Wedding Seating Tips
Avoid offending your guests with seating arrangements
The Main table can be a surprisingly sensitive issue at weddings and especially when you are planning your wedding. You will be amazed at how much offence you can cause by suggesting that your future mother in law might be more comfortable at a regular table with the rest of her children if your own mother will take pride of place at the Main Table.
Some guests may also be offended if they are seated too far from the Main Table, seeing this as an indication that they are not considered an important guest, or if their view of the Main Table is somehow obstructed. Arranging your tables so that everyone is more or less the same distance from you and your new husband may be tricky, but it will certainly reduce arguments and resentment.
As a bride you may love the idea of a raised Main Table. You will be the centre of attention, and you just have to sit and smile while family members make speeches and tell you how beautiful you look. Others would prefer to shy away from the spotlight and sit at a low regular table amongst their guests.
Here are some common questions about arranging Main Tables for weddings, along with possible solutions:
Who should sit at the Main Table?
The answer to this question depends a little on the size of your Main Table, but traditionally the bride and groom, the best man and maid of honor, and both sets of parents should sit at the Main Table. You might also want to include any bridesmaids and ushers if you have space; in fact you can include anyone that you are close to at your Main Table. If you are having a receiving line it should be arranged in the same way as the Main Table and should include the same people.
What order should they sit in?
If you stick to the eight members of the bridal party mentioned above, it would be customary to seat the Main Table boy girl, starting with the mother of the groom, then the father of the bride, the maid of honour, the groom, the bride, the best man, the mother of the bride and finally the father of the groom. Many couples choose to rearrange this format to have all the ladies on the bride’s side and the men on the groom’s side, or simply to let their parents sit in couples rather than separately.
What is a parents table?
If your Main Table isn’t very big, or you have a lot of bridesmaids and ushers that you want up there with you, it is common to have a second significant table for your parents. Both sets of parents can share a table if they get along well, or you can have two tables; especially if you have step parents to accommodate. It can be a nice gesture to let your parents host their own table and let them choose who to have seated there, but usually it would be your grandparents, aunts and uncles, your parents’ friends, and your celebrant if they are attending your reception.
What is a sweetheart table?
If your family are arguing over who should sit at the Main Table, a sweetheart table could be the perfect answer. Just let them all sit at regular tables and keep the Main Table for you and your new husband.
A sweetheart table is a small table for two set where all the guests can see it in the same way as a Main Table, but where you and the groom can also have a little time alone together on your big day. You will spend so much of your wedding day mingling with guests and catching up with old friends, a sweetheart table could be the only chance you get to talk to your husband during the reception.
Tips for decorating your weddings unique venue
No matter how beautiful your choice of wedding venue, most brides want to add some additional decorations to make it their own. Whether you are aiming for vintage glamour or retro cool, here are six tips on making sure your decorations work well with your chosen venue.
Make sure your decorations are the right scale for your wedding venue
Your single stem red roses in tall vases may be beautiful, but they will get lost on large round tables in a great hall. Equally, gigantic flower arrangements under suspended chandeliers will look a little over the top in a small intimate restaurant. If you are hiring a large venue, make sure your decorations are big enough to make an impact.
Choose your colour scheme to suit your unique venue décor
You may have your heat set on the recent trend for hot pink and aqua, but if you have booked an elegant stately home decorated in red and gold, that is going to clash horribly.
Brides that choose a minimalist venue have the advantage that they can pick any colour palette to decorate it, but if your venue is highly coloured, try to choose muted shades of some of those colours for your wedding theme and decorations.
Focus on key areas of your weddings unique venue
When you visit your wedding venue you might have great ideas about decorating every inch of it, but unless your wedding budget is limitless, spreading your decorations out around the whole venue will just reduce their impact.
The key focus at a wedding reception is usually the dining tables so make sure they are immaculately dressed. After that you could consider adding decorations around the Main Table, in the entrance, and wherever the group photographs are going to be taken.
Run your decorating ideas past your venue owner
Even if you feel your decorations are fairly basic, it is always a good idea to check them with your venue to make sure you haven’t missed anything. Candles are a popular choice for table centres as they give a romantic glow, but many venues, especially older ones, don’t allow these for safety reasons. If you want to suspend anything from the ceiling such as paper lanterns, chandeliers, or bird cages, check with your venue that this is possible.
Keep your decorations practical for your venue
While you are letting your imagination run wild, don’t forget the practicalities of decorating your wedding venue. You might want to bring the outdoors indoors with potted plants and trees in every corner, but your guests will still need room to move around. Towering table centres can be spectacular, but check whether the setup of your tables will allow guests to talk to each other around them. If your dream is to have the entire wedding lit by fairy lights, make sure your guests will still be able to see what they are eating.
Get inspiration from your venue for your wedding
Wedding decorations don’t just have to be flowers and balloons; finding something truly unique to decorate your reception can make it memorable and personal, and your venue is a good place to find inspiration.
Perhaps you have hired a sea front venue; look for decorations incorporating sea shells, sand, miniature boats or driftwood. If your venue is jazz club, hire vintage saxophones and decorate them with flowers and greenery. If you are holding a garden wedding make arrangements out of old fashioned watering cans, flower pots, or wooden wheelbarrows.
Tips on personalising your wedding venue
It’s a common dilemma that brides face when they are searching for the perfect wedding venue. There’s an ideal venue, local for the majority of guests, with wonderful facilities, and just the right capacity for your guest list, but your best friend has already booked it for her wedding. Oh and your brother held his wedding there last year. And by the way your aunt has reserved it for your cousin’s wedding in two years time.
It seems a waste not to use a great venue that is ideally placed, but you also don’t want your wedding to blend into a seamless blur of identical occasions. Here are seven tips on personalising your wedding venue to create a memorable space.
Change the table layout
If your venue always uses formal round tables of eight, ask to put them in storage and hire banquet style tables for a noisy sociable reception instead. Place your Main Table at the opposite end of the room from the standard layout.
Alter the sense of space
Your perception of a room can be changed simply by what is in it. Suspending items such as chandeliers, paper lanterns or bird cages from the ceiling can lower the focus of the room, while towering table centres can draw the eye upwards. Altering the lighting by using candles, coloured tables lamps, sparkly fairy lights, or up lighters can also change the feel of the room.
Find a new photo location
If your group photos contain a lot of the same people as another wedding, you don’t want the background to be the same too. Ask your photographer to look for an unusual setting for your group shots, and if you can’t find anywhere, consider temporarily installing a structure such as an archway to create a unique photo location.
Use coloured or patterned fabrics
Hanging fabric is a quick and easy way to give a room a new look without completely redecorating, and you can also hide any features of your venue that you aren’t especially keen on. Even using brightly coloured table cloths and runners instead of the usual white will make your reception appear unique.
Choose a striking theme
If you have a definite theme that dominates every aspect of your wedding, this will become the focal point for your guests rather than the venue itself. If items such as your cake are central to your theme, display them proudly in the middle of the reception room.
Pick an unusual season
If the venue in question is usually hired during the spring because of the beautiful outdoor terrace, think about having a winter wedding there. Perhaps you can make use of the roaring fire that is usually full of spring blooms. Venues look and feel very different during the various seasons so look for an atypical season for your particular venue.
Add personal touches
You may have grand design plans but it is the little things that your guests will remember most. Place fancy toiletries in the ladies bathroom, add jars of sweets to the tables in the bar area, and ask the venue to use coloured or quirky glasses rather than their standard ones. These little touches will help to make your wedding unique.
Use your venue to create unique wedding photos
Your choice of wedding venue can have an enormous impact on your wedding photos, affecting everything from the backdrop for your group shots to the style of your pictures. Here are seven tips on using your weddings unusual venue to get the best possible wedding photos.
1. Try to select a wedding photographer that has worked at your venue before. They will have prior experience of the set up of the venue, so they will know where the light comes from at what time, and where the best settings are for group photos. They will also have a good idea of the type of equipment they need to bring along. See if your photographer can show you examples of photos they have taken at your venue.
2. Talk to your photographer about the type of venue you have chosen, and the style of photographs that would best complement that venue. A romantic country house might be the perfect setting for dreamy sepia shots, while a chic city hotel would be a great place to try out glamorous Hollywood paparazzi style pictures.
3. Look out for potential photo locations and note them down when you visit your wedding venue. The venue coordinator should be able to give you some ideas but don’t be afraid to be different. Perhaps they always have the group photos in the main entrance, but you would rather have them next to a picturesque fireplace? If you think a ruined wall with climbing ivy is more attractive than the manicured hotel grounds then speak up.
4. See if your venue has an unusual location for your group photos. If they have an elegant staircase you could have your guests arranged along the banister. Perhaps there is a balcony or high window where your photographer could take a bird’s eye view of all your guests gathered together. Another great option is to have the guests together on the balcony throwing confetti down onto the happy couple below.
5. Your wedding venue may have stunning grounds for photographs but make sure you have a back up indoor plan in place in case of bad weather. If it does rain, don’t rule out outdoor photos altogether. Pictures of the bride and groom in gum boots and the guests with umbrellas can make classic additions to the wedding album.
6. If you a hiring a particularly attractive venue, or the venue is integral to your wedding theme, make sure your photographer gets a few good shots of it before the wedding when there are no guests around. They could also photograph special features such as picturesque windows or doors. You could also have before and after pictures of your reception room being decorated, or a sequence of shots of the decorating process itself.
7. Always check if there are any photography restrictions at your venue. You don’t want to spend an hour having your couple’s pictures taken in the hallway just to find out the antiques in there can’t be photographed, or it has been used as a film set and exclusivity rights still apply.
Ten ways to light your wedding venue
Getting the right lighting for your wedding venue is crucial as it can make or break the ambience of your big day. If you are having an afternoon wedding and are relying on the sunshine streaming through the windows, it may come as a shock when the sky goes cloudy and you have to switch on those highly unflattering fluorescent tubes.
Your wedding venue lighting should help to create the mood you are aiming for, whether that is romantic and cosy or cool and funky. Check out what lighting your wedding venue has on offer, and if you aren’t happy with it consider hiring one of these alternatives:
1. Fairy lights are a very simple yet effective way to light your wedding venue, and they are fairly cheap to hire. They are ideal for wrapping around pillars, beams or banisters, and can be placed in trees at an outdoor wedding. They give off a romantic and flattering glow that will make your wedding venue a cosy place to be.
2. Backdrops with embedded light can be used to adorn an entire wall at your wedding venue, or simply to create a feature of the Main Table. These work best in a modern venue and can provide a great place to have your indoor photos taken. Starlit backdrops are also great for hiding a wall or section of your venue that you don’t like the look of.
3. Coloured mood lighting can be the perfect way to change the atmosphere of your wedding venue and provide decoration at the same time. You can coordinate your lighting with your wedding colour scheme, and can alter the colours during the day to highlight the different parts of your reception. Have soothing green lights for the meal, vibrant pink for the cake cutting and a multitude of colours for the dancing.
4. Tables that are lit from within are a new and very fashionable way of decorating your wedding venue. You can hire light up cocktail tables just for your drinks reception, or you can go the whole hog and light up your dinner tables too. Just make sure the lights aren’t too bright, and the colour is fairly easy on the eyes.
5. Candles are the perfect way to create a romantic atmosphere; everybody looks good by candlelight. Using candles as your table centre pieces is a popular lighting choice, but do check with your wedding venue to make sure they allow the use of candles. If you are having an outdoor wedding, use candles in metal lanterns hung from trees or poles, or for a dramatic effect hire flaming torches to mark the entrance to your venue.
6. A light up dance floor might sound a little tacky, but it can be a fun way to get your guests up and grooving, and will bring a novelty touch to your wedding venue. Depending on your theme you could hire a multicoloured dance floor, or stick to classic black and white checks for a calmer effect.
7. A projector can serve many purposes in a modern minimalist wedding venue. It is very fashionable to project coloured patterns onto the walls of a marquee to create ‘wallpaper’ which changes as the reception progresses. You can also project photos of the ceremony, snaps from the hen’s and buck’s nights, or pictures of you and the groom during your courtship.
8. Fireworks can certainly add drama to your wedding reception, and if your venue allows them they can be a great way to mark the arrival or departure of the bride and groom. Look for a company that specialise in firework displays for events, and see if they can put the display to music.
9. Chandeliers are the perfect way to light an old fashioned wedding venue, although they also work well in a minimalist venue such as a marquee. If your venue doesn’t already have chandeliers, these can be hired for the day, but just check with your venue that you are allowed to install them, and get the supplier to do this for you.
10. Paper lanterns are a simple and chic way to add light and texture to your wedding venue. Whether you choose Chinese lanterns in bright reds and pinks, or more subtle round paper lanterns in various sizes, they can detract from a boring ceiling and add a whole new dimension to your wedding venue.
Top ten tips for outdoor venues
If saying your vows beneath a clear blue sky, and then dancing all night under the stars sounds like your dream wedding, then an outdoor venue may be the perfect choice for you. An outdoor wedding can take a little more thought and organisation than a wedding at an indoor venue, but if the weather is kind to you and the flowers are in full bloom it can really be worth the extra effort. Here are ten tips on getting the best from your outdoor wedding venue:
1. Garden venues tend to look their best at very specific times of the year depending on the seasonality of trees and flowers planted there. Make sure you visit your venue in the season you want to get married, or ask to see photos of it during that season. Try to set your wedding date according to the seasonality of the garden. If you are getting married in your own or your parents’ garden you may be able to add some plants that will be in full bloom on your chosen wedding date.
2. Each season has its own drawbacks for outdoor weddings, whether that is pollinating trees in the spring or annoying insects in the summer. Make sure you warn your guests that they will be outdoors for your entire wedding so that they know to come armed with insect repellent, hats, sun cream, and anything else the season requires.
3. Your chosen garden venue may have stunning natural beauty, but what are its basic facilities like? Check whether there are enough toilets for your guests, and that there is electricity for the caterers, lights, and band. Everything you need for an outdoor wedding can be hired if necessary, and having too much is usually better than having too little.
4. The weather is hard to predict a year in advance, so even if you are getting married in mid summer, it is a good idea to have a rainy day back up plan. This can range from hiring umbrellas and a gazebo to provide shelter from showers, to reserving a whole indoor venue as a reserve just in case the weather is really terrible. Many couples holding an outdoor wedding actually hire a marquee for the wedding breakfast, which can also be used for the rest of the wedding in case of bad weather.
5. If you plan on partying way into the night, make sure your outdoor venue has adequate lighting, but nothing bright enough to spoil the mood. Candle lanterns, flaming torches and fairy lights are all good ways to provide romantic lighting at an outdoor venue without drowning your guests in harsh white light.
6. Outdoor weddings are most popular during the months when the weather is hot and the sun is guaranteed to be shining. This does create a few issues of its own however. You will need to be sure that your bridal gown is lightweight enough for you to cope with the heat, that your make up will stay put, and that your flowers won’t wilt after half an hour. Not having an air-conditioned venue to escape to will mean making a few compromises with your bridal outfit.
7. In the natural surroundings of an outdoor wedding venue, it’s possible that the ground may not be entirely dry or flat. Check out the layout of the garden in advance and decide whether it is suitable for all your guests, or whether some elderly guests will need help getting around. If the ground is soft, make sure you warn your female guests that stilettos aren’t appropriate footwear.
8. If you are worried that your outdoor venue may not be looking its best on the big day, supplementing its natural beauty with arrangements of cut flowers, and potted plants or shrubs hired from a garden centre can be the ideal solution. Just make sure they are in keeping with the garden’s existing foliage.
9. When you are choosing a wedding photographer, make sure they are experienced in outdoor photography, and that they visit your venue in advance to see what equipment they will need. Taking outdoor wedding shots often requires special light meters or sun shades.
10. Don’t be afraid to accessorise and personalise your outdoor venue, even if it is stunning in its own right. Decorative birds and butterflies can be placed in trees, and rustic items such as antique watering cans and flower pots can be used to create tasteful flower arrangements. Pick key colours from the garden for your wedding colour scheme to really bring out its character.
Planning the order of events for your wedding reception
Even if you’ve been to hundreds of weddings, planning the timeline and running order of your own wedding reception can be confusing and frustrating. Here is a simple, seven step guide to a traditional reception and the order of events:
Step 1 – The Receiving Line
Traditionally, the bridal party are the first to enter the reception venue, and they form a receiving line just inside the entrance for guests to pass along as they arrive. Some brides choose to keep the receiving line until later in the reception; having it when the guests are on their way to the wedding breakfast.
Another modern alternative is for the bride and groom to sneak off for some photos between the ceremony and reception, meaning that their guests are already at the reception venue when they arrive. Their entrance is announced along with key members of the bridal party.
Step 2 – Drinks Reception and Photographs
After passing through the receiving line, your guests have the chance to mingle and drink a glass or two of champagne or your perhaps signature cocktail, combined with a few tasty nibbles. This is a good opportunity to gather them together for the group photos, while everyone is still looking their best.
Step 3 – The Wedding Breakfast
The next step is the wedding breakfast. Guests find out where they are sitting using a displayed seating plan, or escort cards that they pick up at the entrance to the dining area. Guests are usually seated first, and they stand up as the bridal party enters to sit at the Main Table.
Step 4 – Toasts and speeches
It is customary for the speeches to follow the wedding breakfast, perhaps beginning while guests are having coffee, although some modern couples prefer to spread the speeches out and have one between each course. There are usually three speeches, with toasts at the end of each. The bride’s father usually makes the first speech, followed by the groom, and finally the best man.
Step 5 – Cutting the cake
Cutting and sharing the wedding cake symbolises the bride and groom wanting to share the rest of their lives together. They should cut the bottom layer of the cake, with the groom’s hand placed over the bride’s on the knife. The bride should feed the groom with a piece of cake first and then he should return the favour. Some couples choose to cut the cake during the wedding breakfast and then serve the cake as dessert, while others just take part in the cake cutting ceremony and then have the cake cut up later for guests to take home.
Step 6 – The First Dance
Once the wedding breakfast is over, and in some cases the table are cleared away, the dancing can begin. A special song is chosen for the bride and groom to dance together for the first time as a married couple, and sometimes the best man and maid of honour are asked to join in part way through the song. Many couples take dance lessons in the run up to the wedding to make their first dance something truly spectacular.
After the first dance, the bride should dance with her father, the groom’s father, and the best man, and the groom should dance with his mother, the bride’s mother and the maid of honour.
Step 7 – Making an Exit
The custom of leaving the reception early is losing popularity as couples want to carry on partying into the small hours with their guests. However, some do still set off on honeymoon or to their hotel an hour or two after the first dance. While they are changing into different outfits, their transport is traditionally adorned with tin cans and streamers, and as they leave the building the bride throws her bouquet, to be caught by one of the single female guests.
Why hold a winery wedding?
For wine lovers, nothing could be more perfect than holding your wedding day at your local winery, and vineyard weddings are ever increasing in popularity. A winery is a charming, romantic setting for an elegant country wedding. Wineries are recognising the popularity of vineyard weddings and upgrading their function facilities, to ensure couples have a day to remember. Here are four good reasons to hold your wedding at a winery:
Wineries are usually located out in the countryside where there is plenty of space, and in areas that benefit from more than the average amount of sunshine to get the best from the grapes. The vineyards themselves are usually beautifully laid out, and they are planted with roses or other flowering plants to warn of potential disease in the vines.
If you are holding your wedding at a winery, you won’t have to look very far for inspiration for your wedding theme. Give guests a bottle of in-house wine as a wedding favour, and see whether you can have personalised labels printed up, or whether they do half bottles to reduce cost. Perhaps you could order special vintage wines as thank you gifts for your parents, maid of honour, and best man.
Use the wine bottle, wine glass, or cork motif on your wedding stationery, and register for gifts with a wine cellar if the winery you are using doesn’t offer this service. Use interesting wine bottles as vases for single stem roses, or place candles in them to give a romantic glow to your dinner tables. Name each table after a different type of wine produced by the winery and have your escort cards or place names slotted into cork stands.
If your wedding guests are a more mature crowd, many of them will be interested in visiting the winery itself, and you may be able to arrange tours and tastings to keep your guests busy while you are having your photos taken.
You might also want to ask a wine expert from the winery if they will come and mingle with your guests during the drinks reception, or visit each table during the wedding breakfast to talk about the wines being served and make some recommendations.