One of the most time-intensive tasks you’ll undertake during wedding planning is creating your seating chart. Painstakingly pairing groups of people together while ensuring each table has an even amount of chairs may feel tedious at times, but it will be totally worth it in the end.
“It creates a luxury experience where guests feel like you’ve thought about them at every turn,” event pro Caitlin Kuchemba, of Clover Event Co, says of assigned seating. “ This way, they don’t have to rush to their table and deal with everybody shuffling.”
Meet the Expert
Caitlin Kuchemba is the owner and creative director of Clover Event Co., an East Coast-based event design firm.
Still, deciding who sits where for the dinner portion of the evening takes careful planning, and if you don’t approach it with a sound strategy, it can become a major headache with real consequences on your big day. Read on for the most common seating chart mistakes to avoid—and what to do instead.
1. Not Using The Simplest Tool
While some people swear by seating chart apps, and others rely on sticky notes and poster board, the best tool for creating your seating chart is one many people already use daily: Google Sheets. The spreadsheet software is free, it can be edited by multiple people in multiple locations at the same time, and it can be easily shared. “For round tables, do eight to ten cells, and just know that the first person is going to be next to the last person in that format,” advises Kuchemba. “For long tables, format horizontally and look at each cell as an individual seat at that table.”
2. Waiting Until All The RSVPs Are in to Begin Planning
You don’t need to confirm every last “yes” and “no” before you begin work on your seating chart. “Two to three months out from your wedding, start grouping people in clusters on your spreadsheet,” says Kuchemba, who recommends organizing people according to family, friend groups, work colleagues, etc. “That way, when you go to create your seating chart, you’ve already started thinking about who would make sense to sit together.” Highlight guests you haven’t yet heard back from so you have a visual sense of where changes might occur, and then remove the highlight or delete their name as needed.
3. Creating a “Singles” Table
Despite what ’90s rom-coms might lead you to believe, the singles table—where guests without plus-ones are sat together—has definitely fallen out of favor. Instead, “intermix them with their friend group,” advises Kuchemba, who also generally discourages trying to set singles up by seating them next to one another during dinner. “Let the romance happen organically instead of forcing them next to each other and calling attention to it,” she adds. “Sometimes, people are going into a wedding in a different headspace, and they won’t want to interact in that way.”
If several people in a friend group are single, you do not need to offer them plus-ones. If, however, just one friend out of a group is single while everyone else will be with a partner, it can be a thoughtful gesture to offer them a plus-one. This is especially true for a destination wedding where people will be traveling for longer periods of time.
4. Not Asking for Parental Input
Certain VIPs, such as your parents, should have a say in who they’re sitting with and who their close friends and family members will be sitting with. (This is especially true if your parents are divorced and/or will be inviting a decent amount of guests to the affair that you don’t know as well.) By delegating this portion of the seating chart to your parents, you’ll take the guesswork out of ensuring this particular set of guests enjoy themselves, and you’ll also ensure your parents feel heard in the planning process. It’s a win-win!
5. Ignoring Table Placement
Beyond who is sitting with who, you’ll also want to pay attention to who is sitting where in relation to the dance floor. “Oftentimes aunts, uncles, and family members are the ones most offended if they don’t have a front row seat,” says Kuchemba, so you’ll want to place their tables right along the dance floor so they can take in the speeches and the first dance. (This group of guests also tends to sit more than dance, so keeping them closer to the dance floor allows them to still feel like they’re in the center of everything even if they aren’t actively participating.)
When it comes to grandparents and older guests, keep them in direct view of the band but further back in the room, and definitely away from any speakers. Your rowdier friends will be fully capable of entertaining themselves and will hit up the dance floor no matter where they are seated, so know it’s okay to place them further out or, if your venue is laid out in multiple rooms, at one of the tables that aren’t in the same space as the dance floor. “If you’re feeling uncomfortable, it’s better to be upfront than stress about what they think,” says Kuchemba. Explain the situation, and that group will more than likely be understanding. They’ll also appreciate that you cared enough to offer them the heads-up!
6. Not Properly Accounting for Kids
Children under six will likely need full adult supervision and should be seated with their parents. As you get into the tween ages, though, there are options. Kuchemba’s preferred arrangement: A separate (chaperoned!) area in the cocktail hour space with games, crafts, and more kid-friendly meal options. That way, the kids can still join in on the dance floor later on but also have their own space to retreat to when they tire of the party. (Added bonus: parents can also fully enjoy the evening!)
Young teenagers (think 12-plus) can be sat at a kids' table if there are other kids their age sitting around them but otherwise should be sat with older cousins or siblings.
7. Thinking Your Display Chart Needs to Be Perfect
High-design, custom-built seating chart displays are still trending for weddings, but there’s a slim chance that the production schedule required to create one will match up perfectly with when you’ve received all your RSVPs. If you still have a few stragglers at your stationer’s deadline, it’s okay to keep them in. “No one is going to realize that John Smith wasn’t there even though his name is on the chart,” says Kuchemba. Alternatively, you can go with a design where each name is written on an individual card, and then your planner can remove the cards of guests who ended up declining the invitation.