After The “I Dos”: Creating the Perfect Reception Seating Chart
A complete guide to crafting the reception tables and place cards
By: Jessi Minneci
The menu has been carefully selected. The bridesmaids all have their dresses and flower arrangements in tow. The DJ is all booked up. You are down to tackling one of you final pre-wedding tasks: creating a reception seating chart. And while it may seem like a daunting task, we’re here to show you how to make playing wedding musical chair a breeze.
More likely than not, you’ve attended a wedding in the past where you picked up your placement card, found your table, and went about your night without putting much thought into the work that goes into creating a wedding seating chart. But, for some brides, seating charts become the most stressful part of the entire planning process. After all, seating charts are one of the last tasks to complete (after RSVPs are in) – AKA when the bride has a ton of other things on her plate – and can’t really be created by anyone aside from the couple of the hour.
Deep breaths. We’re here to show you how to navigate the seating chart with ease!
Tackle it Early on
At the very least, start brainstorming the outline of the seating chart one week before the big day.
All too often, we see brides stressing over the seating chart a mere 48 hours before the reception is to take place. This is a bunch of bologna! Don’t let this be you. You’ve got way more important things to think about this close to when you are scheduled to walk down the aisle. Tackle the whole process early in the game to avoid unnecessary stress. SURE, last minute changes are to be expected, but that’s beside the point…
Start with a Lesson on Geometry
It goes without saying that the size and shape of your reception tables with dictate how many guests can be seated at each table. Table shapes usually fit into four categories: round, rectangle, square, and oval – each with their own set of pros:
- Round tables are more traditional and allow your guests more leg room
- Rectangular tables can be manipulated to fit into different spaces
- Oval tables offer an elegant feel, and can fit more people than traditional, round tables
- Talking across the table is easiest in a square shape
After you decide which table fits your needs, style, and venue most appropriately, you can start to garner an idea of which guests to group together depending on the number of seats available at each table.
Assign Tables… and Maybe Seats(?)
In most situations, assigning individuals to specific tables, but not specific seats, will do the job. However, if you plan to serve a multi-course, plated meal with selections for each course, you may want to assign specific seats (this will make it easier for the reception waiters and staff, too).
If you go ahead with assigning specific seats, you will need both escort cards (containing the table number of each guest) and place cards (designating a specific seat). With assigned tables only, you will simply need to provide escort cards which get picked up at the entry of the reception.
Want to take it a step further? Adorn the reception entryway with a seating chart – a visual display of the room’s layout, including each table and its number. A chart adds the bonus benefit of not confusing guests as to where they’re going and where they’re supposed to be seated. Sites such as WeddingWire, AllSeated and Wedding Mapper even allow you to create online seating charts!
They have drag n' drop seating options, which makes it easy to arrange and rearrange to your heart's content. Once you find the magic mixture, print it out and you’ll be read to go!
Keep Your Besties Near
Start the seating with the wedding party and then branch out. A head table full of the bride, the groom, and your wedding party (and their dates, if applicable) is a great way to acknowledge their role in your big day, as well as surround yourselves with your closest friends and family members during dinner.
Did you decide on using sweetheart table – a small table specifically for the bride and groom?
If so, consider having your wedding party host their own table. Seat them with their dates and a group of other mutual friends. They should be seated at the third-best table in the room:
- The first is your sweetheart table
- The second is for your parents
- The third is for the wedding party
Keep Your ‘Rents Close By
Traditionally, the bride and groom’s parents sit at the same table, along with grandparents, and siblings. That’s not always the case… depending on the circumstance. If your or your partner's parents are divorced and not keen on sitting together, you might want to let each set of parents host their own table of close family and friends. This could mean up to four parents' tables, depending on your situation.
Remember, though, that the parent-seating situation should a flexible one. Set it up in whatever way best suits everybody. If you're uneasy, ask the ‘rents for their input before making your final decision. After all, all the guests will be happy, but no one will likely be as ecstatic as your parents, and they can share in that together.
The Goal is to Keep Everyone Smiling
Aside from parental divorce, there’s no denying that there may also be situations where certain family members just do not get along. Understandably, you want to keep them as far apart as possible.
Consider these relationships (or lack thereof) before you start making your chart, so you can take them into consideration. In the end, if it’s better to sit Cousin Alex at table three and Uncle Bill all the way across the room at table 14, it’ll be worth it. They’ll appreciate it – and so will you.
Groups = Great!
Now that you’ve placed the wedding party, your parents, and your family frenemies, you can start putting the remaining guests groups depending on how you know them:
- Family members
- High school friends
- Parents’ friends
- College friends
- Work friends
Now, keep in mind that this doesn't mean you have to sit guests according to group, but a picture should start to form of who already knows each other and gets along.
You may also want to consider guests' age, interests and backgrounds when grouping them. Try to make everyone feel comfortable by offering a mix of familiar and new faces at each table.
Go Easy on Your Guests
At the end of the day, some of us may have to accept that not everyone is going to be peachy keen on our final seating arrangements. Deep breaths – it will be okay!
When in doubt, trust your instincts. Try to be accommodating, but don't lose your marbles over it. Chances are, after dinner, everyone will get up, dance and mingle anyway.