You’ve got a ring on your finger and confetti in your hair. All that is left now is sitting everyone down to the three course meal that you have ordered. But everyone is looking uncomfortable, all the kids are crying, and your cousin with the nut allergy is looking for her epi-pen.
It’s okay. That was all a bad dream…
Although creating a seating plan might be difficult, there are no reasons why there should be any problems on the day. That is to say, there won’t be any issues if you read this helpful article first and take note.
What is a Seating Plan?
If you are having a formal reception meal, then a seating plan is vital. A seating plan elaborates on your overall guest list. You can place specific people on specific tables within your reception dining room.
Then, you can clearly see who you’ve invited and where it would be best to seat them for the breakfast. This is especially important if you have certain family members that would be best on opposite ends of the room!
The top table mostly seats itself if you choose to opt for a traditional approach. In this arrangement, the bride and groom take centre stage, surrounded by the bride’s parents, then the groom’s, and finally the best man and chief bridesmaid.
Of course, if your family arrangement is different, or if you’d rather opt for something else, there are other options.
Once all the difficult decision of who sits where is sorted out, you’re left with a seating plan. This is a list, or diagram, that displays where all of your guests will be sitting for the duration of the night.
Many stationers can create beautiful table plans, numbering or naming the tables for ease of use. These can then be displayed at the entrance to the dining room to add to your decor. Importantly, it gives your guests clear instruction as to where they have been invited to sit.
Do the Caterers Need a Copy?
Yes! Whatever delicious option you’ve chosen for your wedding food, giving caterers as much information as possible is helpful. Whether you use the in-house team at your venue, or a bespoke hired-in catering company, they need to know who is sitting where. Otherwise, the nightmare at the top of this article might come true.
While the seating plan for guests may be beautifully ornate, the one you submit to your caterers needs to be functional. Imagine, for example, going to a restaurant where none of the wait staff are familiar with the tables. This will be the case at nearly every wedding venue you book.
An ideal finalised catering table plan should replicate your actual setup on the day. It will include a realistic drawing of the table set-up and indicate table names or numbers. Moreover, precise details on where each guest is sitting (including names), and the type of meal each person is having will enable smooth-running of service.
If you are offering a set menu for all guests (i.e. virtually everyone is eating the same), then you only need to differentiate those with specific dietary requirements, such as vegetarian or gluten free.
It’s also helpful to know where any children might be sitting. Certainly, clearly identifying if there is an allocated children’s table of their own or if the kids are intermingled with guests is really helpful. After all, the last thing you want is hungry and disruptive children without meals in front of them.
Why Do the Caterers Need the Seating Plan?
Depending on how many people you invite, you could have a room of a hundred people, hungry and drinking champagne. Especially if there are children involved, this could soon get messy.
Furthermore, if staff need to check several times before serving plated food to the correct person, meals could soon get cold.
A seating plan enables the waiting staff to serve all of your guest’s food at the same time because they know exactly where they are going. You don’t want half the guests to have finished before the other half receives their meal. It also means that any dietary requirements are known about and allergy mishaps can be avoided!
Therefore, it’s ideal to provide a concise, large and clear catering seating plan. Talk to your caterer to work out how best to do this. Perhaps a different plan for each course would be useful, or else a colour code.
Likewise, they are going to want to visualise the room from the plan. Thus, whereas your plan for guests can be laid out how you prefer, your caterers need a map.
Your catering manager can use the table plan to the best of their ability to form a cohesive action-plan for getting the food out to your guests as quickly and efficiently as possible. After all, this is where their experience lies. In short, you just need to help them get there.
What About if Things Change?
Your caterers must be able to deal with any last-minute changes to the seating plan order that might arise on the day. For instance, if certain guests don’t show up, or for some reason insist on sitting in another seat!
Sarah from Taste The Love, a Manchester-based catering company, says that a seating plan is “really important. Obviously it is more important if allergies are involved. I tend to ask for the seating plan two weeks before the event, to give to Front of House staff so they have it clear before your wedding.”
Sarah added, “Everything can change at the last minute but so long as the Front of House staff know then everything will be okay.”
Caterers can make physical updates to your arrangements by using a pen to mark alterations on the table plan. On the other hand, they can simply let their waiting staff know of any such changes.
A clear, uncluttered seating plan makes these changes easier to see and to manage. Keep them up to date, but try not to worry too much. For instance if your aunt’s plus one has just told you about a severe milk allergy, ask somebody to tell the kitchen.
Your caterers can make very good use of a comprehensive table seating plan. By providing them with this document, you are guaranteed to make the catering process a smoother, more efficient and enjoyable experience.
Meanwhile, relax. This is your special day and a meal you have been planning for months.
Have you had any issues relating to your seating plan? Let us know what happened, and how you resolved them, in the comments below.