Reception Seating Etiquette

Traditionally, working out your reception venue is considered to be the etiquette dilemma to end all dilemmas. Luckily, this needn’t be the case!

With today’s relaxed etiquette rules, there are few hard-and-fast rules to which you’ll need to conform. The only non-negotiable when working out your seating charts is that your guets are as comfortable and relaxed as possible (and subsequently, more of their energy will be able to be spent on the actual celebrations!) Here are a few factors to keep in mind to ensure your reception goes smoothly and a good time is had by all.


  • A formal seating plan is often necessary, particularly if you have a large guest list. Not only will it allow you to maintain some control over who sits where, it will also assist the waiting staff. If you’re having a smaller celebration you may not want or need a seating plan. Seating lists are also inappropriate for less formal receptions such as cocktail parties where guests are standing for a long time.
  • Consult with the wedding reception venue early in the process to get a clear idea of the venue layout and position of the tables.
  • Seating whole groups of friends together (for example, work colleagues or a group of old highschool friends) won’t do much to encourage your guests to mix and meet new people. At the same time, a table full of strangers might make for awkward conversation. Try to arrange your seating plan so that each person knows at least two or three other guests on their table, but ensure that there are some new faces. You might like to arrange tables so that your guests are seated with others of a similar age group or interests.
  • Your wedding reception  is not the place for match-making. While you want your guests to mingle and meet new people, don’t force any awkward ‘matches’ on your single friends!
  • The bridal party should sit at a prominently positioned table, perhaps at the front or centre of the venue. It’s important that the bride and groom are visible from all tables during toasts and speeches. A long, rectangular table is ideal for this.
  • If there are a number of young children present at your reception, consider a separate “kid’s table”. This might be the best way to ensure they remain seated during the reception as they are more likely to become bored or irritable if seated with their parents.
  •  A printed seating plan displayed at the entrance of the venue will assist guests in finding their place. Arrange guests names alphabetically (followed by table number) rather than by table to speed up guests’ arrival. Printed name cards placed on every table will indicate the correct seat for each guest.
  • Be mindful of any particular family relationships that might cause tension at the reception. Divorced parents of the bride or groom may not wish to be seated at the same table, but ‘host’ their own tables instead. If you are unsure, consult each parent before the wedding and give them this option.
  • Be prepared to be flexible. The guest list will change as RSVP’s are collected and last-minute cancellations are inevitable. Guests will also want to get up from their seat and mingle with others, so don’t worry if the seating plan is not followed strictly.