How to Create a Stunning Wedding Floor Plan & Seating Chart
Wedding planning is a mixture of fun, excitement and stress, with an extra dose of stress thrown in when it comes time to do the wedding floor plan. Figuring out where and how to sit your chatty cousin, the feuding aunts and never-satisfied in-laws can be overwhelming. It might even have you fantasizing about running to the chapel and eloping.
But before you go all Runaway Bride regarding your DIY event planning, try taking this three-step approach to organize, plot and arrange your wedding seating chart. It won’t fix any dysfunctional family dynamics or make your uncle Tom any less weird, but it will help you get your wedding table plan done quickly and almost painlessly.
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#1 - Organize your guest list
Instead of trying to sit each guest individually, start by grouping up your list. Grouping people based on commonalities and connections is a fantastic way to quickly and easily arrange a guest list of 200+ people. And while your groups won’t likely fall into dreamingly perfect numbers that match your table settings, it will help you get the “easy ones” out of the way so you can spend more time plotting where to place your more “particular” guests.
Oh, and always consider who has already sent in their RSVPs to your wedding invitations so that you can confirm seats for guests as you move toward your big day and start to flesh out your reception seating chart.
To get started, here are some typical groups you can bucket your guests into:
Bridal Party – This includes the couple getting married and the friends and family they’ve chosen to stand up in their ceremony (maid of honor, best man, groomsmen, bridesmaids, etc.).
Immediate family – The immediate family includes parents, step-parents, and siblings. Some people may also want to include grandparents and other family members or important people who played a parental-like role. Ideally, the immediate family should be located near (or with) the couple of honor.
Extended Family – Now, it’s time to bucket up all of the aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews, and those twice-removed someones that you aren’t sure where to place on your family tree. Depending on the size of your family, this can be one of the largest groups. If so, edit it down further by grouping them into family units, by family ties (cousins in one group and aunts and uncles in another) or by age range. FYI this is where your reception layout can burst its seams, so you may want to make A, B and C priority lists if your extended family is huge and full of people you rarely see.
Friends – You may have lots of friends from different places. When this is the case, it’s easiest to group them at reception tables as you know them—childhood pals in one group, college buddies in another, and your new hometown friends in another. Of course, if the personalities mix, it could be fun to mix these groups up as well.
The Kids – Young children need to stay seated with their parents, but older kids can undoubtedly manage themselves at their own table. Grouping together all of the kids into one table can save space at the other tables, and can also make it more fun for both the kids and the adults. You may even want to consider different table shapes for the kids (like serpentine) to make them feel more special. Just make sure the parents are comfortable with it.
Colleagues – If you’re inviting your favorite co-workers, you should try to keep them together. Depending on space and personality, you might also mix them in with your college buddies, extended relatives or with your spouse’s co-workers.
#2 - Create a digital event floor plan
Instead of trying to hand-illustrate a seating chart (then redo it every time you change your mind), you should use an online seating chart tool like Planning Pod or AllSeated that lets you easily create, adjust, print and share a comprehensive wedding seating chart via the Internet or PDFs. An added bonus is that programs like these let you create reusable floor plan and seating chart templates for indoor or outdoor weddings so you can build multiple variations of your wedding design before deciding on the one you like the most.
Note: Free tools like MS Word and Excel as well as Google Docs and Sheets are great for managing guest lists and information in tables, but these tools aren't designed for drawing, illustrating or laying things out, so you will want a tool specifically built for creating room layouts.
In your digital event floor plan, you should include the exact measurements of your wedding venue space as well as the size and location of each item in your wedding floor plan.
Remember that wedding floor plans are more than just tables. Some common venue elements of a wedding table plan include:
- Cocktail area
- Buffet Table
- Banquet table
- Cake Table
- Gift Table
- Guest Tables (for dining)
- DJ Booth
- Dance Floor
- Head Table
- Sweetheart Table
- Stage or Podium
- Entries and Exits
Marking where each venue item is located in your wedding reception floor plan (like the bar and the buffet table) also makes it easier to determine who you’ll put where. For example, if you have older guests who have a hard time walking or a guest with a baby who might have to step out to avoid disruptions, you will probably want to sit them closer to exits. Partiers are more fun when located near the dance floor, and children are best kept away from electronics and the cake table.
#3 - Arrange the tables
Now that you know where all the big things are and have your guests sorted into groups, you can begin playing with your wedding table plan. Remember that when it comes to wedding reception seating charts, there are a few rules to follow—and maybe a few to break. Don’t feel restricted to the standard round tables found at most venues or a typical head table set-up, and don't feel like you have to follow every new trend published in Color Me Pretty or WeddingWire (though they are both great sources of wedding information). There are many ways you can play with seating and customize it to your liking.
Where to Seat the Newlyweds
The most important table in the wedding seating chart is, of course, the table for the bride and groom (or groom and groom/bride and bride). Traditionally, most newlyweds chose long rectangular tables where they are placed in the center of their bridal party (much like how the ceremony looks). However, traditions are quickly changing, and more and more bride- and-grooms-to-be are opting for tailored-made seating options.
Some wedding seating chart choices that are growing in popularity include:
- Captain’s Table – The captain’s table layout still includes the bridal party, but also invites their honorary guests’ dates up for the meal, too. It is a great way to be mindful and inclusive of all of your guests, especially those who may not know many other wedding guests.
- The Sweetheart Table – This romantic seating arrangement for two lets the newlyweds soak in their new vows and enjoy each other’s company before they’re pulled away to talk to and celebrate with guests.
- With the parents – If you (or your clients) are looking for meaningful ways to include the parents in the wedding, placing them at the head table is a great one. You can either keep it small to just the parents and the couple or, if you have a smaller bridal party, you can mix them all in together.
Seating the Wedding Party
If you aren’t opting for the traditional head table or the popular captain’s table for your wedding reception, there are still plenty of ways you can seat your bridal party. Which style you choose will depend on the dynamic of your bridesmaids and groomsmen and your personal preference.
The first wedding seating plan option is to seat them together, near the newlywed’s table. You can also include seating for the dates to keep everyone together. If it is a large party, you may need to opt for two tables, perhaps groomsmen on one side and bridesmaids on the other.
The second option is to simply scatter the party and seat them with the other guests. It may feel less “honorary,” but if your bridal party is comprised of friends and family from different parts of your life who don’t know each other very well, they may have more fun sitting with people they know. For instance, this might mean sending your sister to the table with your favorite cousins, your childhood bestie with other old friends, and your college roommate with other graduates. Just make sure they know their cues for speeches, dances, etc.
For the guests
After seating the newlyweds, the guests of honor, and the immediate family, you’ll need to sit the rest of the guests. Here are some tips, suggestions and things to consider when organizing your wedding seating plan and deciding how to place the tables and deciding where to sit whom.
- Stagger tables so that everyone can get a view of what’s going down, be it the bridal table, the dance floor, a speech podium or a slideshow or video on a digital screen.
- You don’t have to use the same size or shaped table throughout. If you have the option, play with table sizes so that you can accommodate each group based on their size.
- Take note of special needs, such as elderly guests, those who may need to leave urgently or someone who might need extra space for wheelchairs or medical equipment.
- To help your caterer, you should provide them with a printout that shows table numbers and where guests are seated so they can more easily deliver meals and wait on your guests (though this may not be as important if the meal is served buffet style or family style. Another great idea is putting place cards at each guest's place so the wait staff knows who is who.
When it comes time to arranging your long list of guests into tables, don’t stress. Just follow your gut and these three simple steps:
- Cluster your guests into groups
- Make a digital seating chart
- Arrange your tables strategically
Hopefully, after dinner, everyone will be on the dance floor anyway and you are well on your way to the best wedding ever. Finally, have fun with your wedding floor plan and the rest of your wedding planning by utilizing tools that help you and your wedding planner get the hard parts done and one step closer to your wedding day.