Once you receive all (or at least most) of your RSVPs, about four weeks out from your wedding day is when you should typically begin to build your reception guest seating chart. Organizing the seating chart can be a bit of a hassle at times, especially as the day draws nearer and guests either decline at the last minute, or change their “regrets” to “accepts”. And as your seating chart should be finalized at least one week (latest) before your wedding day, the very last thing you want to find yourself doing is still trying to figure out the seating logistics and managing potential issues.
So, in an effort to save your sanity and help you build a seamless and well-thought out, organized seating chart to guide you through, we’ve put together a list of the “Do’s” and the “Don’ts” when developing your wedding seating chart. By following these basic and simple tips you should be able to develop a seating chart and reduce confusion among your guests during your reception.
Let’s start with the “Do’s”:
Group families, friends and co-workers together at their own tables: The easiest way to start is by seating the most important people first, so these “VIP” tables would include parents, brothers/sisters, grandparents, aunts/uncles and (close) first cousins. If you really want to go old school, the bride’s family would be seated to the left of the bride; groom’s family to the right. Just make certain that whatever your reception table layout can accommodate, that the next closest table should include the wedding party (if they’re not already seated at a dais with the couple) and BFFs from both sides. Tables that move farther away from the couple should include distant relatives, acquaintances, and co-workers, usually seated the farthest.
Check, double-check, and triple-check your guest list against your seating chart: And then go back and do it again. And then one more time. Afterwards have another person look it over at least once (maybe your wedding planner, hint, hint!). Then the following day rinse and repeat. We are so not kidding about this, it is soooooooo easy to make fatal flaws that go overlooked without this type of check and balance. You’d be amazed at the mistakes that are caught with another set of eyes and/or on another day. You actually can’t do it enough, and here’s why: Guests hate, and I mean H A T E when there is a table mix-up during the reception and they find themselves “displaced”. Guests do not take this well at all, and many times they take it as a slight. I had one particular table mix-up where I had to unseat a guest (by the way, this is a HUGE “no, no”, but the couple insisted) and re-seat them at another table. They got very insulted and thought it was done purposely because of some prior family issue, so they left. See why you can never check your seating chart too much?
Use an event seating software, or “plan-o-gram” that integrates your guest list directly into your table seating chart: There are so many softwares available for free that make it super duper easy (and fun!) to arrange your table layout and your guests’ seating. We LOVE allseated.com, they have a terrific software that makes very beautiful seating charts easily. Also, Wedding Wire has a very user-friendly software that makes developing your seating chart a breeze!
Take this opportunity to create a “kumbaya” moment by seating relatives who are mad at each other together in an effort to make peace: Your wedding day is neither the time nor the place for this, and the vast majority of the times these efforts backfire with horrible and wedding-day ruined results. As a matter of fact, you need to keep them as far apart as possible. Between the level of energy and emotions being at an all time high coupled with a generous infusion of alcohol, the last thing you want on your wedding day is brawl. (Yes, we know you and your peeps are classy, but it can happen to anyone– regardless of background!)
Put exes together without their express permission: Unless they are completely cool with it and you have both of their explicit blessing, then this follows the same guidelines as seating angry relatives together– just a bad idea. Let people handle their own issues on their own, separate and apart from your wedding day. Hey, they just might even attempt to get along on for the sake of your wedding day if they aren’t put in a compromising position and the decision to kiss and make up is their own. Or, they may still get into it, but let’s really hope that doesn’t happen, and certainly let’s not facilitate it in any way.
Have unassigned seating in the spirit of “We’re all friends/family here, so sit wherever you like.”: Err, nope, we’re not all friends and family, and it can be very awkward for people to share an intimate dining experience with people they really don’t know. And the open seating thing never works anyway– people will naturally either stay with or gravitate towards people they already know, so trying to turn your reception into a mixer won’t work. OK, so we hear you loud and clear groaning, moaning and rolling your eyes, because you’re a “modern day” couple, but we’re telling you, what you think will happen and what actually does are usually two separate things. Plus, if you’re getting married in a banquet hall, the catering manager most likely won’t even allow it as it throws their entire internal food service process and table set-up off. But if you insist, be our guest, (no pun intended) but when you look around and see three guests at one table and ten at the other with everyone sitting with who they know, please don’t be mad at us if we say “I told you so”!
And you know we don’t want to do that, because, well it’s your wedding day, and we want it to go effortlessly and smoothly. You know we want the very best for you– and you do too!