Name or number all tables clearly, placing a copy of the seating plan on an attractively decorated board or easel outside the entrance to the venue to assist guests in finding their allocated tables. This can involve listing guests under each table, but could also be alphabetised with the table number of each guest beside his or her surname for easy reference.
The traditional bridal table consists of a long table with the bride and groom in the centre, flanked by their respective mothers. The groom's father sits next to the bride's mother and vice versa, with the bridesmaids sitting on the bride's side next to the groom's father, and the groom's best man and attendants on his side, next to the bride's father. Today it is acceptable to have a round table, especially where there are complicated family set-ups. Guests with children should be seated on the outermost tables. Remember to include the musicians and photographer in your plans, seating them close to the action.
Toasts and speeches
While it's up to you to decide on who makes them and how many you will have, speeches are a vital part of any wedding as they include proposing toasts, thanking individuals or replying to other speeches. A great many people will have worked very hard to make the day an exciting and unforgettable one, and they certainly deserve to be publicly thanked for their generous efforts. It is also appropriate to congratulate the bride and groom and offer a toast to their future happiness together.
Often the best man or a close family friend, the master of ceremonies (or toastmaster) has the duty of introducing speakers and helping to lead toasts, generally overseeing the order of events, and should therefore be an assured public speaker. The golden rule when writing a speech is to keep it short and sweet - ideally it should last no more than four or five minutes. While everybody enjoys an entertaining speech full of humorous anecdotes, try to avoid embarrassing the couple or using clichés and stereotypes. Speeches need not be too traditional and can be adapted to suit circumstances; however, it's a good idea to check that the various themes and subject matters complement one another.
· TO BRIDE AND GROOM - Proposed by the bride's father, an old family friend or a close relative, who welcomes the guests and wishes the bridal couple good fortune, usually including amusing anecdotes about the couple or events in the bride's past.
· TO BRIDE'S PARENTS - The groom responds to the abovementioned toast by thanking the bride's parents, those who have specially contributed to the ceremony and reception, and those who have travelled long distances to attend the wedding. The groom ends his speech with a toast to his new wife.
· TO BRIDAL COUPLE - Made by the best man who, being often either a brother or a close friend, can supply personal snippets of information about the groom's history and the couple's courtship. The speech should be humorous without causing offence to the couple. Traditionally, the best man also toasts the bridesmaids.
· OTHERS - If both sets of parents are present, it is customary to propose a toast to each of them. Prepared by old friends of the family they may be briefly responded to by each father. Any other speeches should be made just before the best man reads the telegrams received from those unable to attend. The essential message of any speech is to wish the bride and groom every happiness for their future.
Cutting the cake
Usually taking place after the speeches and toasts, the cake cutting ceremony involves the bride and groom cutting the first slice of cake together. With the bride holding the knife and the groom's hand over hers, they cut the cake then break and eat the first slice together. The rest of the cake is then cut into small portions and served to the bridal party and the guests.
If entertainment is provided in the form of a band or DJ, the bride and groom are expected to lead the first dance. This can be a traditional waltz or another slow song that is a particular favourite. Thereafter the parents take to the floor, followed by the rest of the bridal party, after which guests are free to dance. Make sure the floor is not too slippery, especially if you expect to do some particularly energetic dancing!
Typically, the newlyweds leave the reception before everyone else, and it is up to the best man and chief bridesmaid to remind them to change into their going-away clothes and get ready to leave. The best man checks that the couple's baggage is ready for the honeymoon and then announces that they are almost ready to leave, organising the guests for the send-off. Before they leave, the bride throws her bouquet to the bridesmaids and female guests, tradition having it that she who catches the bouquet will be married within the year!
Of course, the send-off is not a hard and fast rule, and the bride and groom are quite entitled to party the night away with their guests. Many couples feel that after putting so much effort into their wedding day, they would like to enjoy it to the full. In addition to this, if the reception venue is a hotel it is probable that they will also spend the night there, hopefully putting to rest any ideas the guests might have had for 'decorating' the car