Formal Wedding Seating: To Plan or not to Plan


Imagine a traditional white wedding. Following the post-ceremony drinks on the lawn, the couple form a receiving line to officially welcome every guest as they enter the Oak Barn, finding their place on the seating chart. It’s planned, formal and black tie. It’s very conventional.

Today, many couples opt for a mix of traditional and casual, choosing a seated wedding breakfast, or street food theatre at the Courtyard and BBQ Terrace. But even if you choose to take the formalities down a notch, there are some traditions that you may still find useful, like a seating plan. So, what are the pros and cons of formal wedding seating?

The pros and cons of a wedding seating plan.

When you make your decision, you’ll want to consider the style of wedding, the number of guests, and understanding the relationships between the people you have invited. 

Why choose a formal seating plan?

Family fixtures. 

Many of us today are part of a blended family and, sadly, it’s not always amicable. If you need to ensure certain family members are seated separately – and no one person can feel slighted by not sitting at the head table – a formal seating plan certainly helps. 

Single and mingle. 

If you have friends coming who don’t know any other guests, having a formal seating plan helps them find a place to sit and allows you to gracefully manage introductions to other singles or smaller groups. 

More people leads to more confusion.

When you have a large wedding planned, ensuring everyone knows where they are seated helps move things along. Otherwise, as the room fills up, the last people in the room will be left standing awkwardly on the edge as they scan about for a spare seat. And, generally speaking, any elderly guests will find this very uncomfortable. 

Support your servers.

When you’ve chosen silver service, having a seating plan allows the caterers and waitresses to smoothly deliver food choices to the right people. This makes things easier for them and ensures anyone with food allergies gets the right meal without having to worry. 

It’s a free-for-all.

Without a seating plan, it’s a free-for-all all as friend groups merge in one corner and family pick another. Chairs are dragged about as they squeeze one more person in, and suddenly your best man’s girlfriend is sitting alone at a table meant for eight. 

Keeping it comfortable.

Weddings are a time for family to catch up and old school friends find out who left town after graduation. Naturally, groups form of people who know each other, and any single or solo guests are left to fend for themselves. There’s nothing more uncomfortable than sitting at a table where everyone else is catching up on old relationships and you’re left out of the conversation. 

Sometimes keeping it casual is easier for everyone.

Save yourself some stress.

If you want to keep the atmosphere casual and relaxed, allowing everyone to choose their own place is in keeping with the theme. And it saves you hours of planning and stress, especially if your guests are not sending in their RSVP until the last minute, or you have unexpected last-minute additions.

No need to wait alone.

If you’ve chosen an outdoor BBQ or buffet style meal, guests serve themselves and sit down at the same time as a companion. Otherwise, with planned seating, they may finish eating before the rest of the table arrives.

Small and friendly.

When you have a smaller wedding planned, allowing everyone to find their own seat is more casual and intimate. 

Your wedding, your choice of formal wedding seating

As we always say at Coton House Farm, it’s your day, your way. But in this instance, unless you have a small number of guests and outside buffet style planned, we do think some gesture towards a seating plan can help. It doesn’t have to be rigidly planned to individual settings; just assigning groups per table helps to keep your day running smoothly and on time, and avoids any awkwardness. 

At Coton, we are ready to advise you on the best way to set out the room, depending on your numbers, as well as discussing how to manage the catering service of your choice. With this in mind, we preplanned all of the details, and want you to have clarity and more time to focus on the vows! 

Our helpful planning book and seating plans are readily available for your perusal on our supporting plan your wedding day pages.

You can contact us by phone or email if you have any questions or concerns. We would love to discuss any specific details or bespoke situations with you.

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