If you’re like most people, you’ve probably attended weddings in the past, picked up your escort card, and found your table without ever really thinking about the work that has to go into make a seating chart. Now, as the happy couple responsible for creating that magic for your guests, it’s likely that stress might begin to settle in. Creating the seating chart is one of the most stressful parts of planning your wedding. With so much to think of such as how to fit in plus ones, who can’t sit near who, what meal Aunt Martha is eating… you might cry… or fight. Something about seating chart planning always brings frustration. Think of creating your seating chart like a game of Tetris, but with emotions.
Typically, seating charts are made at the very end of the wedding planning process, after the RSVPs are in and when you have tons of other stuff on your plate. They aren’t exactly a task to delegate since you will be the one that knows your guests best. While I can’t promise to make the creation of your seating chart painless, here are some tips I have learned over the years that might make it manageable.
At most weddings, your guests will be at their table for around 90 minutes of the entire event. Ideally, it is helpful to seat people together that like one another and no one is at a table with someone they can’t stand. Don’t focus on putting your guests into the most-perfect-groups-of-eight or ten or twelve or however many seats you’ve decided to keep at a table. The beauty of a wedding is that they are social in nature and your guests will have plenty of opportunity to chat with whoever they want.
Assigning Seats vs. Assigning Tables
Planning on only serving chicken? Giving guests the option of beef or fish? Or vegetarian? Time to pay attention. For the majority of weddings, assigning your guests to tables, but not to specific seats at those tables is fine – as long as you aren’t serving six courses or offering a plated meal with a choice of entrée. If you do assign seats you will need both an escort card (which is picked up prior to entering the reception space during cocktail hour or at the entry to the space and tells your guests a table number) and place cards, which are on the table and tell your guests which seat is there. Not only that, placecards also tells their server which meal they are to receive.
With assigned tables you only need escort cards, or you can make things easier on yourself and scrap the escort cards altogether and opt for a seating chart (which is really just a big poster with a list of people’s names and table numbers on it.) The added benefit of a chart is that it can’t get lost! Which someone always happens with escort cards even when no one is leaving the room…
Where do we sit?
So you’ve managed to figure out your guests seating dilemma, but what about you and your love? Or your bridal party? Head tables. There are so many options for choosing your specific seating option. Not only do you have to determine what style of seating you prefer (traditional, sweetheart table, or king’s table), you also need to think of if you are going to let spouses and significant others of your bridal party sit with you as well. Confused as to which type of head table is best? Read our blog, To Have or Not To Have: Head Tables for more information. Regardless, it’s important that you and your love or your bridal party sit towards the middle of the floor plan in view of all of your guests. No one wants to feel like they are in the ‘cheap seats’ on the opposite side of the room.
Seating Chart Logistics
How many people can fit at one table? It’s a pretty popular questions among couples. Your floorplan is an important part of creating the ultimate reception space and to determine just how many tables is the perfect amount. To give you a better idea, keep in mind that you can fit six to ten at a 60” round table, the most common size. Likely, you have no idea what that means… I’m here to help! Our team can tell you exactly the perfect number for the space, but there is always room to play around.
The fewest people you want per 60” round is six. Any less that this and the table will feel oddly large. Elbow room won’t be an issue, but you don’t want them swimming to speak to the person they are sitting next to.
Eight is an ideal number. It feels full, but not crowded. The key is making sure guests are comfortable.
See how close the place settings are? Don’t be surprised if your guests rub elbows. Ten people is really the maximum you can put at a 60” round.
At this point you are likely worrying about how many tables you can fit into a space. Even though I can assure you that my team is able to handle that calculation and tell you exactly how many is perfect for your party, you may be of the type that wants to know how room layout is determined anyway.
One of the biggest aspects we need to remember when creating a room layout is having enough space between tables for guests to walk around, get in and out of their seats, and for our service staff to deliver a properly plated meal without the hiccups of chairs being in the way or not having enough room for serving trays. The standard is a minimum of 60” between tables. It may seem like a lot of space, but when you pull chairs out for guests to sit, part of the walkway you’ve created is taken up with bodies. It’s also incredibly important to have the space for a server or guests trying to get to their seats to have the room the easily get between those chairs.
Now that you’ve established how many people are coming, how many tables you will have, we’ve created a layout for your room…. It’s time to arrange everyone without going crazy. There are many programs out there to help couples do this through the internet and even downloadable programs, but I’m a fan of low-tech approaches.
Write each guest’s name on a post-it note, and create a diagram of your room. The beauty of using sticky notes is that you can color code your placements! Choose a color for family, friends, co-workers, bridal party, etc. Stick those suckers down and move people around until you have the appropriate number of people at each table and you are satisfied with the arrangement. To help our team setup and prepare your event, translate your diagram into an Excel spreadsheet. We have a template called The Master Guest List Spreadsheet that you can use to make your life even easier, just ask your event specialist for this resource!
Don’t think you’re going crazy. In all likeliness, your seating chart is making you crazy. It’s a stressful task, and often the most time-consuming part of reception planning preparations. I encourage you to ask your closest friends and family for input on the seating chart- you might be surprised to learn your parents would rather sit at a table with some of their friends instead of their siblings. Don’t be afraid to mix friends and family!
If you’re currently in the weeds of post-it note despair, just remember- your guests love you and are happy to be there. Ultimately, they will be happy no matter what table they end up at because they are there for you. If not- just remember that a well-stocked bar can go a long way towards soothing things over.