Congratulations – you’re engaged! Now, have you received your mother’s guest list? How about a list from your future mother-in-law? A wedding is one of the rare occasions when you can get all of your favorite people in the same place at the same time. Although this is very exciting, coordinating your guests can be a big wedding challenge – especially when it comes to seating.
I recommend creating your guest list in an excel spreadsheet, and dividing it into an “A” section and “B” section. Send your save-thedate cards to your “A” list only. Once you begin receiving feedback on attendance from the buzz of your save-the-date, you can begin to add guests from your “B” list onto the invitation mailing list. You can also update RSVPs, find duplicates, and add pertinent information about each guest (such as preferred meal) in your spreadsheet as well. When all of your RSVPs have been accounted for, create a chart that displays 8-12 spots per table so you can assign guests to each. I sometimes refer to this process as the game of Musical Chairs!
Before assigning people to individual tables, consider where you would like to sit as bride and groom.
Head table. The head table, typically placed near the front and center of the room, is where the bride and groom sit together with the bridal party. It is considered the most traditional seating for the couple and honor attendants, and allows the key members of the wedding to enjoy each other’s company during dinner.
Sweetheart table. A sweetheart table is an intimate alternative to the head table in which the bride and groom sit alone. Also typically placed near the front and center of the room, this type of table gives couple’s a modicum of privacy and allows them time to reflect together on the day. It also allows members of the wedding party to sit with their spouses or significant others during dinner. Family table. A family table typically consists of the bride and groom and their immediate families. It is a nice way to bring together your newly blended family. Depending on how large a family each of you has, the table may be required to be quite large.
Before beginning your seat assignments, you’ll also want to factor in specific groups of people that may require or be more comfortable at a particular “type” of table.
Children. If kids were invited, you can either seat them with their parents or designate a children’s table to place them together. A children’s table can have fun centerpieces and kid-friendly favors or activities such as crayons and coloring books to keep kids occupied during the reception.
Single guests. If you tackled the issue of singles by limiting plus ones to guests who are in a serious long-term relationship and/or living with someone, a table designated for singles is a fun option. Tell your unmarried friends that there will be plenty of other singles to mingle with, and it could be their lucky night!
Work friends. If colleagues were invited to your celebration, they may be most comfortable at a table together so they know their tablemates. If there aren’t enough coworkers to designate to a table by themselves, try to group them a few to a table so no one will be seated completely with strangers.
Many couples opt to assign seats. If you go this route, make the assignments well ahead of time so your invitation designer can create place cards. Typically you sit couples together. But for a more formal, black-tie event, couples sit at the same table but are not placed next to each other. A few more things to keep top of mind:
• Make sure that you give both set of parents a couple “VIP” table placements. Remember this is a very exciting celebration for them as well and a perfect time for them to show off to their friends!
• Don’t sit elderly guests near speakers; you will be adjusting the volume all night!
• Remember friends that aren’t shy will find their way to the dance floor from the back of the room. Don’t feel you need to sit them at the edge of the action.
• Be sure to review “Seat 1” at each table with your coordinator so she/ he will know which chair your order begins with.
Overall, be prepared for some negotiations on where to seat everyone. Your parents might have ideas, and relationships may need to be considered. If you keep it as fair as possible and remain calm throughout the process, you will get through this project successfully!
Opening photograph by Jay Lawrence Goldman Photography