Wedding Seating Chart Tips

You’re starting to formulate your wedding seating chart, and it’s quickly becoming a nightmare.  Sound familiar?

Thankfully, I’m here with good news.  Formulating your reception seating chart is EASY with these simple tips!

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Your Wedding Seating Chart | SHOW NOTES

You might know from firsthand experience that creating your wedding seating chart can become one of wedding planning’s biggest pains.  This task CAN quickly turn into the jigsaw puzzle from hell.  Not to worry, I have some easy tips & tactics that will ease the pain. 

Let’s take the task of creating your wedding seating chart from dreaded to DONE!

When is a wedding seating chart necessary?

A reception seating chart is necessary in any of the following scenarios:

  • You’re having a seated meal with 50+ guests.
  • You have guests who come from completely different areas of your life, and may not know each other well.
  • You have guests who ideally need to be separated for any multiple number of reasons (which we’ll get into later in the show).
  • And lastly, for a plated meal service.  Your venue may actually require that guests are in assigned seating, with clearly marked meal choices visible to wait staff.  (More on that later in the show too!)

The biggest problem of NOT doing a seating chart?

In some cases, the lack of assigned seating causes feelings of uneasiness & confusion among guests.

Their focus pulls away from enjoying some cocktails & relaxing, to flight or flight desperation.  You know, making sure you don’t have to sit at the same table as drunk obnoxious Aunt Susan, that sort of thing. 

Before you know it, 100+ guests are scrambling to “reserve” a seat and ask others where they are sitting.  Instead of enjoying their drink, they’re getting stressed out b/c they’re stuck at a table where they don’t know anyone.  Panicking that they might not find a seat at all.

Is your reason NOT to do make a reception seating chart is to dodge the pain of figuring out where to put everyone?  To avoid additional cost associated with a seating chart / name cards? 

Not to worry.  Let’s review lots of suggestions for making your wedding seating chart a stress-free, affordable task!

Open seating CAN be a perfect option, depending on the type of reception & meal service that you’re doing.

Some examples of where NO SEATING CHART makes perfect sense –

  • A casual, buffet style reception.
  • Ongoing food service such a cocktail reception where there’s not necessarily a start and end time to the meal.
  • Food trucks, or food stations where guests are up & about, interacting during the meal.
  • And lastly, if you’re having a small intimate wedding of less than 50 people.  (ahem, who all get along with each other.  That’s the catch, because I know for lots of our family & friend situations that’s NOT the case.)

In these situations, having no official seating chart is probably fine.  Guests will naturally mingle & enjoy themselves.  In this case, you can save yourself the pain and hassle of assigning people where to sit. 

Wedding Seating Chart Tip #1

Set your RSVP date for 4-6 weeks before the wedding date.

There is no wedding law that says your RSVP date needs to be 2 weeks before the wedding (even though if you google it, that’s the most common guideline that comes up).  This makes no sense, and excuse me while I go on a little rant here.

People are fully capable of committing to an event, especially as big and important as a WEDDING more than 2 weeks in advance. 

Guess what?  No matter when you set that date, people still aren’t going to respond on time.  Unless you have the most considerate, proactive and organized group of friends & family out there … people are gonna let that final RSVP deadline come and go, without ever taking their card off the fridge and putting it in the mail.

So, you might as well give yourself some cushion time to chase everyone down and get things finalized.  Imagine the difference in stress levels if you could sit down and make your seating chart a full month in advance.  Imagine if you could NOT feel weighed down by the pressure & doom of a million other things on your to-do list.

This episode isn’t about invitations and RSVP’s.  Regardless, in the general interest of your sanity – set your RSVP deadline 4-6 weeks in advance of the wedding.  It’s gonna buy you a ton of peace of mind, not only with the seating chart, but in other areas as well.

When should I start outlining my reception seating chart?

You can definitely start this as your guests are confirming they will be there.  You don’t have to wait until you have every single last RSVP in hand (although there will likely be some last minute tweaks and touches that wait until the end).

I’d be willing to bet that you can look at your guest list early on, and determine right away a lot of “yes” and no’s – especially among your closest family & friends.  This is a great place to start with a general outline.

GETTING STARTED with your wedding seating chart

Let’s run through two different approaches, starting with old fashioned, and moving into technology-based.

I’m a hands-on gal, so my preferred seating chart method?  Poster board and sticky notes.  wedding seating chart

Now if you’re more of a tech-lover, and would prefer to do this without a ton of paper laying around, here are some great online seating chart tools.

Once you’ve decided which method you prefer, it’s time to get to work!

WHO SHOULD SIT TOGETHER?

Of course, we all have very unique quirks and in’s and out’s in our families and friendships, but here are some suggested pairings for starting to set people up at tables.

SWEETHEART TABLE

Let’s start with YOU.  Do you want to do a sweetheart table, or a head table with your wedding party (& maybe their dates)?

IF you have room, I’m a fan of having your wedding party members seated WITH their dates.  I’ve traveled to countless weddings where just one of us has been in the wedding party, and I always appreciate it SO MUCH when we’re seated together. 

Spending hundreds of dollars to travel to a wedding where you don’t know anyone, and then being seated at the back of the ballroom with a bunch of strangers, away from your date – just isn’t that fun. 

FAMILY TABLES

Moving on to close family, I’m a fan of your parents sitting with your new spouses’ parents & grandparents.  Depending on the number of siblings you each have, I’d keep them close too.  The spirit of marriage is about bringing your two families together, and this is a perfect, symbolic opportunity to bring everyone together.

Stressed out by the thought of mixing your families?  No problem.  It’s definitely not required.

WHERE SHOULD EVERYONE ELSE SIT?

Now we move into the rest of your wedding guests … extended families, friends from all over the map, coworkers, divorced couples, ex-hookups, socially awkward people, those who are drinking heavily … this is where it goes off the rails.

The easiest starting point is to group guests by how you know them.  Close friends, college & high school friends, coworkers, cousins, aunts & uncles, your parents’ friends.   As you categorize people, you’ll naturally start to see groups that make most sense to sit together.

CONSIDER YOUR TABLE SIZES

Before we go too much further, make sure you have a clear understanding of your venue’s table sizes and general layout.  It doesn’t do any good to get everyone sorted into groups of 8, if your venue tables all seat 10.

SEATING THE KIDS

If you’re having kids at the wedding, a dedicated kid’s table can be a lot of fun for everyone.  Most kids ages about 4 or under won’t qualify to sit away from their parents, so plan on keeping the toddlers & babies with their parents.

SEATING CHART DANGER ZONES

Unfortunately, you probably have people coming to the wedding who would prefer not to be anywhere near other certain people. 

For lots of us, this is divorced parents who can’t get along to save their lives.  It might be your maid of honor who hooked up with your cousin at a camping trip gone wrong.  It might be bad blood among family members. 

Whatever the situation, be proactive & sensitive about people who don’t want to be around other people.  Do your best to seat them as far apart as possible. 

I literally got handfuls of messages about parents who hate each other.  Questions about how to put them as far away as possible without being obvious, where to seat stepparents so that there wasn’t interaction between the ex-spouse.  The list goes on & on.

I’m so sorry if you’re struggling with parents who can’t get along.  Clearly, they will both be at the wedding (in most cases), so just do your best to keep them away from each other. Our hope is that everyone can act like adults for a few hours on one of the most important days in their child’s life.  

WHAT ABOUT EVERYONE ELSE?

When you get to the end, you might find yourself with a handful of leftover people who just don’t seem to fit anywhere.  Here’s where the seating chart frustration starts to creep in.

TAKE A DEEP BREATH.

The awesome news is that no one is going to be sitting in their assigned seat for the entire wedding. 

At most, we’re talking dinner, speeches, and announcements.  Beyond that, everyone is going to be up mingling, drinking, dancing, photo-boothing, talking, and having fun. 

If you feel yourself getting hopelessly frustrated about where to put people, stop and take a deep breath.  Put things into perspective!  

Do your best.  Trust that people will make the best of it, even if they don’t strike up a life long friendship with their table mates.  Your seating chart isn’t going to make or break someone’s entire experience at your wedding.

CONSIDERING YOUR VENUE FLOOR PLAN

This is where you want to consider things like:

  • Where is the dance floor?
  • What are the heavily trafficked areas? 
  • Where will grandma be comfortable in her wheelchair? 

Elderly guests who are hard of hearing won’t enjoy much if they’re right next to the DJ stand and can’t hear anything. 

Make sure your closest family and wedding party are in VIP tables with clear sight lines. 

Is the kids’ table relatively close to their parents? 

Run through the floor plan, and think of guests with special needs as you finalize where to put everyone.

ASSIGNED TABLES vs. ASSIGNED SEATS

How you choose to seat your guests is up to you, and it also might be dictated by your venue.  Some venues may require assigned seats so that the waitstaff knows exactly who is seated where with regards to meal selections. 

Unless your venue requires it, or you’re doing really long rectangular tables, I think assigning individual seats is overkill.

I like assigned tables to give everyone a general idea of where to go, but once you get to the 10-top table, your guests can take a seat, any seat, and get comfortable.  This makes your job a lot easier, and eliminates the need for individual name cards – leading perfectly into our next item for the day!

What are some fun options for displaying the seating chart & guiding guests to their tables?

If you’ve spent any time on Etsy or Pinterest, you might have a taste of how many unique ways there are to display seating and table assignments.  Let’s go through a few of them.

First off, let’s talk about a centralized place card table.  This is where you would display your guest’s names and table numbers on individual cards, for everyone to pick up and take to their seats. 

Individual name cards are necessary in many venues to communicate meal preferences to wait staff.  For example, a pink card to indicate beef, a green card vegetarian, and a gold card chicken.  There are infinity beautiful options for name cards, specialized holders, and really personalized displays.

If your new to the show, and it really doesn’t come up often, but I also own a wedding product & supply business that specializes in Place Card Holders, so this something that I spend A LOT of time communicating with couples about! 

MAKE IT AFFORDABLE

A popular way to cut costs with the name cards and / or holders is to group couples together on the same card.  If you have 200+ guests on your list, this is an easy way to cut way down on the number of individual pieces that you’ll need. 

For example, instead of a card for Nancy, and a card for her husband Steve?  Go ahead & group Nancy and Steve together on one card.

wedding seating chart
including two guests on one card will cut your place card holder & calligraphy expense nearly in half!

KEEP IT SIMPLE

You can do really simple name cards with sheets that can be fed right through your home printer, so this is definitely not something that needs to be expensive or fancy.  Take a look in the wedding aisle at the craft store for print-at-home sheet options, or check out this affordable option

SEATING CHART SIGNS

Another really popular way to communicate seating to your guests is on a large seating chart sign.  You can make one of these digitally using a free or inexpensive template, or you can have a custom seating chart made. 

Etsy would be a great place to start if you’re interested in a custom sign – try a search for “wedding seating chart”, and you’ll get literally thousands of beautiful options to get started with.

If you’re into DIY and comfortable with digital design and a little leg work, the website canva has a wedding seating chart design tool as well.

And I can’t get through an episode without mentioning Pinterest – another great place to go for seating chart inspiration and place card ideas.  

Glitter Place Card Holders by Kara’s Vineyard Wedding

WEDDING SEATING CHART Q&A

Let’s finish up today with some of your questions from Instagram – I asked last week for you to share your seating chart questions and vents, and thank you so much for your responses! 

There’s sadly not time to get to all of them on air, but please know that I read each and every single one of your notes, and try my very best to get a quick reply to you at the very least – so please, keep those coming! 

Look for question prompts in my IG stories by following @weddingplanningpodcast

First question, which actually came from a bunch of you in some shape or form – my parents are divorced and hate each other, how can I seat them?

Well, if they literally do hate each other, then please don’t try to put them at the same table.  They can and should be separated – with new spouses, if that’s the case, and any other immediate family from their sides.

Wondering if I should mix my family with my finances?

Yes!  I mentioned early on in today’s show that I think seating your families together is a really nice symbolic way of merging your families together, which is what the wedding itself is all about! 

Not every set of parents or stepparents will become great friends with the other, but seating your families together is a really great way to break the ice and get everyone to know each other.

When should I start the seating chart?

As soon as you have RSVP’s coming in, any time is a good time to start.  Set that final RSVP date for 4-6 weeks before the wedding to give yourself some cushion time, and start working on a seating chart draft in that final month or so. 

Keep things flexible until you’ve heard back from everyone, but this is definitely something that can and should be started early so you’re not scrambling around stressed out about it at the last minute.

I have more guests than my fiancé, don’t want his family at 3 lonely tables!

Mix them in with your family!  Seat his parents, grandparents, and other friends with your own.  Totally unrelated to seating charts, but same goes for the ceremony – have everyone sit on either side of the aisle, so you’re not stacked 100 vs. 30. 

I hooked up with my fiance’s roommate from college – LONG before we were together, and LONG story – but he’s going to be at the wedding and I don’t know where to seat him.  So awkward.

Ugh, big hug for that one – I included this because it’s not necessarily just a seating chart question – more broadly an issue of potentially awkward situations on the wedding day. 

Look, we’ve all got history – don’t put your focus or energy here.  I’m sure he feels equally as awkward as you do, and if you feel like this is something you need to discuss with your fiance – side note, I happen to know that the fiance knows about this hook up, it’s not a skeleton in the closet or anything – if you need to clear the air to just move past it and get over it, then talk it over and move on. 

Your wedding day is way too big and way too important to let something meaningless like this from your past get in the way of your love and happiness.

Is it OK not to have a seating chart?  We really want all our guests to mingle!

YES!  Back to what we reviewed earlier in today’s show – totally fine, if your wedding meets a few conditions – for quick review, it’s probably OK not to make a seating chart if your wedding is …

  • Casual, buffet style reception,
  • Ongoing food service such a cocktail reception, food stations or food trucks, where there’s not necessarily a start and end time to the meal,
  • And lastly, if you’re having a small intimate wedding of less than 50 people

Then no formal seating chart should be just fine.

THANK YOU!

I hope this was helpful!  If you have an engaged family member or friend who would love the Wedding Planning Podcast, please feel free to share today’s episode with them!

I’ll be back on MONDAY with a bonus Q&A episode – keep your questions coming, I LOVE to hear from you, and there will be many, many more bonus shows to come!

This week’s show is sponsored by KVW.  Browse dozens of beautiful ways to show your guests to their seats with custom Place Card Holders, unique favors, DIY supplies, & more!  

Shop here, and enjoy free shipping anywhere in the US for orders $25+!

karas vineyard wedding

A special thank you to Feather & Oak Photography for this beautiful shot of Brittney’s Place Card Table!  She used our Single Wine Cork Place Card Holders with different colored roses to indicate each guests’ meal choice. 

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