorted? Now it’s time to create a brilliant seating chart – check out our handy guide here!


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