Singaporebrides | Weddings 101

December 2011

Is There A Perfect Seating Plan?

You’ve had enough of all the stress and exhaustion from planning your wedding, and you’re thinking of saving yourself that last bit of trouble by allowing free seating for your guests during the dinner. We say, persevere and don’t give up! You’ve taken care of every detail of your wedding – what’s one more? Besides, having a seating plan for your guests will only do you good.

Don’t belittle the importance of a seating plan. Imagine having two feuding relatives or co-workers sitting next to each other, and the drama that will ensue should they start a quarrel. Having a seating plan allows you to avoid such negative drama at your wedding. While it’s no easy task to seat the correct ten people together at a table that is appropriately situated in the ballroom, taking the time and effort to do so tells your guests something: that you care about their enjoyment and comfort. What better way to give your guests a good impression than at the reception table?

Why the need for a seating plan?

Most couples opt to assign tables to their guests and allow them to pick their seats because having the option of free seating at a wedding is not the most effective idea. Firstly, free seating means guests are seated at a first-come-first-served basis. You are going to give your guests (especially the elderly ones) anxiety attacks over their seating. It is always good to reassure your guests that they already have a seat reserved for them at one of the tables. Plus, assigned seating also helps guests get to their seats faster and cut down time spent lingering around for a seat.

Secondly, it is unfair for your relatives or closed friends of the family to be seated right at the back when they should have been given priority seating in front. Traditional seating arrangements are designed to honour your family members; they are seated nearer to the stage so they can have an unobstructed view of the proceedings. Also, you don’t want couples to sit separately because there are insufficient seats at one table.

Lastly, free seating gives you no say in who sits where and with whom. You don’t want clashing personalities and bickering relatives and friends to be sitting next to each other – that’s not the kind of drama and commotion you want at your wedding.

Who sits where and with whom

Most weddings in Singapore follow traditional seating arrangements, where you have one main table closest to the stage. This is where the bride and groom will sit with their parents and immediate relatives. Who these relatives are – grandparents, siblings or the groom’s eldest uncle – depends on the couple and their parents. At my brother’s wedding, my father requested for his aunt to be seated at the groom’s table so I gave up my seat and sat at another table.

“For the bride’s table, things were much simpler,” Joycelyn, my sister-in-law says. “My family is more traditional, so my parents believed that my father’s family – his brothers and wives – should have priority over the rest of our relatives, and sit at the bride’s table.”

The rest of his and my sister-in-law’s relatives were seated nearby – the closer in relation, the closer they were to the groom’s table. By seating your family members closer to the stage, other guests can easily identify them as well. Take a leaf out of my brother’s wedding by learning what they did with the seating of relatives: “We dealt with the issue by letting our parents decide which relatives to sit together at a table, since they know best.”

Group the rest of the people according to their friendship or relationship – secondary school friends at a table and colleagues at another. Do take heart to put your bosses at a table where they have an unobstructed view of the stage to avoid stepping on their toes.

How to go about doing it

Always have more than one copy of the floor plan of the room so you can experiment with different seating arrangements during your planning.

Don’t start your planning at the very last minute: “Grouping of guests at each table is a big headache – especially when there are relatives who only wish to sit with certain people,” Joycelyn says. Start planning your seating plans once you’ve sent your RSVP cards out, if its possible. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t heard from your guests yet; start with your close relatives and friends who are bound to turn up.

“Do your seat arrangement planning at least six months before the wedding,” she advises. “This gives you time to play around with the arrangement and send invitations out to those on your ‘B’ or ‘C’ list.” This is especially helpful if you cannot invite everyone you know and have to prioritise seating arrangements according to who you’re inviting. Doing so also prevents having any empty seats at your wedding – the last thing every couple wants at their wedding.

Although my brother and sister-in-law had their parents group the relevant relatives to a table, the decision to sit them at which table still lies with them. “After we have situated the groups of relatives at a table, we showed the seating plan draft to our parents for their approval.”

Try to take your parents’ suggestions and your guests’ likes and dislikes into consideration, but remember, ultimately you have the last word. Keep a balance and everyone happy by being accommodating whenever you can.

Lead the way

Once you have a seating plan in place, point your guests to their table by labeling them. It is up to you to simply number the tables or to name them after flowers or colours (depending on your preference or wedding theme). It is more important to note that these labels should be easily visible from any part of the ballroom, and from every entry point. You can also instruct your helpers at the reception table to inform your guests of their assigned table when they are signing in.

Special Arrangements

Pay an extra mind to guests who require special arrangements. Arrange for wheel-chair bound guests to be sitting near the doors so it’s easier for them to enter and exit the room. Also, inform the hotel staff beforehand so they can make space at the designated table to sit that guest without much disruption.

Remember to cater to guests who are bringing their toddlers and infants. Ensure that baby chairs are provided for at their tables so they can enjoy the evening without having to carry their child in their arms for the night.

One last word of advice before you sit yourself down to plan: don’t try to aim for a perfect seating plan. No matter how seamless your seating arrangement is, someone is bound to be unsatisfied with his or her seat. Aim to please almost all your guests instead, not all.