Plan your Indian Wedding Reception Layout With Intention

Plan your Indian Wedding Reception Layout With Intention

The Indian wedding reception. A seemingly easy part of wedding planning. It seems that it shouldn’t be one of the most important elements to consider for an Indian wedding reception, so couples don’t put too much focus on it until the end. Despite that, the reception layout is a big part of it, and it intertwines with more decisions than you think. 

In fact, this is your time to plan with intention. If you block your Prabha Masi’s view to the dance floor, she won’t be able to scope out girls for her son! The Indian wedding reception layout and seating chart go hand in hand.

If you actually go and search for Indian wedding reception layout ideas on Pinterest, you’ll find some really cool ideas that work if your wedding is under 100 people.

Under 100 is doubtful if you have an Indian wedding that’s not a destination wedding. Ok, maybe I’m wrong  – many of us (“Westerners”) have been keeping our numbers “smaller” these days (as in 200-300 people)….Ok nevermind, “small” is a relative term for Indian wedding numbers. It means something different to everyone!   

Anyway, I love the idea of tables weaving through trees in a forest for an Indian wedding reception seating layout but it’s just not happening..Looks uh-MAZING though! 

Plan your Indian Wedding Reception Layout With Intention-tree layout

Photo: Rock the House

On the surface, your layout might seem great but there are some considerations before deciding on just any old layout.  Once you’ve decided on a layout, you can make tweaks to other parts of your Indian wedding reception. Every little tweak you make will (theoretically) make your wedding that much better. It’s all about the tweaking. Keep reading..

Venue areas, Flow, and How It Should Go
Take a second to think about the flow your guests will follow through your venue. 

Imagine yourself as a guest, walking into your venue making your way to the cocktail hour. Where will you go, and what will you do? We know that you’ll make some pit stops chatting with someone you knew back in Africa, or with a relative you haven’t seen in 20 years, or you’ll even find your way to bar very quickly! 

Besides that, think about how you’ll progress through the venue for both the cocktail hour and the reception.

Let’s talk cocktail hour first. If there’s a lobby area, is there a fireplace, a piano, couches or side tables? How much space is there for guests to mingle?  Look for anything that might make the area feel cramped with the number of guests you have. 

What items do you need to consider before determining where food and drinks will be set up?  The venue manager might suggest a certain table set up, but does it allow people to line up (in case there’s a line for food) and for any extra “overflow” of people?

Also, will any of those items be removed if you don’t want them there during the cocktail house? If you don’t want a piano there, ask your venue manager to remove it.  If there’s an outdoor area, consider outdoor elements. Is there some area in the shade if people don’t want to stand in the sun (or will it be sunset by then)? Will you have some seating or standing cocktail tables only? Consider your elements and then decide what to keep and what to remove.

TIP: Do a walk through yourself and pretend you’re a guest coming in the doors at your reception.  Try to envision yourself as a guest at the cocktail hour with or without the room’s elements.  What would you keep and what would you change?  And then go from there…

Moving onto the reception area:
Did Someone Say Boo-feh and Cuck-tails? (that was supposed to be an Indian accent in writing :p fail!Figuring out how to set up food and drinks is as important as putting your Ba (grandmother) in a safe, secure location that won’t be too noisy.  Your cocktail hour might have passed h’orderves and buffet style h’orderves, plus a bar for drinks. Use the flow tips so guests can easily access food and cocktails.. the most important part of the night (in my opinion)!   

If you have family style dinner, make sure there’s enough room allocated between the tables for the wait staff to get through. The same applies for a buffet style dinner – make sure it’s not cramped. People don’t like waiting in lines to begin with, and if it’s cramped, they won’t like it at all.  We’re talking Indian people here so the tolerance threshold is pretty low!

If you’re planning for multiple desserts on a dessert table, create a special area in the venue for desserts. You can even rope off the area until it’s time for desserts.  It’s like the red carpet roping but for desserts (not the Grammys). Consider putting slices of cake on the dessert table instead of at guest tables since many guests will head to the dance floor right away anyway depending on how high energy the music is. Plus, if the cake doesn’t get touched after awhile on the guest tables, wait staff often take it away since they’re eager to clean up the tables (or at least that always happens to me at weddings!).

TIP: Consider tray dessert so guests don’t have to go back to the table (think: passed desserts, just like passed hors d’oeuvres).

Onwards to drinks! In the reception venue, consider putting bars near the dance floor – generally it’s 1 bar per 100 guests. Keep some space between the bar and guest tables in case a short line starts near the bar (this might happen when guests find out that the bars will be closed during the “program” part of your reception). Even if there’s no line, guests like to hang out near the bar to chat. It can get annoying for other guests sitting right next to the bar, especially if the bar and the tables are too close in proximity.

TIP: If you have extra room, add in some cocktail tables for people who want to hang out near the bar. That’ll help eliminate any “cramping” for your guests at nearby tables.

Excuse Me, Can I Get Some Binoculars?
Do your guests have a clear view?  Consider the couples’ and family’s entrances, the first dance, the cake cutting, and the performances (if you’re having any performances at your reception).  Indian U shape reception table layoutguests usually complain (after the reception) that they couldn’t see anything while seated. Or, they’ll just straight up stand up even if their table is in the middle of the reception hall.  If you putting the head table and the “action” on one end of the venue, think about your guests at the other end of the venue.  Will they be able to see anything?  Ok, they might only be your mom’s friend’s sister and her husband whom you’ve never met, but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be able to enjoy the view too!

TIP: If you want everyone to have a good seat (or nobody to have a bad seat), arrange your seating in a U-shape around the dance floor.  (See image above)

Let Them Eat Cake!
The cake table usually hangs out in the center of the dance floor, but you can put it anywhere. Just let your bakery know who’s delivering the cake so they can get to that spot to place the cake (unless they’re going straight to the venue’s kitchen). You want your breathtaking wedding cake somewhere where people can see the cake, but hopefully won’t touch it. You also want people to see the cake cutting happening. So think about that place, and put the table in that spot.

TIP: No matter if your cake is front and center, tell your bakery (and/or florist & decor specialists) to decorate the cake table – people will go look at it closely, and you don’t want the poor thing sitting by itself on a table with one or two votives and without any FLOOF (I love that word, and I’m probably using it in the wrong context, but oh well!).

I Can See You, Can You See Me?
If there’s natural lighting, check if there’s a glare of sunset in the room. If there is, find out about curtains or something else that could cover the sun. If you have spotlight lighting, ask the venue manager to test it out so guests feel comfortable and there aren’t random lights anywhere on them. If you’re not already planning on uplighting – consider it.  The extra lighting makes a huge difference.

TIP:  Consider additional pop of spotlight– somewhere like a dessert table or a spotlight on the wedding couple during the first dance!

Dance, Dance, Dance The Night Away
The location and positioning of the dance floor will influence everything else that’s set up in the room. First, figure out what size dance floor you want (if it’s not already part of the venue floor). In terms of size, you don’t want the dance floor too big for the number of guests at your reception because it could be a bit intimidating for people to get up and start dancing.

You don’t want tables too close to the dance floor either. People might sit at the tables while the dancing is going on, so give enough room. Actually, people will sit at the tables while dancing is going on: think older aunties who don’t want to dance, grandparents that will love watching the action from their seats, or even little kids who end up going to sleep on the chairs, etc etc. 

TIP: If you have a smaller reception area without much wiggle room for the dance floor space, ask your venue manager if the wait staff can informally move tables back so there’s room for dancing.

Now that your dance floor is set, position the DJ. You don’t want the DJ front and center (even though he’ll be “managing the crowd” with his/her music). Position the DJ in the back corner with clear visibility to the dance floor – opposite of the head table / main tables. Most DJs now have stations that aren’t tables. Double check with your DJ about what type of station he/she will have so you allocate enough space.

Don’t Forget Your Ba (/Dadi /Nanima /Any other name for Ba)!
Think about guests like your grandmother, any older relatives, and little kids when planning out the arrangement of the reception venue. You might not be able to account for them until table seating arrangement time. But still, keep them in mind when considering speakers and anything else they might sensitive to.  If there are guests who require a wheelchair, leave enough room to pass through the aisles (and seat them close to an exit and/or restroom).

Head Table Or No Head Table? If Only It Were That Easy…
If you’ve decided on a head table, who’s at the head table? Immediate family or immediate plus extended family? For Indian families, this is tricky! What do you mean by extended family – 1st, 2nd cousins? Or even 3rd cousins? The list can get really long.  If you’re not having a head table, where will your family sit? Another option is doing two large head tables and the rest circular tables.  Mix and match the table set up.

Some people say you should figure out the tables and chairs first, then fit everything else in. But it makes sense to consider all of the other elements too while alongside working in the tables and chairs. If you’re set on a particular layout, then yes, work the layout first, then work in all of the other elements. 

TIP: Don’t forget to tell your florist about the table set up as soon as you’ve finalized it – the type and quantity of arrangements will depend on what the tables are (rectangular, square, etc).

Indian Wedding Reception Layout Ideas
With Indian wedding receptions, the layout can make or break the reception hall.  These layout elements below can be incorporated into a larger layout and can help you visualize how it could come to life. You can use the main element (like a large head table), and then fill in the rest of the space with round tables too.  Or, you can use the concept for your entire reception.  Be creative – but work closely with your venue manager to mock up the vision you have in mind.  It’s hard to visualize a layout sometimes, so ask them to walk you through the venue to show exactly how the layout will come to life. Or, if the layout isn’t that important to you, lean on the venue manager to do much of the heavy lifting to come up with ideas based on your initial thoughts. 

Some ideas to get your creative juices flowing..

1)   Working around a long head table (10-20 guests at the head table) by using the head table as the main point of reference, then plan around it:

Plan your Indian Wedding Reception Layout With Intention-head table and round table layout

2)   Mix of Rectangles (10-20 ppl each) and round tables (10-12 ppl each) is a play on the traditional layout:

Plan your Indian Wedding Reception Layout With Intention-mixed table layout

3)   Square or Rectangle with a hole in it aka donut – (this makes sense if your dance floor is not in the middle of that hole and it’s somewhere else. You can use multiple tables like this, or even mix in round tables. Or, you can even set you whole layout like this, with the dance floor in the middle, and some spaces in between to get to the dance floor.

Plan your Indian Wedding Reception Layout With Intention-donut table layout

4)   Long rows of tables (3-4 rows or 40-60ppl)  – this works if your dance floor is on one side and the tables are on the other.Plan your Indian Wedding Reception Layout With Intention-4 lines table layout5)   Mix of  X and O’s is a unique and different layout and a really cool panoramic view:

Plan your Indian Wedding Reception Layout With Intention-XO reception layout

Photo: Justine Ungaro

6)    All round tables – a traditional layout, but still works for many people:

Plan your Indian Wedding Reception Layout With Intention-round tables

7)  Head table in the middle, and then dance floor on the side (or in another room). This is different, but might not work if you want a lot of focus on activities on the dance floor.  You could still do it, but guests would probably stand up for your “floor activities.” (I don’t have a mock-up since this can be done many different ways).

That’s the Indian wedding reception for ya! Once you have the layout you like, next comes who to seat where…and that’s a post for another day! 

Check out #8 in the post 10 Revealing Places Indian Brides Forget to Look for Help and the Resources page for layout tools you can use to play around with (but leave the actual plans to your venue team since it takes a lot of time to tweak!).

Check out our Pinterest page with wedding reception layout and decor ideas.

What kind of reception layouts have you seen lately? Tell us in the comments below.

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