One of the most stress-inducing aspects of wedding planning is the seating chart, due to a variety of factors. It’s nearly impossible to please everyone, and you have to predict every guest’s behavior and attitude. You have to wait until the last few weeks before your nuptials, because you can’t finalize anything until you receive all of the RSVP cards back. The seating chart is also one of the few things you really can’t delegate to a friend or planner. You may need help for certain relationships, but you and your partner are the ones who are going to know the dynamics between everyone.
Knowing all of that, it’s understandable to have the desire to simply throw your hands in the air and let your nearest and dearest find their own seats. However, that is simply not acceptable for larger weddings. No assigned tables can remind people of the first day at a new school, desperately looking for people to sit with. The last thing you want is for your guests to remember feeling awkward on your big day. In order to help make the process a little smoother, here are tips for creating a seating chart.
- Start ASAP.
Once you have your final guest count, start working on your seating chart. Don’t forget that you’ll need time to make the displayed seating charts, or to send the escort cards out for calligraphy. You don’t want to be hunched over at your kitchen table the night before your wedding!
- Find natural groups.
Start off by sorting your guest list into categories. It will make it easier to figure out who should sit with whom.
- Encourage mingling.
Seating a mix of people who do and don't know each other together can be a nice way for people to make friends. Just be sure to choose people whom you think might get along; for example, sticking to the same age range is usually a good idea.
- Be considerate of solo guests.
Don’t have a singles table… but if there are some people you think could hit it off, they could always fill out a table together.
- Know the table capacity.
Make sure you know the minimum and maximum amount of guests who can sit at each table.
- Get organized.
Mini sticky notes are great for planning out a seating chart, though some may prefer a spreadsheet.
- Sometimes parents know best.
Enlist your parents and future in-laws to help if they have friends attending the wedding that you don’t know.
- Where will you sit?
Decide if you want a head table or a sweetheart table. If you choose a sweetheart table, your bridal party could sit amongst themselves and their dates, or simply fit them with their own friends and family, as you would with other guests.
- Specific seats or just tables?
If you have a multi-course meal, you should assign seats as well as tables, to make it easier for the servers to provide the right meal for each guest. Keep in mind that if you assign seats, you will need both escort cards and place cards.
- Don't ignore the layout.
You may want to seat older guests away from the band or DJ. They will likely spend less time on the dance floor, and the amplification is likely too loud for them.
- Roll call.
Arrange names alphabetically. Listing by table number will make it harder for guests to find their names and will cause bottlenecking.
Finally, remember that it's okay if not everything is absolutely perfect. People will primarily hang out on the dance floor or at the bar, not at the dinner table.