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Making your Wedding Floor Plan

Wedding layout

Today I want to talk about something that I actually DON’T see discussed much, and that’s your wedding layouts or floor plans.  The terms are really interchangeable, layouts and floor plans.  I’m in the habit of saying layouts, but you may find your venue or vendors say floor plan.  Just know we’re talking about the same thing.  

I admit, it may not be the most exciting component of wedding planning, but it is definitely one of the most important.  Not having an accurate layout can lead to a lot of chaos on the wedding day, and we know we want to avoid that!  Additionally, going through the process of creating your layout will help make sure that you have everything accounted for, and has it’s place on the day of the wedding.  

Let’s start with why you need to have a layout for your wedding ceremony and reception.  While it might be something that you think you can eyeball, it’s important to make sure that you have room for everything.  In most cases, things will take up more room than you might anticipate, and it’s also easy to forget about certain items until you have it actually down in an official format.  Having the layout done in advance of the wedding will save you the stress of things not working like you had imagined, which can lead to a really chaotic wedding day. 

Most of what we’re going to talk about will refer to your reception layout, but do you need a ceremony layout?  Not necessarily.  If you’re ceremony will be at a church or religious institution, this is most likely something you won’t have to worry about.  The set up in these spaces usually is what it is, and there is rarely any flexibility with how things are set up.   You’ll typically have less setting up when it comes to the ceremony when you are in a church, so there is less need to have a layout to direct people on where things need to go.

If your ceremony will be in the same space as the reception, for example if you’re having a backyard wedding, or flipping a space from the ceremony to the reception, it will be hugely beneficial to also have a ceremony layout.  Just like the reception layout, you’ll need to make sure you know that you have enough room for everything, and that the flow will work well for the big picture of the day. 

Now that we know the why, let’s talk about who puts together your wedding layout? If your wedding will be at a more traditional venue, your venue coordinator will most likely be taking care of this for you. Before you spend too much time creating one, make sure to reach out and see if that is something that they will be helping you with.  If you’re having a backyard wedding, or if your venue does not help you with the layout, this will likely be your responsibility to put together. 

There are a few pros and cons for having your venue help with your layout, but ultimately it is definitely a huge time saver.  Most have in-house layout systems that are fully customized for the space.  If there are any unique details like an angled room, posts in the space, or different levels or floors, this will be crucial because you’ll need to know exact dimensions and/or placements to make sure everything will fit.  The venue coordinator will also know the layouts that work best with their space, and can recommend potential options that you may not have considered.  

The main downside for having the venue help with your layout, is that you’re at their mercy as to when you get to start working on this.  While some do this early in the planning process, most will start getting into the layout about 1-2 months before the wedding.  If this is the case with your venue, I would ask if they can send you some sample layouts for weddings approximately your size, and that way you can at least begin picturing what your set up will be. You’ll also need to manage your expectations for how many versions of the layout you’ll be able to request.  While they will be able to make small updates like taking out/putting in an extra guest table, moving the place card table, or other small details like that, asking them to completely revise the layout multiple times will most likely not be an option.  This is where asking for samples of past layouts will be helpful, and then you can fine tune once you’ve landed on your favorite set up.  

If you’re working with your venue on the layout, ask the coordinator there when you can expect to start that process.  If you are on your own on making your layout, especially if you are in a tented or unique space, I recommend you get started on at least a preliminary layout as soon as possible.  You’ll need to make sure you have enough for all of your guest tables, dance floor, buffet or food services, and all of the other details you’ll need to source on your own.  It will certainly not be a final version of your layout until you get to that one to two month time period, but you’ll need to know that you have the basics covered earlier in the process.  

We’ve talked on the why, who, and when for your layout, but what about the how, especially if you don’t have a venue coordinator that will be helping you out with this?  There are several free sources our there that can help you with your layout.  If you’re working with a planner that uses Aisle Planner, which is the planning software tool we use, you will have access to the layout feature within the platform there.  Social Tables and All Seated are the other two free platforms that we use all the time, and between the two of them, you’ll find most venue configurations in their system.  

If your venue doesn’t create your layout for you, ask if they have a recommendation for which platform to use.  If it has unique dimensions, and hosts weddings often, someone has most likely already created a layout for that space, so you won’t be starting from scratch completely. 

Don’t stress if you will be starting from scratch, however, it’s not as intimidating as it sounds!  If your wedding will be at a venue, ask them for the dimensions of the space or spaces that you will be using.  Make sure to ask if there are any posts, doors, level changes, etcetera that you’ll need to account for

If you’re creating your own reception space, like a backyard or tented wedding, you’ll start with the dimension of the tent, and we’ll add everything in from there.  While a tent is generally a wide open space, make sure to ask if there will be posts on the inside of the tent you’ll need to work around, and what the perimeter tent staking dimensions are.  The staking usually extends 5-10 feet out from the actual tent dimensions, which can make a huge difference in some setups.  

Alright, now that we’ve gone over the fundamentals of creating your layout, let’s get into the details of what you need to include in your layout. 

Let’s start with the ceremony - 

  • The chairs for the ceremony will take up most of your space, the majority of layout software systems will have “ceremony chair” layouts.  

  • If you’ll have anyone walking down the aisle 3 across, or have a particularly puffy dress, make sure that you have an aisle that is wide enough for everyone to fit. 

  • While you won’t need to assign seats for all of the guests, mark off who will be sitting in the front one or two rows so that you know your parents or other family members have a reserved spot.

  • Make sure you allow for enough room up front for your wedding party to stand, in addition to any altar or arch decor that you’ll have by where you’re standing.

  • Take into consideration where you will be coming from prior to the ceremony.  Are you coming from the house?  What door, or route will you take? This might change the orientation of the ceremony that you choose.  

  • Will you need a table for your ceremony?  We’ll commonly need a small table for a unity candle or sand ceremony, kiddush cups and breaking glass, or any other components that you’ll want to have easily accessible during the ceremony. 

Moving on to the Reception - 

  • The bulk of your layout will your guest tables.  Make sure that you have the correct sizes for the tables, this can make a huge difference if the wrong size is selected.

In addition to the guest tables, you’ll also need to include 

  • Room for catering prep and/or food service.  Check with your caterer to confirm how much space they need for set up, and if you’re doing a buffet or stations, what size tables and how many will they need for that 

  • Bar (and space for a bar back table and guest traffic)

  • Dance floor (anywhere from 12 x 12 to 30 x 30 is typical, depending on the guest count) 

  • Gift table

  • Place card table/Seating chart

  • Include table numbers, if assigning seating

  • Coffee/Water Station

  • Cake/Dessert table

  • DJ or band table/stage - make sure they are by electrical access

  • Cocktail tables (for cocktail hour and/or around the dance floor to set down drinks) Vendor table for dinner

  • And a restroom trailer, if needed

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