By nature, wedding seating charts have to be made at the very end of the planning process (after your RSVPs are in) when you have a ton of other stuff on your plate. Plus, they’re not something you can delegate to someone else. (As I tell my clients—I could do your wedding seating chart for you, but since I don’t know your friends and family, it’s entirely possible I’d end up putting your conservative great-aunt next to your anarchist college roommate.) It’s important to note here that you certainly don’t have to have a seating chart, and the logistics of a seating chartless wedding are something I’ll go into in a future post (because, hey, you don’t even have to have tables at your wedding!) but for those of you who are in the midst of staring at your guest list trying to figure out how exactly this is going to work? While I can’t promise to make the creation of your seating chart painless, here are some tips I’ve learned over the years that might just make it manageable.
DON’T OVERTHINK THE WEDDING SEATING CHART
At most weddings, your guests are sitting at their tables for at max ninety minutes of what is a pretty long event. So, while ideally everyone has someone at their table who they like, and no one is at a table with someone they can’t stand, don’t stress too much about breaking all of your guests into the most-perfect-groups-of-eight ever—they’ll have hours to hang out with whoever they want. Now, if your wedding consists of a six-course plated meal that’s going to take three hours, you may want to work a little harder on creating great groups, but this is also where I encourage people to let the guests who won’t know anyone else at your wedding (see: that one former co-worker you’ve stayed close to, or childhood friend who lives out of state and doesn’t know any of your current friends) to bring a plus one, even if you’re not allowing them across the board.
ASSIGNING SEATS VS. ASSIGNING TABLES
For the majority of weddings, assigning your guests to tables, but not to specific seats at those tables is going to be fine—with the exception of a multi-course, plated meal with multiple selections for each course. If you do assign seats, you’re going to need both escort cards (which get picked up at the entry and tell you your table number) and place cards, which are on the table and tell you which seat is yours. With assigned tables you only need escort cards, or you can make things even easier, and scrap the escort cards for a wedding seating chart (which is really just a big poster with a list of people’s names and table numbers on it. A chart also has the bonus benefit of not being able to get lost, which somehow always happens with escort cards even when no one is leaving the room).
WHERE DOES THE COUPLE SIT?
I’m semi-convinced that the sweetheart table (a raised and/or “head” table at the front of the room where you and your partner sit) was originally invented for couples with acrimoniously divorced parents, since one way to avoid having to pick who to sit with is to sit with no one. But a sweetheart table is not your only option. If your families all get along well (or, well-enough) a table made up of you and your partner and both sets of parents can be great, or a table with your wedding party and their dates works just as well. Regardless, I often encourage couples to put their table in the middle of the floor plan, instead of on one edge so that you can put the maximum number of other tables close by and avoid anyone feeling like they’re in the “cheap seats” on the opposite side of the room.