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17 Mar '15

Useful Tips for Creating the Seating Plan at Your Wedding Reception

If you’re like most people, you’ve probably attended weddings in the past, picked up your escort card, and found your table without ever really thinking about the work that has to go into making a seating chart. For many of my clients, the seating chart is one of the most stressful parts of wedding planning—I’ve seen clients both cry and fight with each other (and their families) over them. Just recently a client of mine posted something on Facebook about their seating chart, and one of the responses summed it up perfectly as being, “Like Tetris, but with emotions.”

By nature, seating charts have to be made at the very end of the wedding planning process (after your RSVPs are in) when you have a ton of other stuff on your plate. Plus, they’re not something you can delegate to someone else. (As I tell my clients—I could do your seating chart for you, but since I don’t know your friends and family, it’s entirely possible I’d end up putting your conservative great-aunt next to your anarchist college roommate.) It’s important to note here that you certainly don’t have to have a seating chart, and the logistics of a seating chartless wedding are something I’ll go into in a future post (because, hey, you don’t even have to have tables at your wedding!) but for those of you who are in the midst of staring at your guest list trying to figure out how exactly this is going to work? While I can’t promise to make the creation of your seating chart painless, here are some tips I’ve learned over the years that might just make it manageable.

Don’t overthink it

At most weddings, your guests are sitting at their tables for at max ninety minutes of what is a pretty long event. So, while ideally everyone has someone at their table who they like, and no one is at a table with someone they can’t stand, don’t stress too much about breaking all of your guests into the most-perfect-groups-of-eight ever—they’ll have hours to hang out with whoever they want. Now, if your wedding consists of a six-course plated meal that’s going to take three hours, you may want to work a little harder on creating great groups, but this is also where I encourage people to let the guests who won’t know anyone else at your wedding (see: that one former co-worker you’ve stayed close to, or childhood friend who lives out of state and doesn’t know any of your current friends) to bring a plus one, even if you’re not allowing them across the board.

Assigning Seats vs. Assigning Tables

For the majority of weddings, assigning your guests to tables, but not to specific seats at those tables is going to be fine—with the exception of a multi-course, plated meal with multiple selections for each course. If you do assign seats, you’re going to need both escort cards (which get picked up at the entry and tell you your table number) and place cards, which are on the table and tell you which seat is yours. With assigned tables you only need escort cards, or you can make things even easier, and scrap the escort cards for a seating chart (which is really just a big poster with a list of people’s names and table numbers on it. A chart also has the bonus benefit of not being able to get lost, which somehow always happens with escort cards even when no one is leaving the room).

Where do we sit?

I’m semi-convinced that the sweetheart table (a raised and/or “head” table at the front of the room where you and your partner sit) was originally invented for couples with acrimoniously divorced parents, since one way to avoid having to pick who to sit with is to sit with no one. But a sweetheart table is not your only option. If your families all get along well (or, well-enough) a table made up of you and your partner and both sets of parents can be great, or a table with your wedding party and their dates works just as well. Regardless, I often encourage couples to put their table in the middle of the floor plan, instead of on one edge so that you can put the maximum number of other tables close by and avoid anyone feeling like they’re in the “cheap seats” on the opposite side of the room.

Do toasts during dinner

If you’re doing a sit down meal, I always encourage toasts either a) after the last table has gone through the buffet, or b) after entrees have arrived (either family style or plated). Your guests are a captive audience at this point, people can totally eat and listen at the same time, you don’t have to carve a thirty-minute time chunk out of somewhere else in your schedule, and, if people don’t like who they’re sitting with they don’t have to try to make awkward chit chat with them (key point: the first person to give a toast should tell everyone to please keep eating while people are talking).

 

Seating Chart Logistics

How many people can fit at one table? The short answer is that you can fit six to ten at a 60″ round table (the most common table size). But what does that mean?

Round tables


 

The fewest people you want per 60″ round is six—less than this and the table will feel oddly big and empty. You can see that people are pretty spread out here, but are just above feeling too spread out.

 

 

Eight is the ideal number—it feels full, but not crowded, everyone is going to be able to pull their chairs in all the way, and still have some elbow room. Rad.

 

 

Note how close the place settings and the chairs are to each other. Yes, ten people is really the maximum you can put at a 60″ round—there’s simply not space to squeeze an eleventh in there and still have enough space to pull chairs close enough to actually sit (or, more importantly, eat) at the table.

Rectangles

The most common size of rectangle table is 6′ by 30″. They seat either six or eight people, depending on if you use the endcaps (short side of the table.) As pictured:

 

 

 

 

Layout

But how many tables can you fit into your room? This is a big one people—do not forget to leave room for people to walk between tables and to actually get in and out of their seats. The standard is a minimum of 60″ between tables, and… it’s correct. Pictured below—about 48″ between tables:

 

 

That seems fine. But then you pull the chairs out (which they are when people are actually sitting in them, unless your guests are somehow… flat?)…

 

 

And really, there’s not enough room for anyone (a waiter, or guest trying to get to their seat) to easily get in between those chairs. Do not let this happen to you—keep those tables 60″ away from each other (or, at least 30″ away from a wall).

Okay, so you know how many people are coming, how many tables you have, and how they’re going in the room—how do you arrange all these people without losing your minds? There are a bunch of fancy software programs out there that will help you do this, and I’ve heard good things about the one from Wedding Wire in particular. But, for those of you on the low-tech end of things, I like to suggest a super easy paper alternative that can be done with things you likely have sitting in your house.

 

 

Write each guest’s name on a post-it note, and line up as many half sheets of plain paper as you have tables. Then proceed to stick those suckers down, and move people around until you have the appropriate number of people at each table, and you are satisfied with the arrangement. Take a picture, or, better, transcribe this list into a bullet point list or spreadsheet.

I generally encourage people to ask their closest friends and family members for input on the seating chart—you may be surprised to learn that your parents would really rather be at a table with their college friends instead of their siblings. I also encourage people to think about mixing up groups of friends and family. At a friend’s wedding a few years ago they put a lot of thought into blending groups—everyone had at least one person at their table they already knew, but then other people who the couple thought they might have something in common with. Almost everyone commented on how lovely it was to have the chance to talk with people they might not have otherwise (and really, I love my extended family, but I know them well—I personally think it’s much more interesting to sit at a table with cousins from the other side of the aisle than one made up of just my cousins, who I likely just spent all of cocktail hour chatting with).

And, if you’re currently in the weeds of post-it-note (or software) hell, just remember—your guests are adults (or have an adult with them); they love you and are happy to be there, and will hopefully be gracious about whatever table they end up being placed at. If not—just remember that a well-stocked bar can go a long way towards soothing things.

 

Originally posted at: http://apracticalwedding.com/2013/08/wedding-seating-chart-tips/

 

16 Mar '15

Should you have a wedding rehearsal?

 

The rehearsal and dinner has become a big deal in the wedding world, and the rehearsal itself is often an afterthought. But I have witnessed time and time again how much smoother ceremonies run when they’ve been rehearsed.

Now, there are obviously going to be times when you may not need a rehearsal. If the ceremony involves just you, your partner, and the officiant; you have a straightforward entrance and aisle; and music that doesn’t need super specific cues, you can probably skip it. Quaker ceremonies also generally don’t need rehearsals, and my guess is there are other religious traditions out there with ceremonies simple enough to not need rehearsing.

However, the typical American wedding ceremony is at least slightly more complicated, and this is where the rehearsal comes in. You probably need to rehearse your ceremony if you have people who are:

  1. Walking down an aisle
  2. Standing or sitting somewhere specific when they get there
  3. Possibly moving mid-ceremony
  4. Other people who may be standing somewhere specific half way through
  5. Walking back up the aisle at the end

None of this is necessarily particularly complicated, but doing a run-through of it before it happens in front of a crowd will make it seem natural and help avoid some common pitfalls.

Now, what doesn’t happen at a rehearsal is a full read-through of the entire ceremony. If you want to do this, you certainly should do it with your partner, your officiant, and anyone else who’s speaking (and, regardless, you should all practice your parts out loud individually). But you shouldn’t read through every word of the ceremony at the rehearsal where you have a decent-sized audience of people who are going to hear it all again the next day (efficiency and protecting the emotional impact of actually hearing the ceremony and your vows out loud are the reasons for that). So what exactly are rehearsals for? Choreography and blocking.

When I say choreography, I don’t mean dance. What I mean is “a bunch of people have to move from one place to another smoothly,” which mainly comes into play doing the processional (entrance) and recessional (exit), or, as a client of mine called them “the cessionals.” The aisle walk is probably pretty (literally) straightforward for most people, but the things you need to cover when rehearsing it are:

  • Order of Procession: I’ve discovered many people don’t think about this before the rehearsal. So—do you want both partners to process, or one to start at the front? Should your officiant process? If neither of you are being escorted by your parents, should they process on their own? If you have a wedding party, what order do you want them to go in? There’s no wrong answer to any of these, but you have to make a decision.
  • Pace of the Walk: Please, please, don’t do “left, together, right, together.” It looks…silly. A nice, normal, walk—in time to the music—is perfect, and something everyone should be able to do without thinking about too hard.
  • Spacing Between People: If you only have four sets of people processing, you may want to space them out so that you can get more of your processional music in there. If you have eighteen people processing, you’re probably going to have to put them fairly close together if you want them all to get to the front before the song ends. Plan accordingly.
  • Order of Recession: Often this is slightly different. The couple recess together first, followed by wedding party, often in pairs, and the officiant. Parents, who are generally sitting on the aisle in the front row, often recess next, followed by the rest of the guests.

Now, let’s move on to blocking: where people are positioned (and repositioned) during the ceremony itself. Some things to think about:

  • Where Parents Sit: I always have parents sit on the first row aisle, which is standard, but—here’s my non-standard trick—on the opposite side of the aisle from their child. If they’re on the same side, they’re looking at the back of your head the whole time, if they’re on the opposite side, they’ll be able to see your face.
  • Wedding Party: You ideally want them to be close to the couple, but not too close, and evenly and symmetrically spaced. Wedding party members on the left should have the same distance between them as those on the right, and be in the same general shape: straight line, diagonal line, curved line, whatever makes sense in your ceremony space.
  • Couple: At rehearsals, I do a lot of yelling, “Pretend that you like each other!” from the back, because people have a natural inclination to stand with enough space between them that their officiant has plenty of space. Nope. I suggest holding hands if it feels natural to you, or just standing close enough to each other that you can easily look into each other’s eyes. Related: remember to look at each other, especially during vows, and not your officiant!
  • Readers/Readings: Blocking for these people is going to be dependent on your microphone situation (how many you have, if any). If you have two mics (one for the officiant and one for the readers) then the readers should be in front and to the side (I usually put them stage left) of the couple. If there’s only one mic, I usually suggest both members of the couple move to one side (for ease, toward the person who has a dress with a train on it, if applicable) and swivel slightly to face the reader. It is definitely appropriate for the couple to look at the reader while the reading is happening!
  • Officiant: Should be standing behind the couple, centered, but should make sure to take a big step to the side for the first kiss, so as to avoid any awkward first-kiss photobombing.

This all, of course, comes with the caveat that everything should make sense when done at your particular ceremony site! Which brings us to my last important piece—as long as your ceremony site and setup are relatively straightforward, you can definitely rehearse off-site. I’ve done rehearsals in hotel rooms, backyards, hotel conference rooms, and, once, a parking lot. Anywhere you have enough space to create a faux-aisle and line up everyone who’s going to be at the front at the same time, you’re good. If you have a particularly unusual ceremony site, aisle arrangement, or entrance, it may make more sense to make the effort to rehearse at the actual site, but even then don’t panic if your venue isn’t available at a time that works for your wedding party. Most grownups can figure out how to adjust things to another site, especially if it’s only one day later.

And, a final note: I generally schedule an hour for rehearsals. Fifteen minutes to gather and explain things to people, thirty minutes for the first run through, and about ten minutes for the second run through, because at that point everyone gets it and you’re just proving it to them by having them practice.

Courtesy of Elizabeth Clayton at www.apracticalwedding.com

11 Mar '15

The Pros and Cons of a Church Wedding

For some couples, getting married in a church is a no-brainer. If faith is an extremely important part of your heritage or your current life, you may not have considered getting married anywhere else. But for others, those of casual faith, little faith, or no faith at all, the issue of wedding venue can be a thorny one. If the bride’s mother has her heart set on a cathedral and the groom’s father wants a quick-and-easy courthouse wedding, what’s a modern couple to do? The simple answer is, “whatever the couple thinks is best.” But it’s worth considering the pros and cons of a church wedding before you make that decision. For this article, we’re setting aside the issue of faith to look just at the practical considerations of a church as a wedding location.

Pro: It’s a package deal

A church already has a lot of what you’re looking for in a wedding venue: a piano and organ, a P.A. system, parking, rooms for the wedding party to prepare. Most churches have musicians and officiants they regularly work with, so you’ll spend less time chasing down those details. You can keep decorations to a minimum, because the architecture of the church is your main decoration.

Con: Less control

When my sister had her church wedding, the church provided an organist to play the building’s huge pipe organ. The only problem: the organist refused to play Mendelssohn’s wedding march because it was a “secular piece of music.” If what’s been pre-arranged doesn’t match what you want, prepare for some battles of will. That rigidity extends to decoration as well–the church is unlikely to let you go wild with decorations. Don’t count on tacking streamers to the ceiling or bringing in that driftwood wedding arch.

Pro: Plenty of seating for the ceremony

There’s no need to rent a hundred folding chairs for the ceremony and spend an hour beforehand setting them up. Even if it’s a more modern church without big wooden pews, they’re used to providing seating for hundreds of people. You won’t have to worry about aisle width or accessibility, either.

Con: You’ll probably want a separate reception location

Let’s face it: while church sanctuaries are beautiful, church fellowship halls tend to be less so. They tend to be small spaces with concrete floors, suspended acoustic tile ceilings, and banks of ugly fluorescent lighting. Unless your church is truly exceptional, you might end up with a reception that has all the warmth and charm of an AA meeting. Decorations can only do so much to pretty up a space. There’s also the real possibility of limitations on what kind of refreshments you can serve–many church halls won’t allow alcohol.

Pro: Lower venue cost

Unless it’s that downtown cathedral that books out years in advance, churches generally charge a lower venue fee than their secular counterparts. A mid-size church may ask for a “donation” of $300-400 for the use of the space, versus thousands for a dedicated venue.

Con: Lower level of service

A dedicated venue can often provide a wedding planner, help with catering, and offer connections to preferred vendors. The extra help comes at a premium, but it can be just what the stressed wedding couple needs.

Getting married in a church definitely has some advantages for a couple whose faith plays a role in their lives. Make sure to keep those lines of communication open with your significant other while you’re planning to see if the pros outweigh the cons for your perfect wedding.

 

Originally posted at setyourweddingapart.com/the-pros-and-cons-of-a-church-wedding

25 Feb '15

Groomsmen Gifts for Your Wedding: Who You Should Buy a Pocket Watch For?

 

Tradition dictates that the groom is responsible for purchasing gifts for the male members of the wedding entourage. This group includes the best man, groomsmen, ushers and the ring bearer. It’s also appropriate to present both your father and the father of the bride with tokens of your appreciation for their support.

Customers tell me everyday what a great choice a pocket watch is for a groomsmen gift. It's something a little different but it's still something functional. It can be used again. It makes an interesting fashion statement. It is fun to receive engraved or unengraved. It can be worn as part of the groomsmen's ensemble on the day of the wedding and it can be worn again for future special events.

With that in mind, it's time to add all those people up and see how many pocket watches you need. I sell pocket watches individually or discounted in sets up to 12. I can also create a set of pocket watches for you in any number you like. I have created sets as big as 19 identical pocket watches. All my watches come with matching pocket chains. The pocket watches are all new, boxed and include a black velvet storage pouch for the watch. I also offer engraving on almost all my pocket watches. I can do monograms and initials, dates or special phrases provided by you.

You can see the variety of individual watches and groomsmen gift sets I have available at www.PocketWatchPurveyor.com

 

27 Jan '15

What is the difference between a monogram and initials?

     A monogram consists of the three initials, and places the last initial in the middle and larger than the other 2 initials.  Initials are simply three initials, straight across, first-middle-last, with all the characters the same size.
     Which style you choose and which style is best is generally a matter of personal taste. I am able to engrave initials either way based on your instruction. Please get in touch if you have questions about initial engraving.