Do We Have to Have Assigned Seating at Our Wedding Reception?

Brides-to-be, seating assignments shouldn't be the bane of your existence!

Updated 03/20/17

Photo by The Grovers

You’ve chosen a venue, finalized your guest list, and drafted a floor plan for your reception. Now comes the bane of many a bride’s existence: seating assignments! When it comes to assigning (or not assigning!) seating at your wedding, the option that works best for you will play directly into the style of the event you’ve planned. Not sure which one is right for you? Don’t worry, our experts are here to break it down for you!

No Seating Assignments

Of course, the easiest way to save yourselves the trouble of seating assignments is to skip them altogether! But while it’s probably the most tempting option (especially once you’re so many months into planning a wedding!), there’s a reason skipping any sort of seating assignment isn’t very popular. By allowing guests to decide where they want to sit and who they want to sit with, you’ll need to account for more seats than you actually need. Why? Because some tables will wind up full—or even overfilled, with guests bringing over chairs from other tables to join a group of friends or relatives—and others will be half empty. Unless you’re having a very small wedding, with just a few tables for guests to fill in, this isn’t always the best choice. Skip this option if you’re having a plated dinner with guests choosing what they’d like to eat, as your caterer will have no way of knowing who is having what and will have to take orders at each table. However, for a buffet dinner where guests are getting their own food instead of being served, you avoid that problem. The best time to skip seating assignments? For a cocktail-style reception, where you aren’t planning to have enough seats for everyone to sit all at once anyway.

Escort Cards

Escort cards are essentially table assignments. They tell your guests which table they’ll be sitting at (usually designated by a number or a cute name), but once they’re at the table, where they actually sit is up to them. You do have to put in the legwork of deciding who will be assigned to each table. Use it as an opportunity to both curate groups of people who know one another (like your dad’s cousins or all your friends from college) and strategically combine groups you know will get along well. Assigning tables (but not specific seats) is incredibly common, for anything from a casual celebration to one that’s pretty formal—though it’s not usually the choice for black-tie affairs.

Place Cards

This is both the most formal and the most time-consuming option when it comes to assigning seating at your wedding. Once you’ve gone through the work of deciding which guests will sit at each table, you’ll also be deciding which seat they’ll be occupying. Guests will get an escort card as they arrive at the reception and then will find a place card marking their specific seat once they find their table. It’s up to you whether you want to keep couples next to each other or prefer to mix it up a little bit to encourage conversation and new friendships. As the most formal choice, place cards are most often seen at black-tie weddings; that extra layer of attention to detail fits beautifully into a classic celebration with a nod to tradition.

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