A seating chart may be one of the most dreaded tasks of planning a wedding, especially if there are issues among your guests. Luckily, we're here to help!
1. Decide on Shape of Tables
Guest tables can be round, oval or rectangular.
Rule of Thumb:
- 60 inch rounds: 10 per table is maximum, 8 per table is perfect, 6 per table looks empty
- 72 inch rounds: 12 per table is maximum, 10 per table is perfect, 8 per table looks empty
- 6 foot rectangles: 6 without end caps is best, 8 with end caps is maximum
- 8 foot rectangles: 8 without end caps is best, 10 with end caps is maximum
- If you have rectangular tables, either always have an end cap or no end cap. Don’t mix and match which tables have end caps, if possible.
- Before you start deciding who’s going to sit where, make a game plan for your tables. What kind of tables do you have access to from your venues? The most popular wedding table shapes are 60 inch rounds, 72 inch rounds, 6 foot rectangles, and 8 foot rectangles.
Typically, you can fit more rectangle tables into a venue and it’s easier to talk across rectangular tables. Rounds offer more leg room and are more traditional, almost every venue will have access to round tables. After you decide what tables you’re going to be using, then you can
start filling them with your guests.
2. Where to Seat Your Bridal Party
The first question to ask when seating your bridal party is, "Where are you two seating?". If you’re opting for a sweetheart table, have your bridal party at their own table near the sweetheart table. If you aren’t having a sweetheart table, you could decide to have a head table (where you, your bridal party will sit with their dates, room permitting). If you opt to not have a sweetheart or a head table, seat them at tables with their dates and other mutual friends close to you and your parents' tables.
3. Seating Your Parents
Traditionally, parents sit at a table at the reception with grandparents and siblings that aren’t in the wedding party. There is usually a table for each side of the family and they are seated near the couple.
4. Have Your Parents’ Help Seat Their Friends
No idea where to seat your parents' friends? Don’t worry, ask your mother or mother-in-law to assign those tables. They’ll be happy to help and you’ll have less tables to assign. Let your parents have an input on what friends sit with them (room permitting at their table) and the other table(s) of their friends. They will be able to give you insight you might not know.
5. Categorize Guests into Groups
Begin by putting guests into groups based on how you know them, such as family members, high school friends, college friends, work friends, etc. You don’t have to seat them in these groups, but it gives you an idea of who knows each other and gets along. You can also consider your guests’ ages, interests and backgrounds. Try to help everyone feel comfortable and have people to talk with by having a mix of familiar and new faces at the table. Of course, be mindful of issues and avoid seating people together who have prior negative history or an ongoing dispute.
6. Consider a Kid's Table
Let’s face it, kids prefer to sit with other kids. Think ahead and have activities and/or craft at their table to keep them occupied and happy. Try to keep the kid’s table near their parents, as little children might get anxious if they are too far away. If you opt to not have children besides immediate family, seat them with their parents.
7. Singles Table?
Please don’t have a singles table. You might think this is the perfect time to play matchmaker, but it isn’t. Mix singles into other tables or with people with which they are familiar. But make sure not to seat your single friend at a table full of married couples so they don't feel uncomfortable.
8. Making a Seating Chart (Digital and Physical)
Creating a visual of your seating chart can be helpful to see the bigger picture of guests at each table. There are several online digital seating chart tools like WeddingWire, AllSeated and Wedding Mapper. When using these digital tools, you can often lay out other items like bars, additional seating areas, or the gift table to get an overall sense of the space.
If you’re one that has to put things on paper, you have several options when creating your physical seating chart. You could use a giant poster board with circles/rectangles for tables and color coded Post-Its for guests. Use one color for your friends, another color for your fiancee's friends, and family in another, for an example. You could also use a white board and dry erase markers to create your seating chart. This would allow for maximum reorganization of guests. Or you could create each table on a piece of paper and lay them across the floor to create a total seating chart.
No matter what you decide, digital or physical, having a visual chart will help you envision the entire picture when creating your seating chart.
9. Consider the Venue Set Up or Layout
Make sure to give your VIPs the best seats in the house with a clear view of all the action and close to the dance floor. Guests in wheelchairs will need to be seated at tables closer to the edge of the room so they have plenty of space to maneuver. Older guests may want to be further away from the band or DJ speakers so it isn’t so loud. Seat younger guests who will be the first and last on the dance floor near the band or DJ so they can party.
10. Alternative to Assigning by Seat
If you don’t want to assign every guest to a seat, consider assigning tables instead. This way guests can pick which seat at a particular table they would like to sit in. Assigning tables works well for buffet style dinners or intimate weddings (think guests of 75 or fewer). If you decide against assigning seats, make sure your elderly and disabled guests have seats. Don’t forget where you, your bridal party and your parents are sitting.
11. Place Cards/Escort Cards/Seating Chart
-Place Cards – mark the guest’s assigned seat (placed at each place at the table).
-Escort Cards – tell each guest either assigned table and seat, if applicable (these escort guests to their seats).
-Seating Charts – a big poster that lists every guest’s name along with their table (it is displayed at the entrance to the reception).