Ah, the emotional game of Tetris that is the wedding table plan. No one's family and friend groups are so perfect that they work in neat little groups of 10 - there's just no way.
So if you are facing a fun little game of 'who can't sit next to who', we have a few handy tips to make the game a little easier to play!
1. Start Early
You can't leave this job to the last minute, as much as you want to put it off. As soon as you have most of your RSVPs, or even before then, start mapping out your tables.
Be aware that things will change so you need to give yourself ample time to make adjustments. And also give yourself a few days in between each change to scream and throw things. Then go back to it.
Your suppliers - like your caterer and your stationer - will need to know final seating a good few weeks before the day.
2. Map it out
Go low tech for your first few goes - use pencil and paper, or sticky notes, before graduating to anything more permanent, and definitely don't go to print until you really have to.
3. To Group or not to Group
Lots of people will make sense to group together - uni friends, distant family, colleagues - but there will always be stragglers. Resist the urge to put all the odd people on one table unless you have to, instead try to fit a few people in with current groups that you think might get along. Your neighbour couple might have the perfect sense of humour for work friends, your cousin and his wife you've never met have a lot in common with some of your friends from school - you get the picture.
4. Modern Families
Whether it's divorced parents or people who have had a falling out - you have two options. One is to figure out a seating plan that means those people won't have each other in their line of sight during dinner and are as far away from each other as possible, OR tell everyone to suck it up for one day and play nice as a gift to you (they also still have to give you a gift though...).
Be amenable and considerate to an extent, but if you find yourself bending over backwards for a handful of particularly difficult people, lay down the law and issue an ultimatum - sit where we put you or eat outside...
If you are having kids at your dinner, depending on the ages you might decide to put them all together - give them their own kid's menu and some table games.
If they are at the table, remember to ask the parents if you need to get them a highchair from the caterer.
6. Elbow Room
Be aware of table sizes when you are planning your seating. A 6ft round table can comfortably seat 10, and 12 at a push. A rectangle trestle table will seat 3 each side, and one on ends.
Make sure you're giving people elbow room!
7. Get Creative
If your venue allows, and round table sizes just aren't working for your groups - mix it up. Have some round tables of 10, a big square table made up of trestles to seat 16, long rows of as many as you like - whatever works in your venue, don't be afraid to experiment or have all the tables the same shape and size.
8. Numbers Vs Names
Ah the eternal debate, give your wedding tables names or numbers. Sure, numbers are easier and more logical but they can also indicate hierarchy (table 15 may assume you're not thinking too highly of them). Names require a bit more thought and creativity, but they eliminate any question of importance.
9. About Face
Once you have figured out who is sitting on which table, then it's time to consider where on the table each person should sit. You may not think it matters, but consider who is on the table - if you have any older guests or those with disabilities, make sure they are facing the head table. When it comes to speeches and generally just looking adoringly at you, you won't want them to be straining or cricking their neck for long periods of time.
10. Head Table Dilemmas
The head table can be one of the trickiest parts of table plan planning. Especially if you have a complicated set up - parents who aren't together, are with other partners, or a big horde of siblings or bridesmaids. How do you know who to include and who not to?
Depending on your venue, your head table can be as big or as small as you want. A super long, double sided table works for big bridal parties. Or to be diplomatic, sit just with your parents, your best man and your maid of honour. Some couples even opt for a sweetheart table with just the two of them!
But perhaps sitting with the traditional parents/best man/maid of honour trifecta doesn't work for you. As with many modern traditions, it was born out of a different time and for different reasons. Now, why not just to sit on a table your closest friends? It's your wedding!