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Q&A: Wedding Seating – What Do I Need To Know?

Wedding seating. Where do you pop the parents? Should you have a designated children’s table? How do you make singles or solo attendees feel more welcome? All great questions, all of which we’ve answered below.

Photography by Willow and Co, featuring Lithgow State Mine Heritage Park.

What’s the general perception of ‘free seating’ when it comes to weddings?

We’ve been to weddings with free seating and while we love the idea of it, in reality it can become a pain in the A for guests, who end up scrambling to find a spot to sit with all their friends – particularly if you’re doing long or round tables. We suggest designating tables to people, but not actually putting place cards down at set seats so they can still be with their mates but you don’t have to worry about the order in which they sit.

Should we have our wedding party AND their partners sitting with us?

It’s so fine to have your wedding party with you and their partners – we think this is nice for everyone involved (you, your wedding party, and their partners). If you’re considering this, you likely have plenty of space so you could just make the ‘wedding party’ table a big one so that you’ve got enough space for everyone (e.g. bridesmaids, groomsmen, and their other halves).

Should we go with a long table or a round one?

Our personal preference is a long table as they look very striking in a space, are great for family-style banquet dining, and are easier to create a seating plan for as you’re not splitting groups up as much. But again, that’s just us. Ask if your venue has pics of both options set up previously which could help you decide. Also, when it comes to styling, long tables are generally easier to style, and round tables often require more styling (and therefore, more money).

We’re having a cocktail style/marquee wedding and have to organise furniture. How do we figure out how much seating we need?

The general rule of thumb for a cocktail-style wedding is that 70% of people should be able to plonk their bums down at any point – so think a combination of high bars, bench seats, lounges to cater for 105 guests if you were hosting for a total of 150. You can also bulk up your furniture with things like barrels and high tables which come in handy to lean on and leave drinks on.

Any suggestions on how we can reduce the cost of furniture when it comes to seating?

There are a few options we can suggest here but first, it’s probably worth talking about the costs involved in hiring the furniture. Often, the cost doesn’t factor just paying for the lend of the item itself but also the delivery and pick-up of the item, the maintenance and cleaning of it (weddings can be messy little things – queue spillage of drinks). 

  • Second-purpose anything you hire for your ceremony for the reception. For example, if you’ve hired benches for the ceremony, drag them over to the reception space (if it’s all happening at the same venue).
  • Picnic areas. You’ll still need some off-the-ground seating areas to cater to people unable to sit on the ground but consider incorporating some big blankets and comfy cushions. These can often be sourced at a lower cost than large furniture items.
  • Freecycle/Gumtree/Facebook Marketplace for free/cheap furniture that you can then resell after the event. The catch is you’ll have to sort the logistics out and if you don’t live in the region that you’re getting married at, it’s much more effort (hello trailer, and multiple trips).
  • Choose a venue that has plenty of seating and furniture. This said, venues that have more inclusions are often already priced accordingly (that is, higher than a blank canvas venue) so it often balances out pretty evenly in the end.
  • Shop around – chairs can be expensive, so consider benches at the ceremony to save money. They usually work out cheaper and can be moved to around your dance floor or another breakout/chill-out area.

How do we know where to seat our parents?

Good question. Gone are the days where you and your parents sit at the same table along with your grandparents, siblings, and so forth. Nowadays, it’s totally flexible. Set it up in whatever way best suits everybody. Maybe they’re having a tonne of their close mates to your wedding and would like to be all on one table together? Maybe they’ll be with your siblings? Maybe with their siblings? If you’re unsure, you can always ask them what they’d prefer too.

We’re inviting kids, where should we put them?

Our advice here is to definitely group them together on one separate kid’s table. If there are only a small handful of kids attending and it doesn’t really add up to a table, seat them with their parents.

Where should we sit single guests or guests attending solo?

If you’ve got a single friend, you should sit them next to one of their own mates who are also attending the wedding. Whoever makes sense to sit them next to, that should be your priority here – ensuring they enjoy their day is the biggest key here, not just plonking them on a table to fill space.

How (and when) should we do our seating chart?

You can do a rough seating chart at any time, but you can only really get into the nitty-gritty once you’ve got a full list of RSVPs. It’s best to start with pen and paper, jotting down your guest list and then scribbling a seating chart down on a separate sheet of paper (A3 size is perfect for this). Then, we recommend using Excel or Google Sheets as it’s easy to move things around.

Few tips? Both parents should be able to see their child from where they’re sitting. Newborns? Put them near the door with their parents for easy access if they need to quickly leave the room. Elderly? Keep them further away from the dance floor, but not near any doors as they’ll want to be cozy. Younger guests? Right near the dance floor.

Do we really need place cards at our wedding? Or is a seating chart enough?

Couples are usually pretty divided here, some think they’re totally essential and a nice-to-have, and some think they’re a bit of an extra expense they’d rather not see on their budget sheet. Our recommendation? Do what you please, or find a middle ground by having printed menus on each table setting with their individual name on the menu. That way they can use the seating signage as a guide, and the menu as confirmation on their seat. Another alternative is shared menus and individual place cards. If you’re really wanting to save money, you can do so by creating a design in Canva and printing it at your local Officeworks.

Is there anything else we need to consider?

  • Leave extra room for any guest who needs wheelchair accessibility, and the elderly.
  • Don’t forget to factor in your band or DJ, wedding cake, and dance floor into your seating chart.
  • Be flexible, fair, and thoughtful about who is going to want to sit with who – who might have things in common, couples don’t want to be split up, etc.
  • Sit energetic or younger people near the dance floor who are most likely to get up and boogie first.
  • Consider special circumstances like divorced couples who might not want to be seated on the same table.

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25th May, 2020

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