While assigned seating at a wedding certainly isn't mandatory, most brides do create a wedding seating chart. At any kind of sit-down dinner, assigned seats tend to make things simpler. To begin with, it ensures each table will be filled to max capacity. Furthermore, for plated dinner service, things can get very confusing for the catering staff without it. For these reasons, many venues actually require assigned reception seating.
Creating seating arrangements for your wedding can seem overwhelming at first, but once you get into the swing of it, it can actually be fun! To help you along the way, we've created the ultimate guide to planning out wedding seating charts. Figure out where everyone will sit with these expert rules of thumb!
1. Decide on Table Shapes
Before you start seating guests, you'll need to have a game plan for your tables. The size and shape will dictate how many guests can be seated at each table. When it comes to wedding table shapes, you have four basic options: round, rectangle, oval and square. Typically, you can fit more rectangular tables into a space and it's easier to talk across the tables. Round tables, on the other hand, are the most traditional option and afford your guests more leg room. After you decide on what tables you prefer, then you can start populating them with your guests.
2. Keep Your Friends Close
A head table full of your wedding party (and their dates if you’ve got the room!) is a great way to acknowledge their special role, as well as surround yourselves with your BFFs during dinner. Opting for a sweetheart table? Have your wedding party host tables, instead. Seat them with their dates and a group of other mutual friends. They should be seated at the third-best tables in the room — the first is your sweetheart table, the second-best tables are for your parents and the third is your wedding party.
Near the dance floor, natch!
3. Figure Out Where You Want to Put Your Parents
Traditionally, both the bride and groom's parents will share a table at the reception, along with grandparents and siblings that aren't in the wedding party. It gives the parents another chance to get to know each other and bask in the glow of their children's brand new union. All the guests are happy, but no one will likely be as overjoyed as your parents, and they can share in that together.
This, of course, can get tricky when you're dealing with divorced parents. If things are tense between them, be sensitive. Consider having two tables that are equally close to you, and then put one parent at each. That way, no one feels uncomfortable or left out. You can also try seating them at the same rectangular table, but at opposite ends (and try to make the table long).
4. Enlist Your Parents' Help to Seat Their Friends
If you have no idea where to seat your parents' friends, let your mother and mother-in-law arrange those tables — they'll be happy to be involved. You should also include your parents in the seating assignments. If there's room at the family table(s), they're sure to have an opinion on what close friends they might like to have seated at their table. If there will be another family or friends table nearby, they may want to help choose those guests, too.
5. Categorize Guests by Groups
Now that you have a finalized list of who's coming, you can start putting people into groups. Begin by grouping guests according to how you know them, such as: family members, high school friends, college friends, work friends, etc. This doesn't mean you have to sit them according to group, but a picture will start to form of who already knows each other and gets along. In addition to grouping by how you know guests, you can also consider your guests' age, interests and backgrounds. Try to make everyone feel comfortable by offering a mix of familiar and new faces at each table.
And, of course, be tactful: avoid seating people together who have a history they wish they could forget.
6. Consider Making a Separate Kids' Table
Designate a kids' table: If you have several children at your wedding, seat them together at a separate kids' table. Think ahead and have activities and/or crafts at their table to keep them occupied! And, while it might be tempting to put the babies in a corner, try not to put the kid's table too far from where their parents are sitting, as littler children might get anxious when they look around and don't see Mom and Dad anywhere. If, on the other hand, your flower girl and ring bearer are the only children present, seat them with their parents.
7. Skip the Singles Table
If you've been dying to fix your old co-worker up with your cousin, you might take this opportunity to discreetly seat them next to each other. But resist the urge to create a separate "singles" table, which might embarrass your guests. Also, don't seat your unmarried friend at a table full of married couples — use your best judgement and try to be sensitive to guests' feelings.
8. Consider the Floor Plan
Keep the floor plan of your venue in mind while creating your wedding seating chart, too. Give your VIPs the best seats in the house, so they have a clear view of all the action and can jump into the celebration. Guests in wheelchairs should be seated at tables that are either closer to the edge of the room or closer to the dance floor, so they’ll have plenty of space to maneuver as needed. Older guest may want to be a little further from the band (and not near a speaker) so it isn’t too loud. Seat younger guests who will be on the dance floor all night near the band so they can really boogie!
9. Make a Digital Seating Chart
Wondering how to make a seating chart online? Sites like WeddingWire, AllSeated and Wedding Mapper make it so simple. These sites have drag n' drop seating options, which makes it so simple to arrange and rearrange to your heart's content. You also customize the templates and try out different table options. AllSeated, in fact, even has an extensive library of actual venues — if your venue is on the list, you can select it and the venue's dimensions will auto-populate. In addition to laying out tables and seats, you can lay out any other items (like bars or additional seating areas) to really get a sense of how the space will flow.
10. Create a Physical Seating Chart
For more tactile brides that want to make a wedding seating chart template on paper, you can use a giant poster board and Post-it's to create a physical chart. After you decide on what type of tables you want and where they'll be laid out, sketch them on your poster board. To save yourself a lot of erasing, keep things neat by writing each guest's name on a Post-it. Then, you can simply stick and un-stick guests in different seating arrangements. Make it extra fun by using poster board and Post-it's in your wedding colors!
Another tactile option is to use a giant white board and dry erase markers.
11. Assign Tables as an Alternative
If you're still not into assigned seating, consider assigning tables instead. This way, no one will be scrambling for seats while you’re trying to make your grand entrance. Just as you would with assigned seats, put thought into who you’ll be grouping together to make sure everyone’s got someone to talk to and will have an enjoyable evening. Assigning tables can work well for buffet-style dinners, intimate weddings (think 50 guest or fewer). If you forego assigned seats or tables, just make sure your elderly guests always have a place to sit down.
Having some sort of wedding seating plan, even if it's just table assignments, will make your reception flow much more smoothly.
12. Make Finding Table Cards Easy
When it comes to actually telling your guests where to sit, the goal for table cards is to find the sweet spot between creativity and ease of use. Tented or envelope cards are the most traditional, and can be arranged a variety of ways depending on the type of table you’re working with. Table assignment signs and charts can also work well. Arranging guests’ names in alphabetical order (instead of grouped by table) means they’ll be able to find their seat faster, instead of having to read every table list to figure out where to go.
Opting for one or two long tables for everyone? A diagram with numbered seats, accompanied by an alphabetical list of guests’ names and their seat number, will get them in place with ease. A font that’s easier to read is always welcome, for both escort cards and place cards.