No Seating Plan
It is becoming more and more popular to have no seating plan or open seating as it is also called. There are many signs depicting this very trend. But does it work?
As a wedding planner I have seen it be very successful, but also a total disaster. It does come down to be honest your guests of the day and keeping your wedding drama free!
This is not a choice for the panicker Bride, or OCD Bride who needs to have control of the day, or a structured wedding.
On the other hand, if this is what you want and are having a cocktail party or buffet with a few tables, in hopes that guests will "alternate" sitting and eating. Take my advise and make sure that your elderly guests have a place to sit down, possibly even by designating a separate table for them.
1. Confusing for the guests, as a seating plan or escort cards are expected
2. Expect pandemonium as people rush looking for seating .Family and close friends could end up being the furthest away from the Bride and Groom.
3. You can all too easily find that groups of guests park themselves first and so other likely groups have to split up or are left with the only untaken seats being with their best enemies. And it'd be far worse to play musical chairs to unscramble it on the day.
4. Empty seats are left, (like in the cinema or public transport guests tend to leave a space) so if you only have the right number of space the last in have to split up.
5. Guests who are related or close friends tend to move chairs, cutlery etc. and cram onto one table.
6. Guests tend to sit with family and friends so this does not encourage mingling.
7. Family politics can cause this to be a nightmare
8. If your photographer is going from table to table to ensure they get photos’ of everyone, someone could be missed if you have a table hopper, lots of pictures of one person (that you think your at their wedding rather than them at yours)
9. Time factor if you don’t have some semblance of a table plan it will take a while for guests to find a seat, move, swop seats etc.
10. If High chairs are needed these have to be swopped with chairs once people are seated at their chosen table.
11. Caterers will prefer a seating plan when calling tables up as they will have etiquette they want to stick to such as calling up the Brides parents before the second cousins / milkman, or if there has been a menu option chosen before the day.
12. Guests like a ‘home base’ assigned table, where they can leave their bits and return – guests could be scared to mingle with other tables or go to the toilet in case they lose their seat.
13. You know your Uncle Burt hasn’t spoken to Aunt Maggie in 10 years and that your step-mum can’t be anywhere near your mother, a seating chart allows you to keep control of these feuds from erupting on your special day by sitting the possible troublemakers FAR apart from each other.
1. Seating plan tends to be more trouble than it's worth, less hassle and stress
2. Suits a vintage theme (our grandmother and grandfather didn’t have a seating plan all those years ago).
3. Suitable for people who hate structure and order.
4. Works well for a buffet, people can stand sit eat where and when they want and only talk to those they want to.
5. You don’t have to worry about no shows and rearranging tables at the last minute
6. Less cost you do not have to produce the seating plan or place cards etc.
Alternatives to consider:
- Allocate people to a particular table and they can sit where they like at that table
- Allocate couples/families to tables but not specific seats. On the back of the table name will be the name of the clan/gang/couple and how they know the bride/groom so as to help with introductions etc.
- Assign head table and 2 front tables for immediate families, including elderly grandparents.
One bride had a sign that read “"the bride couldn't be bothered with the stress of a seating plan so sit where you want!" Did make a lot of people giggle.
The groom’s family spent too long at the bar, there was no seating for them altogether, and they all became stroppy that they couldn't sit together, so I had to get a new table laid out for them. It took the shine off day; the Bride was in near to tears.
A Bride did not do a seating chart or assigned tables and it was a bit confusing. The worst part is that friends of the family, and even the close relatives were seated in the back. The photographer didn’t end up with a fair amount of important people because they were seated all the way in the back. The parents even went to sit in the back with them because there wasn’t really room in the front. This meant that they didn’t really get to see the dancefloor or the Bride and Groom.
A Bride and Groom had a buffet style dinner for 60 people, and chosen not to have assigned seating people sat with whoever they are most comfortable with, and people got up and mingled around a lot of the night talking to people and family they haven’t seen for a long time. There was no chaos just a party feel.
One wedding that was a buffet option, tables were not assigned and it was chaos. People rushed to "claim" chairs before going for food only to come back and find their handbags on the floor underneath a chair someone was sitting in. This caused ill feeling amongst the guests.
So if you now think yes a table plan is for you. Don’t over think it! At most weddings, your guests are sitting at their tables for max ninety minutes of what is a pretty long event. So, while ideally everyone has someone at their table that they like, and no one is at a table with someone they can’t stand, don’t stress too much about breaking all of your guests into the most-perfect-groups-of-eight ever—they’ll have hours to hang out with whoever they want. Now, if your wedding consists of a six-course plated meal that’s going to take three hours, you may want to work a little harder on creating great groups, but this is also where I encourage people to let the guests who won’t know anyone else at your wedding (see: that one former co-worker you’ve stayed close to, or childhood or university friend who lives in a different country and doesn’t know any of your current friends) to bring a plus one, even if you’re not allowing them across the board.
Remember it is your wedding (wink) so do what you want. Don't start letting parents (or anyone other than the groom) start adding unnecessary frills to your wedding if it's not what you want. You won't get a second wedding day, and this isn't a second bite of the cherry for the parents either. If they want table plans or a toastmaster or purple frilly napkins to coordinate with the bridesmaids knickers, they can have a vow renewal and have it for themselves!