Do You Really Need A Seating Plan at Your Reception?


No matter how hard you try some guests will always end up disappointed with where they are seated at the reception. It is tempting to think that it is best to just let people choose their own places and the casual approach will certainly relieve the organiser of a lot of work. The lack of a seating plan can cause problems, however, and a little effort before the big day can save you time and trouble later on.

The Statistics

Seating plans for weddings have not been the subject of a great deal of research but the surveys which have been conducted do suggest that guests actually prefer to be told where to sit.  Indeed the majority of those questioned prefer to be given a specific seat rather than just allocated a table. Older guests are generally the most enthusiastic about assigned seating.

The Issues

If you are in two minds about whether to have a seating plan then consider the following issues which can arise if you decide not to bother.

  • When guests are called to the tables there can be a stampede for the good seats. The unseemly rush does not help the general atmosphere and can leave significant guests without a decent position.
  • The seating of the guests will inevitably take longer as they move about trying to find a vacant seat or a place next to people they know.
  • The last few guests will have the embarrassment of looking like the kids that never get picked for the school football team.
  • Those who know few people at the wedding will feel awkward approaching tables of strangers.
  • Couples and family groups can find themselves split up. This can lead to resentment and even your guests leaving the room so they can eat together elsewhere.
  • The elderly and hard of hearing can find themselves seated a long way from the top table and unable to hear the speeches. Handicapped guests may not be able to find seats with easy access.
  • If you have favours and gifts which are male/female specific or even personalised you won’t be able to guarantee that the right people receive them.
  • The look of your room could be ruined by guests jumping the gun and reserving their places in advance by putting their coats on the chairs.
  • If there are any gate crashers or unexpected guests they could take the seats of the people who were invited.
  • The servers will find it much harder to locate those with vegetarian meals or special requirements.


The more guests you have the bigger the problems can be. If your event is small and informal you can get away with no seating plan but larger affairs could be seriously disrupted if there is no plan. The unseemly rush for seats could ruin the elegance of your wedding, leave many guests upset and seriously disrupt the timetable of the day. Unless you have good reasons not to, it is best to spend the time to evolve the right seating plan. It will never keep everyone happy but is usually the lesser of two evils.


Article by Sally Stacey