Chesterfield wedding venue: organising the seating plan

After selecting the wedding reception venue, the next thing on a busy bride’s mind will be how to organise the seating for the wedding reception.  At Ashover Parish Hall, our spaces are flexible enough to suit the fancies of every bride and groom.  Whether you are choosing a Chesterfield wedding venue or not,  read our guide on how to get the most from your seating plan, and keep everyone happy.

To seat or not to seat?  The question is whether to have assigned seating at all.  You could choose a ‘free for all seating’ scrum, or assign tables rather than specific places.  These options might seem a good idea now, and offer a reduction in the job-list, but experience and the rules of averages say that these choices may just leave little Angie (who used to live next door when you were a kid), and Aunty Gladys from Scotland, neither of whom know any other guests, wandering around the room with nowhere to sit.  You might also regret leaving everything so open when your nearest and dearest friends are left sitting the furthest away from you; instead, you have the groom’s loud, leery colleague grinning at you from only five feet away.  Giving your guests assigned seating may be more work for you initially, but it helps to avoid any uncomfortable occurrences when you sit down for your wedding breakfast.

Top Table Tips.  A traditional top table is usually a long table, positioned at the head of the hall, which usually includes the bride and groom, the bride and groom’s parents, and often the maid of honour and best man.  I say ‘usually’ because often families do not come in this ‘one size fits all’ shape.  You may be dealing with divorces, step parents or single parent families.  If you think a traditional table might cause more than fireworks on your big day, there are other options.  The most dramatic, and appealing, is to leave yourself with a ‘romance table’ instead.  This option seats only the bride and groom together, giving the loved up pair a rare opportunity to talk to one another on their special day.  Respective parents could then each host a family table, including close family friends, hopefully keeping everyone happy.  If you do decide to use a top table, or perhaps discover that your mother in law-to-be may never forgive you if you didn’t, see the diagram below for traditional seating plans for the top table.

Traditional Top Table at a wedding reception venue

Traditional Top Table at a wedding reception venue

The long and the short of it.  The rest of your seating choices could be down to the type of venue you’ve selected.  At Ashover Parish Hall, our brides have opted for long rows of tables, and the more traditional round tables.  Both look stunning and each have their own magic and appeal.  Longer tables tend to offer more opportunity for mixing people up, whilst round tables can create a more intimate space.  Whichever option you choose at your venue, talk to your wedding host and decide early so you are left with plenty of time to plan your seating arrangements.

Blue vs pink.  Traditionally, seating is organised with alternative men and women; this applies to the use of long tables or round tables.  When choosing the sociable long tables for seating, couples are often seated facing one another rather than next to each other, and the male/female pattern is repeated along the length of the table too.  This pattern can be used for both couples and singles and is a good way of creating a sociable atmosphere.

Where in the room?  Think carefully about where in the wedding venue space to seat people.  Older relatives may need to nearer the front so they can hear, whilst families with young children may need to be closer to toilets.  It’s generally accepted that the closer guests are sitting to the couple or top table, the stronger the bond, meaning very close friends and family sit closer to you.  At Ashover Parish Hall, our couples often choose to seat people who already have something in common at the same table.  For instance having a table each for family, friends from uni and work colleagues.  Choosing this type of organisation gives your guests plenty of time to catch up with each other during the meal and meaning your guests have a fantastic time too.

Long, sociable tables at an Ashover Parish Hall wedding reception.

Long, sociable tables at an Ashover Parish Hall wedding reception.

The nitty gritty.  However you choose to organise your seating plan, happy couples need to create a plan.  There are plenty of different ways to complete your seating plan, from the old fashioned use of paper, sticky notes and a pencil, through to the multitude of apps and computer programs available to do the job for you.  Whichever way you choose to plan for your seating, give yourself the chance to change it in the last week to allow for unexpected cancellations.  It might be wise to leave room for last minute additions too – like when your mum suddenly realises two weeks before the wedding that she has forgotten to invite Mrs Briggs from down the road who used to knit cardigans for you when you were a baby.

X marks the spot. Guests need to know where they are sitting so tables need to be labelled in some way.  Traditionally, this would be with a number, but other more unusual options could be words, perhaps something special to the wedding couple, like  places or feelings.  Using a name can move away from any status associated with number, and make the whole experience more personal to the bride and groom.

Getting in with the plan. Letting your guests know which table you have carefully chosen for them is the perfect time to let your creative side loose.  Displaying something just outside the wedding breakfast room, or in the area for pre-dinner drinks, will mean guests can go directly to their table.  You could decide to have a traditional seating chart with the full names of your guests, or perhaps a more creative table ‘hooks’ which allows you to hang the names of the guests sitting at each table.  This type of set-up can look more unusual, but more importantly, can allow you to change the seating plans at the last minute without having to reprint a table chart.  If you want to be really creative, you could make a bit of a treasure hunt for your guests.  Recently, at Ashover Parish Hall, one of our groom’s had the ingenious idea of hanging photos of each guest around the outside of the room with directions to their seat on the back.  Guests had to ‘find their face to find their place’.

A sparkling theme at Ashover Parish Hall wedding venue

A sparkling theme with round tables at an Ashover Parish Hall wedding reception.

Table titles.  On the tables, each setting should be marked with a place card to let each guest know exactly where to sit.  Choose either a place card that fits in with your decoration theme, or even a table favour marked with your guest’s name.  One of our brides recently created fabulous unique artwork with each guest’s name for each table place, whilst another tied a name tag around small bottles of whiskey, gin, or bubbles as a gift for each guest.

There are many different ways to seat your guests so that your day is perfect for you and your guests.  Make sure your choice of venue has the flexibility to suit you; at Ashover Parish Hall near Chesterfield, we work with our couples to create the perfect seating plan for their special day.  Wherever you choose to book your wedding reception though, work with the wedding team to help your seating go without a hitch!