From the Professionals... Should you plan the seating plan?

05 / 03 / 19

Whitewed Directory from the professionals blog on the seating plan stationery designers pastel design table places

* Main Image supplied by Lucy Ann Designs

Each month we delve deeper into subjects to find out more and bring you useful snippets, advice and golden nuggets of information from our trusted Whitewed Professionals!

This month we are using the help of a few of our wedding stationery designers to shed some light on the seating plan. The question is; to plan or not to plan, the seating plan!? We ask our experts to share their thoughts, experiences and professional opinions on the options available to couples and the pros and cons that come along with them.

It may seem easier on the planning front to forgo a seating plan, but is this really the best option? Let's find out...

Whitewed Directory from the professionals blog on the seating plan stationery designers mirrored table places

* Image of Bespoke Signs and Stationery by Tamsin Yates

Working out the table plan and seating arrangements for your wedding breakfast is often one of the most complicated and confusing wedding planning tasks there is. If you're one of the lucky ones where you guests slotted perfectly onto tables of 8 with no singletons, aunt Mary with no seat or friendship feuds or relations to separate then congratulations - you are in the minority! For the majority this task can be daunting, difficult and very time consuming.

So we ask... if it's so difficult to plan the table plan, why not have open seating and not plan the table plan? Sounds like a great idea right?

Let's talk about our seating plan options and get the opinions of our professionals. We've asked three of our Whitewed approved stationery designers to help us out here - after all they are the profession that make table plans for their clients on a daily basis!

Whitewed Directory from the professionals blog on the seating plan stationery designers rustic wooden hanging frame

* Image of Pastel Designs

When it comes to your options, there are three main choices for you to decide from;

1- The traditional wedding table plan. This set up involves assigning all of your guests to a table and specific seat, This is usually identified with a large table plan board in the room and name cards on the table.

2 - Assign your guests to tables, but keep the seating arrangements flexible so they can choose who they sit next too. This option is a little less formal and traditional but still gives you control over making sure everyone has a suitable table.

3- Forget the table plan completely and let your guests choose their seats! This is by far the most informal set up and perfect for a laid back wedding day.

Whitewed Directory from the professionals blog on the seating plan stationery designers floral table settings easel

* Image of Lucy Ann Designs

The traditional seating plan is the most popular option for a reason. Although you may have the headache of spending hours prior to your wedding day placing guests around tables, it also means you have full control! If you need to make sure any guests should be kept separate from one another they can be or, you can have some fun and spread your guests around a little. We would always recommend guests are seated together in a couple or two pairs, but why not place another four on the table with them they don't know (yet!) to encourage mingling?

This set up is also preferable by the catering team more often than not as it allows them to make a swift food service if having a sit down meal and multiple options were offered.

Dependant on your guests, most will appreciate not having to anxiously search for a seat amongst strangers as with the informal option of open seating.

Tamsin of Bespoke Signs and Stationery by Tamsin Yates says "Although it may seem stressful in advance of the wedding to assign seats, it’s one less stress you can avoid happening on your wedding day by taking care of this in advance! Getting a group of X number of people to split into equal groups of say 8 per round table is not easy on the day. What tends to happen is the last group of guests to arrive often must split up and fill the odd empty seat left on each table."

Charlotte of Pastel Designs says "I prefer seating plans as people like to be told what to do, and at the end of the day you want the wedding to go as smoothly as possible."

Lucy from Lucy Ann Designs shares her advice saying "I would recommend if you are having a fixed table plan to go with both first and last names. Not only will it save the confusion between guests with the same name, it also looks smart, sophisticated and more formal".

Tip for you - When planning this set up we recommend that you draw out your tables and place each of your guests on 'sticky tabs' so you can move them around, play with the layout and change them easily as and when the RSVP's come in! When you're plan is complete, make sure you pass a copy to your venue and caterers.

Whitewed Directory from the professionals blog on the seating plan stationery designers hanging acrylic signs

* Image of Bespoke Signs and Stationery by Tamsin Yates

If the traditional set up seems a little too formal for you but you're not quite fancying the full open seating arrangement, why not opt for the middle ground and assign your guests to tables but not seats? By keeping the seating arrangements flexible, your guests can choose who they sit next too but you can be reassured that all guests have a seat with like-minded folk.

This option allows your guests to all have a seat without any awkward separations because they were too slow entering the room, or larger groups over crowding one table and leaving another with only one or two guests on (which can happen with open seating). It also means you can be picky with making sure your closest friends and family still have the tables closest to you for hearing the speeches.

This option works better with less formal eating scenarios or where all guests are eating the same dish.

"­­Lots of couples who want to achieve a relaxed, laid-back day will assign a table but not a specific seat on the table. This is sometimes easier for all involved! The design of the seating plan will be no different, the main difference is you won’t need any place cards on the table. But do make sure this is clear, when guests start gathering around the table perhaps send a bridesmaid or usher round to tell them to sit next to anyone." - Tamsin of Bespoke Signs and Stationery by Tamsin Yates.

Charlotte of Pastel Designs says "The problem with completely open seating is what if the members of the families with disabilities or Cousin Sam is in plaster as he broke his leg at football, they might want to be sitting neatly next to the conveniences or the bar, but the chairs are already taken! Or a couple can’t sit together because there is only enough room for one? Also, people don’t like to think, sometimes it leads them into a spin… Having a designated table alleviates these problems whilst still keeping the relaxed feel."

One of Lucy Ann Designs favourite and more unique seating plans has to be the ‘bus key rings’. These key rings are the perfect option for this seating set up! Lucy created a wooden frame with hooks where an acrylic printed bus key ring hangs from. The front had the guests name and on the back was their table number. Lucy says 'It was such a fun and different way to find your seat. I would recommend this idea to anyone wanting to branch outside the box and get creative!'

Whitewed Directory from the professionals blog on the seating plan stationery designers bespoke red bus key ring

* Image of Lucy Ann Designs

The open seating plan has become increasing popular over the last few years. As we see a rise in relaxed, informal and festival style weddings, with this has come a more laid back approach to the catering and seating options too. We love open seating, but it does have its time and place unfortunately. When considering this approach you need to ask yourself if it will work with your desired wedding plans and style?

If you're having a very small intimate wedding, the chances are most guests will know one another and guests can find themselves a seat pretty easily. This also work with slightly larger wedding parties as long as the table is one long trestle rather than several smaller tables, and guest seat themselves systematically.

The majority of couples choosing this informal and flexible seating are also choosing catering to match - if you're hoping for a buffet, BBQ or cocktail style reception then all of these lend themselves to open seating - guests can then come and go as they please!

The big rule to remember is to set out more seating than required so that there are no awkward moments!

If you're seeking a formal sit down meal then this option isn't really a suitable choice for you!

Lucy Ann designs is all for open seating - "A lot of couples now want their guests to feel more free with where they wish to sit so an open seating plan can work wonders. This can also be designed and printed as a large board. I have experienced a little bit of chaos when it's open but it is a lot more fun too!”

On the day stationery requirements completely change when having a no seating plan rule as the traditional large easel display and table place cards are no longer required. Charlotte of Pastel Designs says in this situation " the bride and groom usually like just a welcome sign, and maybe a little note to be 'one'! - What a lovely idea!

Being so relaxed can have its draw backs too! Tamsin of Bespoke Signs and Stationery by Tamsin Yates shares this sound bit of advice, "If you are going to have no seating plan, consider how you will communicate this to your guests on the day. Some couples place a sign by the entrance along the lines of “now that we are together forever, please feel free to sit wherever” or “come as you are, stay as long as you can, we’re all family so no seating plan”. We would also recommend again assigning a bridesmaid or usher who knows most of the guests the role of making sure everyone has a seat and is happy where they are sitting.

In our opinion the only time a no seating plan option would work is at a venue where there are more seats than guests, for example where a Hog Roast or BBQ is being served and guests can grab a plate and sit indoors or outdoors as and when they choose to eat."

Whitewed Directory from the professionals blog on the seating plan stationery designers wedding welcome sign

* Image of Pastel Designs

Hopefully we've helped you answer the question 'to plan or not to plan the seating plan!?' It's not an easy one to answer; and only a question that you can answer yourselves. It really is a personal preference taking into consideration your guests, catering, wedding day desires and style - and ultimately what 'you' want.

Bespoke Signs and Stationery by Tamsin Yates reminds us that "when planning your seating plan don’t forget how essential it will be to your décor. There are so many fantastic ideas on how to make your wedding plan look gorgeous. A lot of couples keep theirs as a memory long after the big day. It’s the only item which will contain the names of your wedding guests in 1 place – and that’s special!

The next big thing for seating plans? We expect to see a lot of acrylic table plans at weddings in 2019 and 2020. Acrylic signage is the perfect addition to any wedding style, be it a low-key reception at your favourite pub, a rustic barn wedding or formal gala at a 5* hotel"

Whitewed Directory from the professionals blog on the seating plan stationery designers bride on wedding day

* Image of Bespoke Signs and Stationery by Tamsin Yates

Head over to The Whitewed Directory pages of our contributory stationery designers to check out more of their styles, unique offerings and gorgeous images! Click the 'get in touch' button to set up your informal meet up with our professionals, and see how they can help you make your wedding day stationery bespoke and special to you! They'll even help you decide if you should have a seating plan or not!!

Lucy Ann Designs - Click here

Bespoke Signs and Stationery by Tamsin Yates - Click here

Pastel Designs

Happy Planning,

Love Team Whitewed xx