Your table plan will be one of the hardest things your do in your whole planning journey… trust me! Anything where guests are concerned, or the liability is on the guest to RSVP, is always a nightmare! But I’ve got some table plan tips to get you started, from my experience as a London wedding planner, working in house at venues, and also myself as a past bride.
Guests changing, guests who can’t sit next to the other, break ups, make ups, guests who get pregnant, have an injury… the list goes on! All of the above will impact how you sit everyone! And you’ll always end up with an odd number somewhere… and just when you think you’ve got it figured out, have had it approved by your caterer and your venue… someone drops out, pops up, or any of the above again!
I can’t guarantee to work magic with your table plan, well not in this blog post anyway, but I wanted to give you some pointers and table plan tips to start with!
Including some more detailed info on round tables vs trestle tables at the end, so you know logistically what you’re up against! Keep scrolling…
Table Plan Tips + Pointers
1. Remember to include yourselves in your guest count for seating for eating!
2. First thing’s first, before you get your heart set on anything, ask your venue and/or caterer what is actually possible in your dining space – size and scope wise. Max number of tables that fit in the room, max number of guests that can be seated, etc, which tables work best (e.g. trestle or round). If there are any implications if you do/don’t have a top table, and if there are any other restrictions (e.g. disables access areas, high chairs, etc).
3. Save the room dimensions so you can make scale drawings or load the measurements into a table plan app.
4. Google the venue and look at past weddings there to see what’s worked previously.
5. Think about if you would like to have a traditional top table, and how many guests, including you, will be sat on it. And if you will have it traditional (e.g. guests along one side facing out) or less traditional in that it will be a trestle table with guests on both sides, or a round with guests around the full or just half circumference. Remember that in most instances of the above, you will have some dead space or some space taken away from the rest of the dining area.
6. If you are tight on space or have a large guest count, it works best space wise to not have a top table, and just have you both, and the wedding party, intermingled with the rest of your guests.
7. Think about if, space and guest count permitting, ideally, you would like trestle tables or round tables (more on that below!).
8. Ask any couples with children if their little ones:
a) will be babes in arms
b) will be in their pram (thus you will need to allocate space for the pram)
c) require a highchair
d) require their own seat
9. Pop disabled access guests at easy access points generally as common sense, and in case they need to get out and go to the loo etc.
10. Same for any guests who will require access issues, e.g. with a pram, highchair, crutches, etc.
11. Do not put any guests, prams or highchairs on the end of trestle tables at: fire escapes, service points, access points, doors/access/service points to the kitchen, access to the bar, toilets, etc. Your caterers/venue will need to move these guests regardless of your table plan for health and safety if you leave them in.
12. If any tables need to be moved after dinner to make space for the dancefloor:
- If only some need to be moved, only place younger able-bodied guests at those seats so elderly guests don’t get too comfy there
- If all the tables need to be moved, place younger able-bodied guests at the end the caterers will clear first. It would also be a good idea to let your guests know about this in advance, e.g. a short sentence on your order of the day, place cards, or menu cards at the dining tables, i.e. ‘After dinner, all the tables will need to be moved to make way for the dancefloor, please take all your belongings with you, including your drink!’
- Trestle tables are long rectangular tables, like in the pic below.
- Standard industry trestle tables are 6ft long and 2 ft wide. Although you can hire longer (8 ft is poss) and slightly wider than this.Always check your room measurements with your venue and be sure to leave enough space for chairs (as well as people!) too!
- Standard 6ft trestle tables seat 3 guests comfortably per side, and one on each end depending on if you are joining them up or not.Thus you can seat 6 guests comfortably around 1 x 6 ft trestle table.
- For this reason, it’s best to allocate your guests, or group your guests initially, in denominations of 3 of 6.Less than 3 guests per side is fine, it just means they are more spread out. And there are usually always one or two tables like this depending on how your numbers work out.
- More than 3 guests per side doesn’t work due to the space alone that the chair and the whole place setting (plate, cutlery, glasses, etc) takes up.
- If you are planning on having sharing platters, trestle tables wider than the standard 6ft x 2ft work better – as there’s not much space to put anything once the full place setting per person has been laid out. But speak to your caterer about this depending on what you are having for dinner. They will be able to let you know if it works from a service point of view.
- You can squeeze in more guests with trestle tables as opposed to round tables as there is less wasted table space mass.
- You can easily hire trestle tables that are properly varnished on top (like in the pic below) or have a rustic look, thus don’t need tablecloths. This is a much more modern look; the tables cost a little more to hire but you will be saving on tablecloth costs. You will also save your caterers some time on set up and take down.
- Round tables look like in the pic below.
- You generally usually always need tablecloths for round tables, I have come across very few that have a nice varnished top that don’t need a table cloth and they are not as easy to find for hire.
- Standard industry round tables are 6ft or 8 ft in diameter.
- Standard 6ft round tables seat between 6-8 guests comfortably all the way around.
- Standard 8ft round tables seat between 10-12 guests comfortably all the way around. (Although 12 is fairly tight.)
- Round tables lend themselves better for sharing platters due to the dead space in the middle that can be used for service.
- Although quite traditional, many believe this is a much more social dinner layout, allowing guests to speak to more people – and less restaurant style.
More Help + Inspo
These are a few table plan tips to get you started, but your wedding planner, venue, and/or caterers can also help you with this.
And if you need any help, my Planning Power Hours are £120, and it’s more than an hour! We spend an hour together, in person or on Facetime/video call, then I go away and spend an hour afterwards doing some planning work for you on the key areas you need help with. This is summarised in a detailed PDF debrief with ideas, recommendations and supplier contacts emailed to you afterwards. Past Power Hours have also included table plan guidance, budget sheets, venue recommendations, sample supplier quotes, venue specific advice, and décor and DIY ideas. I’m a London wedding planner based in Walthamstow and I specialise in On The Day Coordination, Wedding Day Management, and dry hire venues – so if you need some help with your table plan, or more than just some table plan tips, just holler! I’m on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please email any hellos or enquiries to email@example.com