How to Create a Perfect Seating Chart for Your Wedding

Tips on how to decide who sits where during your reception.

One of the most stress-inducing aspects of wedding planning is the seating chart, due to a variety of factors.

Photo: Sarah Kate, Photographer

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 on the big day. You also 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 and confirm meal choices, and so on. The seating chart is also one of the few things you really can’t delegate to a friend or wedding 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. Having no assigned tables at your wedding can remind your guests of the first day at a new school, desperately looking for people to sit with. The last thing you want is for your loved ones 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.

How to Create a Wedding Seating Chart

Discover some of our top tips for creating the seating chart for your wedding reception, below!

- 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, so start as soon as you can!

- Find natural groups.

Start off by sorting your guest list into categories – friends from college, colleagues, cousins, and so on. Having some groups of people noted will make it much 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. If you have a friend who doesn't know anyone and isn't bringing a guest, be sure to sit them with your friends that you know will make their experience a special one.

- Know the table capacity.

Make sure you know the minimum and maximum amount of guests who can sit at each table. A standard rule of thumb is that round tables (typically 60-inch or 72-inch diameters) comfortably seat eight to 12 guests. Rectangular tables – or banquet tables – are another option and can accommodate four to 10+ guests depending on their lengths.

- Get organized.

Mini sticky notes are great for planning out a seating chart, though some may prefer a spreadsheet. You can also use a computer program or a hand-drawn diagram!

- 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. They should have an idea of who should be seated together and who shouldn't.

- 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. It's totally up to your discretion.

- Specific seats or just tables?

While many couples feel that they only need to assign tables, you may also need to assign specific seats. If you have a multi-course meal that's being brought out by servers, you should assign seats as well as tables to make it easier for the servers to provide the right meal choice 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.

The layout of your wedding tables is very important in terms of the experience of your loved ones. For example, 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. Keep these sorts of details in mind as you're putting everything together.

- Roll call.

Whether you're having a seating chart or placing escort cards on a display, arrange guest names alphabetically. Listing by table number will make it harder for guests to find their names and will cause bottlenecking – unless you have a fairly small guest list.

- Relax.

Finally, remember that it's okay if not everything is absolutely perfect on your wedding day. People will primarily hang out on the dance floor or at the bar, not at the dinner table. Have fun, relax, and enjoy your special day!

For more ideas, view five different styles of seating charts and read the pros and cons of having a seating chart at your wedding.