The Dreaded Wedding Tableplan

NIAMH WHITE

Wedding Coordinator, Horetown House

For this months blog I have chosen one of the most dreaded parts of wedding planning-The Table plan. When couples start the planning process they are filled with excitement and joy and thoughts of partying with friends and eating delicious food and dancing for hours with all of your favourite people.   Then the table plan pops up and sucks the life out of everyone. Well I am here to take away all of the stress and solve all of your problems…I’m just kidding!  There is no silver bullet for wedding table plans, but there are some logistical considerations which might make the experience a little easier to navigate.
“you don’t want to be watching the post box praying for a “regrettably decline”

The Room Capacity

If your venue has a top number, that’s the top number so if you don’t want to be watching the post box praying for a “regrettably decline” cut the list before you get carried away sending out the invites. There is a commonly held belief that the average decline rate is 10% but this varies wildly from wedding to wedding. I have had couples who lost 20% and the following week a wedding with almost 100% attendance. Lots of things affect numbers, holiday season, major sporting events, family bereavements and bouts of chicken pox. Guest numbers are unpredictable so when asking for quotes, presume the lowest number and when providing facilities allow for the largest number.  It is also worth asking what is the minimum number your room can take.  This may seem silly but when you view, your venue will have the room set for the optimum, ask them what do they do for smaller groups if your numbers are on the lower side of what they cater for, you dont want to feel like a small wedding in a large room.

Top Numbers, real Numbers, Final Numbers.

When you are starting your wedding table plan you need to know what your absolute max number is so you start with enough tables and chairs on your floor plan.  Start with this as a draft and eventually you will know what your actual number is once the RSVPS are complete. We ask our couples to send in their seating plan 10 days before their wedding but there are often changes made right up until the starters go out (and sometimes extra guests turn up for main course!!!). If you think guests aren’t coming, put them on your draft and remove guests as they decline, it’s easier to take people off rather than try to squeeze them on to tables that are already filled.  Check which numbers your venue are charging for and how late you can make changes before you are locked in to paying for people who don’t show!

“…eventually you will know what your actual number is once the RSVPS are complete”

Special Guests

Most tables have a variable capacity, a min of 8 and a maximum of 10 for example. If you have 6 people on a table that can hold 10, the guests are going to be widely spaced, but if someone drops off it will make the table very sparse. Aim to fill your tables to make sure your guests are close enough to chat. Except in the case of guests who might appreciate a little more elbow room, perhaps you have a guest who is on crutches or has recently had a hip replacement and might just need a little room to manoeuvre. Similarily if you have an Aunt who is always cold, don’t put her beside the door to the smoking area, or if you have a Grandparent who is hard at hearing, don’t put them on the table closest to the band. It isn’t possible to think of everything, and you can’t solve every problem but sometimes a little bit of forward planning can make a big difference to your guests comfort on the day.

“…It isn’t possible to think of everything, … a little bit of forward planning can make a big difference to your guests comfort..”

Options for table layouts

If you have options in your venue in terms of what type of layout to choose or tables to select, ask your planner what they would choose if they were in your shoes. Chances are they have seen lots of different events and can give you insight into what has worked well in the past. You don’t have to take every bit of advice and maybe it won’t suit you but it’s always worth asking your wedding vendors what they have learned from seeing weddings unfold.  If your numbers are low for the size of the room, more tables with less guests will help to fill it out nicely, while if your numbers are high, larger tables with more guests will help to provide more space.

The top Table(s) 

I have yet to meet a couple who didn’t ask “who is supposed to go on the top table” and I think most couples want to know what the “right” answer is before they choose the answer that works for them. So with that in mind I will make the following suggestions of possible “right” answers.

The Sweetheart Table

This is a small table for two, set up at the top of the room, facing out, allowing the couple to spend time together with their families and friends close by.  This is popular in the States and has seen some popularity here and really works for some couples but it is still quite a gutsy move.  Expect feedback!

The Traditional Irish Top Table

This is a long table, with all guests sitting on one side and included the bride and groom, both sets of parents, the priest and the maid of honour and best man and bridesmaids and groomsmen, men and women arranged on alternate sides.

The Modern Top Table

The most popular table we see is a round table in the centre of the room and usually includes couples and some combination of family members and the bridal party. It can also work well to put bridal party members on their own tables which allows their partners to sit with them and this makes space, allowing siblings to be added to the top table instead. The main thing to remember is, that in real life, families don’t tend to fit neatly into traditional templates, so look at your situation and decided what works for you- it is far easier to make a table the right shape for your family than try to fit your favourite people onto someone else’s idea of a top table.

Keep It simple

If I could give some advice it would be this:

  • Be realistic about your numbers and don’t bet on the no’s. It’s ok to hope for a few declines to help the budget, but be sure you have enough seats for everyone on the day.
  • Think about those who might have special requirements and try to accommodate them as best you can.
  • Design your top table to suit your family and friends, there is no “right” answer
  • Don’t agonise over every combination, chances are the very person you are moving 14 people around to accommodate is the one who will cancel last minute
  • You are the host and as such it is up to you to provide comfortable surroundings, great food and a drink, but it is up to your guests to make conversation and enjoy themselves. Make your best attempt at putting like minded people together but leave it up to them to do the rest.
  • And for the love of all that is good- don’t make a singles table!!!

“…for the love of all that is good- don’t make a singles table!!!!”