We've Mapped Out the Perfect Wedding Reception Layout

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Table Settings

Photo by Sarah Falugo

No matter where you’re having your wedding reception, whether at an art gallery, a country club, or a tent on your parents’ lawn, you’ll need to figure out a floor plan for your wedding reception setup. Because once you figure out who's coming (and breathe a big sigh of relief), you'll quickly realize you also have to arrange where they'll all sit (deep breaths, now). Deciding how to place the dance floor, tables, stage, and bar(s) will have a major impact on the flow of the evening and it is important to ensure that you organize the space in a way that adequately utilizes and showcases the venue. It's okay, we know how daunting this may seem but, as always, we've got your back.

We delved deep into the situation and discovered a few tips for where to start.

How to Plan Your Reception Layout
Catherine Song/Brides

Place the Dance Floor and Stage First

With the dimensions of the room on hand, decide where you’ll put the dance floor. An established venue (think, hotel ballroom) will often have good suggestions, but if you’re working with a venue that doesn’t host many weddings, you may have to come up with your own ideas. The two most popular options for a rectangular room are to either center the dance floor lengthwise, with the dance floor and stage for the band or DJ against one of the room’s long walls (this is usually directly across from the entrance), or to place the dance floor at one end of the room, centered and backed up against one of the room’s short walls.

Select Tables

Before you fill in the floor plan, decide what shape and size you want for your tables. Will you and your partner be at a sweetheart table, or will you be joining your wedding party at a long king’s table? Either way, make sure the two of you are in a central location that most of the guests can see—and with a great view of the band (if you choose to have one). Then decide if your guests will be at round, square, or rectangular tables, and determine how many guests can fit at each table (which will help you figure out your total table count).

Arrange the Tables

Now that you know what kind of tables you’ll be using, lay them out. Put yourselves in the best seats in the house, whether that means giving the head table the greatest view or setting the sweetheart table immediately opposite the dance floor from the band. From here, try to arrange your tables as symmetrically as possible. The tables will either form a U-shape around a dance floor centered along a long wall, or will fill one end of the space if the dance floor is at the far end.

Best Wedding Reception Layout
Illustration by Brides

Pick the VIP Seats

Reserve the tables closest to the two of you for your immediate families, and set aside tables that are farther from the band for older guests. The less desirable seats should be saved for your friends—they’ll be spending more time on the dance floor than at their tables, anyway.

Leave Room for the Bar(s)

A good rule of thumb is to have one bar with two bartenders for every 100 guests. So if you’re expecting 150 people, you should have two bars and at least three bartenders for the evening. Spread them out to avoid congestion, and try to keep them away from the entrance to the space so guests walk all the way into the reception before looking for a drink.

For a two-bar wedding, place one bar near the dance floor to keep the party satiated, and another a little removed from the dance floor (and far away from the catering entrance).

Remember Cocktail Hour

If you are having cocktail hour in the same space as the reception, leave room around the bars so you can set up cocktail tables for mingling. Consider setting a few cocktail tables out along the edge of the dance floor so guests have room to spread out, then either remove them once everyone is seated for dinner or leave them set up so guests can put down their drinks when their favorite songs come on.

Recapping: Here are the most important points to remember when planning your wedding reception setup.

1. Start with the dance floor

2. You and your partner should be front-and-center

3. Decide on table shape

4. Give special attention to your VIPs

5. Highlight the bar area(s)

6. Don't forget about cocktail hour

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