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Assigning seats or tables?

Guests can be assigned to a table (where they can choose any seat) or assigned to a specific seat. We don't have exact figures, but it seems that assigning tables is probably more common in the USA and assigning seats is more common in Europe. Both approaches are valid and whichever you choose is a matter of personal preference. you can ensure that speakers and VIP guests are seated in the most appropriate seats

  • makes it easier for waiting staff to deliver meals to specific guests
  • more popular with guests according to a survey
  • is a good opportunity for the organizer to do some matchmaking!

Table assignment

  • is slightly less work for the organizer
  • does not require place cards
  • guests have some choice who they sit next toTry to create balanced tables, with even numbers of males and females. It is traditional to alternate male-female-male-female guests in some cultures. Some business dinners are seated male-male-female-female for variety.

If it is a group of people that know each other well you could try splitting up married couples for extra variety.

Try to avoid putting guests on the same table as ex-partners, unless you are sure this is OK. Remember that every room has 4 corners!

Resist the temptation to have a 'leftovers' table of all the people who didn't fit on other tables. It is probably better to distribute such guests evenly.

Seating arrangements

 You might want to put people next to people they know, or you might want to split them up a bit so they meet new people. But try to put each person next to at least one person they already know. People are more likely to get on well if they are similar ages or have similar interests. It might not be a good idea to put your 'alternative lifestyle' friend with the piercings and tattoos next to your 80-year-old grandmother. A little common sense goes a long way.

 Generally you should try to put families together and work colleagues together. But if you know people don't get on, try seating them separately. It is worth breaking with tradition to have a stress free event.

 

Wedding top table

The wedding party is usually seated at a long table with seats down one side. This is called the 'top table' or 'head table'.

Who to put on the top table can be a sensitive issue, especially if the parents of the bride or groom have divorced and remarried. Make sure you resolve any such issues long before the wedding day.

There are many different ways to organize a wedding top table, but traditionally:

  • The groom sits to the right of the bride.
  • Places alternate male-female
  • Partners of the Best man and Chief bridesmaid sit at other tables.

 but you should do what feels right for you.

 

For a second marriage you may wish to seat children of the first marriage on the top table.

If the parents of the bride or groom have divorced and remarried it probably isn't a good idea to put them and their new partners together on the top table. One solution is to invite some family of the step-parent and put them together on a separate table near the top table.

If you are worried that someone might feel left out because they aren't on the top table, ask them to "host" one of the other tables. Make it clear who is hosting each table on the seating chart. This will help them to feel involved.

If the parents of the bride and groom are not in the wedding party they should be seated on the table nearest the top table.

It is becoming fashionable in some quarters to have the bride and groom at their own table (for example David and Victoria Beckham). This is also referred to as a "sweetheart table". This can be useful for bypassing issues about who should be on the top table.

Some couples opt not to have a top table at all, but to have two free seats at each table so they can mingle during the meal. This is a nice idea, but it does mean that two guests at each table will be seated next to empty seats for much of the reception
 

Special needs

 Make sure you find out and notify the caterers of dietary preferences, e.g. vegetarian, kosher, halal, nut allergies and gluten intolerance.

Order high chairs, or other appropriate seats, for small children.

Inform the caterers of any guests in wheelchairs who won't require seats.

 

RSVP etiquette

 Definition of RSVP: An abbreviation of "répondez s'il vous plaît", which is French for "please reply".

Before you can arrange your seating plan you need to know how many guests are coming. You can confirm numbers by sending out RSVPs. Typically RSVPs are sent out at least a month before the event. Your RSVP should make clear:

  • the nature and location, date and time of the event
  • who is invited (are children invited?)
  • a deadline for accepting (expecting people to reply within a week is not unreasonable)
  • how they can accept or decline (e.g. telephone, letter or email)
  • (optional) choice of meal

RSVP cards often include a space for the guest to fill-in and return.

You should always include a date by which people must reply, otherwise some people may decide to leave it to the day before the event. Chase up stragglers with a phone call once the reply deadline has expired.

If it is an important event and you want to warn people to keep the date free long before you send out RSVPs, you can send 'save the date' cards

Table decorations

 Besides cutlery, crockery and glasses, items on the table can include: