Your wedding reception seating plan doesn't have to be a nightmare to organise.

You are about to engage in one of life's great juggling acts. Below are some examples of seating plans that you may like to follow. Alternatively, use them as thought-starters to be adapted to suit your circumstances.
First, the head table. This is usually a long table, often on a platform at one end of the room and all its members sit facing out towards the guests, with the bride and groom at the centre. Another option is to have a round of oval table next to the dance floor at the centre of the room as the head table, where the bride and groom are seated facing the majority of their guests.

Traditional head table

Chief bridesmaid – Groom's father – Bride's mother – Groom – Bride – Bride's father – Groom's mother – Best man

Depending on how long the table is, all the attendants may be seated at the head table, perhaps even together with their partners. (They will enjoy your reception so much more if they are seated with their other halves!) if the table does not seat more than eight, as in the diagram above, then you can have an attendants' table next to the head table.

Contemporary head table

Bridesmaid – Groomsman – Chief bridesmaid – Groom – Bride – Best man – Bridesmaid – Groomsman

The parents of the bride and groom are seated at a separate table together with other close relatives such as grandparents. Alternatively each set of parents may host their own table of close relatives and guests. Of the parents are divorced you could even seat each parent at his or her own table together with close relatives, friends and their new spouses if they have remarried.

Head tables for modern families

If either the bride or groom has divorced parents, the traditional head tables should still work as your mum should sit next to his dad, his mum next to your dad and so on. Things become tricky when one or more of the parents is remarried. It's a nice touch to include your step-parents at the head table, even if you are not particularly close. They may be feeling 'the odd ones out' at your wedding so seating them with their spouses will be much appreciated.

When one set of parents has remarried (the groom's for example):
Best man – Groom's stepmother – Groom's father – Bride's mother – Groom – Bride – Bride's father – Groom's mother – Groom's stepfather – Chief bridesmaid

When both sets of parents have remarried:
Groom's stepmother – Bride's stepfather – Chief bridesmaid – Groom's father – Bride's mother – Groom – Bride – Bride's father – Groom's mother – Best man – Bride's stepmother – Groom's stepfather

Ask your reception venue for a plan of how the tables will be laid out. Enlarge this on a photocopier and then, from a print out of all your guests' names, cut out slips of paper to represent each person. These can then be 'placed' at tables and stuck down once that guest's seat in finalised. You never know, you may be responsible for setting the cogs in motion for the next wedding!

Top ten tips for arranging your seating plan

  • The closer your guests are to you, within your family and relatives, the closer they should be placed to the bridal table.
  • There's no need to stick religiously to seating boy-girl, boy-girl.
  • People tend to speak more to those sitting opposite them than those sitting next to them.
  • Put guests who don't know anyone with people who are friendly and outgoing.
  • Keep couple together – it will enhance their enjoyment of the celebration.
  • Place older guests further away from the band/DJ.
  • Place guests together who share common interests.
  • If children will be present, have a special table for them, perhaps with a babysitter and include paper and pencils, booster seats etc.
  • At round tables guests can converse with more of their neighbours than at rectangular tables.
  • Accept that you will not be able to please everyone.