Planning Your Wedding Table Arrangements
Today we’re focusing in on the all-important aspect of wedding reception planning – the setup and layout of your wedding breakfast tables.
It may seem a little boring, but a part of the wedding planning process requires that you get your head around your wedding table plan. Before we discuss table layouts, we’ll consider some other factors affecting your table arrangement plans.
Size of the room
This can greatly affect the layout of your tables. Rooms that are more rectangular than square, or rooms that are quite narrow tend to be problematic.
The top table should contain your closest family, together with yourself and your partner. This is usually two mums and dads, the best man and chief bridesmaid. The other close family members should be placed on a table not so far away!
It’s best to put friends with friends, family with family. This is a very tricky process, and you should take a great deal of time to think this over.
Depending on your guests, there may be many factors that might lead you towards putting certain guests on certain tables. If a couple of people have a history of not exactly getting along, maybe you could and should separate them.
If you know that certain guests are relatively outgoing and confident, but don’t know all that many people at your wedding, then use them in the gaps on tables you haven’t filled yet.
What tables to have?
Tables at wedding receptions are typically round or circular. These work well, as every one of your guests can have a social view of another. They also allow for a greater number of tables in the room (depending on the dimensions of the room), are easy to navigate and simply look divine!
If you are having your wedding reception in a narrow room, then rectangular tables would be your best option for utilising the space.
How your wedding venue can affect your table layout
The wedding organisers at larger or more experienced wedding venues will have predetermined table layouts for the rooms they normally host wedding receptions in. This is great if you don’t want to worry about organising this part of your wedding, but you may find it prudent to get involved (for reasons we shall discuss below!).
Venue Table Layouts
If you have been doing a little bit of your own research and looking at wedding venue’s websites, you may have come across some confusing terms.
If the words ‘Cabaret’, ‘Banquet’ and ‘Boardroom’ in the context of tables mean nothing to you, then you are in the right place.
These terms partially exist in the world of weddings thanks to a crossover from the realm of conferencing – where venue staff would have to communicate with businessmen and their delegates and lay out the most optimum table formats for meetings. Thrilling, right?
Unfortunately, a lot of venues who do conferences as well as weddings don’t try to adapt their lingo for their wedding brochures, which can easily result in some confusion on your behalf if you’re left trying to decode it all.
To make things a little easier for you, we’ve taken the time here to go through the various table plans venues or caterers may suggest, allowing you to familiarise yourself with each option and to decide what might work best for your celebration.
The ‘Theatre’ Layout
This layout is pretty self-explanatory from the name. If you see a ‘theatre’ capacity listed in a wedding brochure, this refers to how many chairs can be arranged in rows with an aisle in between. This is, for obvious reasons, the layout of choice for civil ceremonies.
For the same obvious reasons, it’s not exactly ideal for your wedding breakfast. ‘Theatre’ layouts often allow for a larger capacity than any layouts involving tables, so bear in mind that you likely won’t be able to fit as many people in the room in question for your wedding breakfast as you would for your ceremony.
The ‘Banquet’ Layout
A very common table layout at wedding receptions, this is often the most space-effective option, allowing for large tables seating usually up to 10 guests each. The top table can blend in nicely with this layout, allowing you as newlyweds to have a bit more privacy than a ‘long’ top table, and is also better for socialising.
However, ‘long’ top tables can also be combined with this table layout, although that may cut down the capacity of the room.
This layout has a lot of advantages, as it allows you to make the most of your venue’s space whist also building a good atmosphere amongst your guests by seating them in a way that pretty much ensures conversation. For some venues or couples, however, it could perhaps feel a little too formal.
The ‘U-Shape’ Layout
If you have a particularly large or oddly shaped room, then a U-Shaped layout may suit you well. This allows everyone to sit at long tables joined together in a – you guessed it – U-shaped formation. This is a less commonly seen table layout nowadays, but can still work in certain situations.
The pros of this layout are that it can fit around a dance floor, allowing easy transition from wedding breakfast to your evening reception, and that you’ll have a great vantage point from which to see all of your guests. It’s also handy for speeches. The major con, however, is that it’s not very sociable.
You and your guests will only comfortably be able to chat to the people seated to your immediate left and right, so it may not create the best atmosphere.
The ‘Open Square’ Layout
Similar to the U-Shaped layout, the Open Square just adds an extra side to the shape. This will naturally accommodate more guests, as you’re adding an extra table, but still presents the same problems as the U-shape does when it comes to being able to socialise with other guests.
It also leaves a lot of empty space in the middle (which no one will be able to get to except any naughty children who slip under the table), which could always be used more effectively. It is, however, advantageous for speeches, as all of your guests will easily be able to look at whoever is talking.
The ‘Long Table’ Layout
Think Hogwarts’ Great Hall or the banqueting halls seen in Game of Thrones… or maybe your own school dining hall. The ‘Long’ layout involves long tables lined up in rows, with the top table at the front of the room. This is a good layout to consider if you’re having a less formal wedding breakfast within a spacious venue like a marquee.
It allows for plenty of guests to be seated comfortably in a way that should encourage socialising and a good atmosphere. It also allows for a clear top table, so all eyes can be on you, if that’s what you have in mind. It should also make speeches easy to see/hear for your guests. This layout is not ideal, however, for smaller venues or if you’re wanting your wedding to have a more formal feel.
Other Table Plans You May Come Across
Cabaret – Unless you’re planning to hold some attention-grabbing entertainment such as a magician or comedian at your wedding reception, cabaret layouts aren’t really ideal for weddings. Similar to banquet table layouts, but the number of chairs is reduced and place on one side of the table, facing in the direction of the entertainment.
Boardroom – Likely not going to be relevant to you unless you want your wedding breakfast to have the same vibe as an episode of ‘The Apprentice’, this table layout involves one large table with guests sitting on all sides. It doesn’t allow for many guests at all, as the table takes up most of the space in the room.
If, however, you’re planning a small or intimate celebration (no more than 20 people), this might be ideal as it will allow you to stay close to all of your loved ones.
Classroom – This layout has no bearing on weddings whatsoever, and should be ignored if you see it in a brochure. If you’re curious, it typically refers to a number of small tables dotted around the room which can sit 2-4 people. Obviously this would be a bit odd for a wedding, so we don’t suggest it as something you should consider.
Wedding Table Names: What to Name Them and Why Not Numbers?
Many couples have steered away from using numbers to identify their tables, as some guests (Great Aunt Ethel for example) may feel a little miffed or unwanted when they are put on table 8; the hierarchy doesn’t go down too well!
Add to this that table numbers can be a little boring, then the need, or rather the opportunity, for distinguishing names arises.
What to name them?
First of all, think about your wedding’s theme. Almost all weddings have a theme, whether you realise it or not! Here’s a selection of various ideas that we’ve come across on our wedding travels:
Which colour scheme are you using? If your scheme is red, then how about naming your tables with synonyms or variations of this such as maroon, burgundy, sanguine, ruby or vermilion?
Name your tables after places that are significant to you or the guests on that table. Have you visited a few cities or countries that mean a lot to you? Do the guests on a particular table come from a particular town, city or county?
Play with different languages. I’ve been to a wedding whose tables were named after several translations of the word ‘love’, such as amore, amor, liebe.
Hobbies or passions. If you and your partner share a love for a certain activity, such as sailing for example, you could name the tables after aspects of this: tiller, jib, keel, close-haul, tack, port, starboard etc…
Films are another common table name idea. Often couples take only parts of the film’s name to make them easier to say/print or make them enigmatic. Other aspects are taken from films, such as fictional areas and characters: Shawshank, Shrek, Jurassic, Rivendell, Shire etc…
Other ideas include planets, football teams or stadiums, songs, authors, and celebrities.
So we hope we have filled you in a little on the entertaining realm of table layouts. If you are still in need of a adequate wedding venue, view the many we have available on out main site here. Anyway, please share if you enjoyed the article, your table layout will be one of the most difficult and controversial decisions in your planning process and thinking through a system is crucial!