Truth be told, if you talk to brides who have already gone through the planning process, the hassle of seating arrangements has been a topic of conversation – and definitely not the upbeat positive type.
However, guest seating doesn’t have to be as hard as you think. It’s truly as hard as you make it out to be.
Of course divorced parents, feuding families and distant cousins you’ve met only a handful of times but your mother insisted on their presence, can make things a little trying.
But – take a deep breath, because girl, you’ve got this!
After your invites are mailed out and you’re awaiting the RSVPs to return, (hopefully on time,) decide what you want your reception table plan and space to look like. Do you want traditional round tables, square family-style tables or long-modern banquet tables?
If you’re curious the capacity of table, AV Party Rentals has a great chart, just scroll down on their page.
Some venues will supply you only one type of table, or give you a footprint of how the space can be set up. Most brides will take their venue’s suggestion or recommendation – however, if you’re daring – make a suggestion on how you WANT it to be set up. Your venue may say no and give you a reason why it won’t work, but it’s worth a shot. If you don’t like the venue’s provided tables, you are most likely looking at an additional cost to rent tables, linens and even chairs.
Think of the formality of your wedding reception. If your wedding and reception are relaxed, casual and laid back – by all means, have open seating and a walk-up buffet meal. If you do take the route of open seating, be sure to have more chairs than people. Often times people will sit with one chair in-between them and a stranger.
If you’re having a more formal affair, your best option is to create a seating plan with both place cards and escort cards.* If you decide this is the best option for you, be sure to seat the younger crowd near the dance floor and the older crowd on the outer edges. If you have tables that will need to be removed after dinner for the dance floor, definitely seat the younger guests at those tables. As for who to seat near a bar?! That’s up to your own discretion. However, do not place non-drinkers near a bar. Often times it will become an immediate irritation for them to be surrounded by your bar line.
For both options, take into consideration how you want everyone seated. Traditionally, your head table seats the couple and both the bride and groom’s parents. Sometimes joining the couple and parents are the maid-of-honor and best man. That “tradition” has slowly emerged into the head table being the entire bridal party. (In my opinion this change has adapted with the consideration of separated, divorced or widowed parents with new partners to consider.) You may even opt for a sweetheart head table where your parents host their own tables and your bridal party is blended in with the guests.
Be aware of family politics, but don’t let it ruin your wedding planning. Keep your seating plan a secret from wedding guests, and opt for a surprise element. This will eliminate people telling you who they do or don’t want to be seated next to.
While some guests are looking forward to meeting new friends via their seat, some are more apprehensive of it. Seat guests together based on categories and everything will work, I promise. (i.e. your family, his family, his coworkers, friends you have together, singles, etc.) If you know someone is uncomfortable in environments where they don’t know anyone, be sure to seat them with a familiar face or a very chatty Cathy that will make the feel welcome.
If you’re having a seating plan, do not forget to have seats and meals for your vendors!
When you’re making your seating chart, here is the best “Seating How To” I have ever come across via Jen from Something Turquoise.
(The post-it tabs make it SUPER easy to make changes before finalizing anything.)
Once you have your seating plan figured out, celebrate! No, I’m not kidding. Grab your fiancé or fiancée and grab a beer or glass of wine. Cuddle up on the couch and relax. You deserve it.
Post celebratory-relax session, figure out how you want to display your newly created seating arrangement. If you’re having a large sign with everyone’s name and table number listed – be sure to place it at the entrance of your venue or in a common space people won’t have to search for it, just to then search for their table. If you’re having a large wedding – consider having two signs so there isn’t a line. If a sign isn’t your type, a table with alphabetically organized escort cards is a popular choice. The perk? Both options allow you to be as creative or simple as you’d like. Just be sure to spell everyone’s name correctly!
Remember, at the end of the day, most guests will be seated for dinner, speeches and a toast or two. Their chairs are not balls and chains! If they aren’t seated by their favorite aunt or your hot, single friend – they can meet up with them on the dance floor or when they’re mingling near the bar.
Don’t fret over your seating plan and don’t let it ruin the fun and excitement of planning your wedding. Breathe and stick to your guns. You know your guests better than anyone, and they will be ecstatic to be included on the celebration no matter what shape the tables are or who they are seated next to. While you figure it all out, a glass of red & to-do list should get you through.
* ESCORT CARDS are generally little cards with or a sign with the guest’s name and table assignment written or printed on them. These are usually arranged in a creative manner at the entrance to the reception for guests to find their name and corresponding table and seat.
PLACE CARDS are generally place settings/cards with the guest’s name found on the table at the place where the guest will be sitting.