Wedding receptions come in many forms and fashions. Some couples decide to forgo a formal seated dinner with several courses and opt for a cocktail-style reception with hors d'oeuvres and drinks or a brunch reception with mimosas, omelettes and fruit. Regardless of the style or the time of your reception, it's important to come up with a plan for arranging the tables and seating guests.
Get a floor plan of the venue. Determine the size of the tables the venue uses for receptions. Find out how many people each table seats and how many tables can fit inside of the reception room comfortably. Ensure that there's enough space for guests to mingle in their seats and out of their seats, get food and dance.
Make a list of your guests, and divide it into groups for the wedding party, the groom's family and friends and the bride's family and friends. Use this list as you begin to decide who will sit where.
Select a long, rectangular table to seat the bridal party at the front of the room, or set up a sweetheart table for just the bride and groom. The bridal table or sweetheart table should be a focal point at the reception, along with the cake table, which should next to it. Arrange all other tables so that both the bridal table and cake table are within view.
Seat the parents and grandparents of the bride and groom at the same table, relatively close to the bridal table. If there's space, include the elders of the family at this table as well. Seat family and friends with people they know or who may share similar interests as them. If you decide to set up a sweetheart table instead of a bridal table, seat the bridal party's table close to the bride and groom's table. Assign a number to each table, and plan to include a centrepiece on each table.
Arrange the food table in the back of the venue away from the other tables if you're serving your foot buffet style. Set it up so that guests can get food from both sides of the table. This will allow people to get their food more quickly and avoid crowding and congestion around the table and in the aisles.
Put your gift table at the entrance of the reception venue, along with your guest book and an attendant who can assist with collecting the gifts. Be sure the table is spacious and stable. Arrange your wedding favours table near wedding cake so that guests can grab their favours after receiving their cake.
Create a final seating chart, review it with your spouse-to-be and both sets of parents and give a copy to the venue. Create a place card for each guest. Include the guest's name and her table number.
Make at least three copies of the floor plan so that you can try out different table arrangements to see which one works best for your wedding. If you decide to include a candy buffet at your reception, place the buffet opposite the favour table.