They're All Coming! Now What?
Your cousin Mark, Aunt Shirley, kindergarten teacher, and sorority sister have all responded "YES" to your wedding! That is great news, but where will they sit at the reception? Who would they most enjoy sitting with as they take part in the festivities? It's time to tackle creating a seating chart. Take some of the stress out of this process with some of our foolproof tips and tricks!
Why Have a Seating Chart?
Taking the time to create a custom seating chart is a kind gesture that lets your guests know that their presence is important to you. You actually took the time to think of where and with whom each individual would be most comfortable sitting. For many weddings, assigning guests to specific tables is the simplest, most straightforward way to organize your reception. If you have attended a wedding without a seating chart, you know how anxiety-inducing it can be when it comes to finding a seat. A seating chart is also a huge timesaver, allowing guests to seat themselves more quickly and the emcee to begin presentations promptly.
Unless your event is ultra-formal, assigning guests to specific tables, but not to specific seats is perfectly fine. If you choose to assign specific seats as well, you will need place cards at each table indicating who sits where. Where plated meals are serviced, this is recommended.
Picking a Style
Seating charts come in a variety of styles, ranging from large seating chart displays to escort cards. Escort cards are typically placed alphabetically on a table at the entrance of the event space. Guests will then look for the card with their name and table number. Today's trend is to have a large seating chart printed and on display, which lists all guests individually accompanied by their assigned table numbers. These can be hand-written and displayed on a large chalkboard or printed and mounted on foam board displayed on an easel. How to display your seating chart is a matter of preference that should be discussed between you and your fiancé.
Like any task, sometimes starting can be the most daunting part.
Seating arrangements cannot be finalized until all of the RSVPs are in. While assigning guests to tables can be a challenge, it can also give you and your fiancé a chance to work together as a team! Ultimately, you will be glad you created a plan to ensure that your reception runs seamlessly and your guests will surely thank you. If you are tech savvy, you can find websites dedicated to assisting in creating seating charts and placing guests at tables.
Months before your wedding, be sure to ask your venue coordinator how many chairs are at each table. Generally, tables include seating for 8-10 people, but sometimes an extra chair can be squeezed in if necessary. Tables can be round, square, buffet style, etc., and it's simply a matter of preference or what may be available at your venue. If your reception includes a seated meal, place cards with guest names can assist wait staff with pre-selected meals. Your venue may also offer diagrams of typical table arrangements for the event space according to various size guest counts, allowing you to get an idea of how the tables will be placed in the room.
Decide on whether or not you want a head table for the wedding party. Do you and your new spouse want a "sweetheart table" for just the two of you with attendants seated close by or would you like to sit with the wedding party? Do you want the spouses or dates of the wedding party to sit at the head table as well? If so, these attendants will enjoy the evening of dinner and dancing with their own personal loved one. Oftentimes, you will find that the wedding attendants will not remain at the head table after dinner if their dates are seated elsewhere in the room. Some couples do without a head table altogether and decide to seat the wedding party with their dates amongst the other tables in the room.
Determine the various groups on your guest list. If you already have a spreadsheet with your guests' names and addresses that you used for save-the-dates and invitations, you can sort the spreadsheet into categories according to their relationship to the bride or groom and mark the RSVPs as they come in. These categories can include, but are not limited to, the bride's relatives, the groom's relatives, the bride's high school friends, the groom's high school friends, the bride and groom's respective friends, the bride and groom's respective co-workers, etc. People in the same category will most likely want to be seated at the same table or nearby. Begin by grouping people into tables of approximately 8 seats. Once all guests are accounted for, you can then organize the list by table numbers, grouping on your computer or with cut-out slips of paper on the kitchen table, whichever method you prefer!
Be sure to sort the spreadsheet by last names also, as the final seating chart will display names in alphabetical order. Once the seating arrangements are finalized, add the table numbers to the spreadsheet.
Back It Up
Lastly, remember to keep multiple copies of the final seating chart. Whether it's printing out physical copies or saving the electronic spreadsheet to a disc or thumb drive, archive the final list just to be on the safe side. There's nothing worse than spending hours creating the perfect seating chart only to misplace or even worse, delete it.
You can use online services to prepare the seating chart document, which will in turn send you a PDF for print at a local print shop. I Do Boutique can assist you if you are in the Houston area.
Be sure to recruit the bride and grooms' parents to assist in the grouping of family and friends. They often know who is comfortable with whom and will most likely be happy to help.
Mix different groups of friends at tables to encourage guests to mingle and interact with new faces. Try not to have a table of all "singles," but instead mix them in with the married couples.
You may not want to place elderly guests near loud music speakers.
Seat older children at one table with no adults. Younger children should be seated with their parents.
Table numbers come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and styles. Be sure to get one for every table.
Be sure the mother and father of both the bride and groom are somewhat aware of where different groups will be sitting at the reception, allowing them to find and greet those special friends and relatives with ease.
DJ Grey's Tip of the Day
The most ambiguous sign used at a wedding is "Reserved." It's much better to list the name(s) of the family member(s) or wedding party members for which each table is reserved.