I generally have posts of inspiration, plenty of pictures showcasing themes/styles that pop up in my head throughout the week. But today I want to talk logistics, specifically with seating arrangements for both ceremony and reception.
Traditionally at formal wedding ceremonies, the bride’s family and friends are seated on the left and the groom’s on the right. The first few rows are reserved as seating for immediate family and special guests. Ushers seat guests as they arrive, from front rows to back; the final guests to be seated are, in this order: grandparents, mother of the groom (with father walking just behind), and mother of the bride.
Most weddings I have worked have not been so traditional. Other than the first few rows reserved for immediate family, guests are allow to sit on whichever side they choose. A growing trend is unique ceremony seating, where there are no rows but circular seating. With this seating trend, everyone has an even chance of seeing the bride and groom without being behind someone taller than them (personal issue when I am a guest) and takes the stress away of “picking sides”, etc.
Wedding seating charts for the reception have to be made at the very end of the planning process (after your RSVPs are in) when you have a surplus of other pressing matters to attend to. Unfortunately they’re not something you can delegate to someone else (like the wedding coordinator) because you are the one that knows who gets along with whomever else best. So, first thing’s first: you must decide if you want to have assigned seating at your wedding at all. If your celebration is a casual get together, you can easily get out of assigned seating. However, if you are having a sit-down, formal dinner, experts suggest assigning tables, if not seats as well. This prevents 15 people squeezing onto one table and one lone guest with no where to go ensuring that everyone has someone to talk to. It is also a good idea if guests had a preferred meal selection allowing the serving staff to know what goes where. Below are some tips I’ve learned that might minimize some of the stress of assigning seats.
1. Don’t overthink the seating chart. Don’t stress too much about breaking all of your guests into the most-perfect-groups-of-eight ever—they’ll have hours to hang out with whoever they want before and after the reception.
2. Be mindful of assigning seats vs. assigning tables. With the exception of a multi-course, plated meal with multiple selections for each course you are in the clear to assign tables and leave the seating up to the guests of each table. If you do assign seats, you’re going to need both escort cards and place cards. With assigned tables you only need escort cards or create a wedding seating chart.
3. Know where you and your spouse are going to sit. A sweetheart table is not your only option. If your families all get along well (or, well-enough) a table made up of you your spouse and both sets of parents can be great, or a table with your wedding party and their dates works just as well. Regardless, it is a smart idea for couples to put their table in the middle of the floor plan to put the maximum number of other tables close by and avoid anyone feeling like they’re not important.
4. Know table sizes and how many people can fit at each. Round tables commonly come in a 60″ round. They can accommodate 6-10 guests each, with 8 guests being the most comfortable. With 8 guests it doesn’t feel crowded, everyone is going to be able to pull their chairs in all the way, and still have some elbow room. With 10 guests, you lose much needed elbow room. Rectangular tables most common size is 6′ by 30″. They seat either six or eight people, depending on if you use the end-caps (short side of the table.)
5. Play with the layout of the venue to know how many tables comfortably fit in the room. This is a big item on the “to do” list, do not forget to leave room for people to walk between tables and to actually get in and out of their seats! The standard is a minimum of 60″ between tables, anything less and there’s not enough room for anyone (a waiter, or guest trying to get to their seat) to easily get in between those chairs.
6. Begin putting your seating chart together now that you know how many guests are coming and how many tables you have to fit in the room. Today you can find a surplus of websites focused on wedding seating charts, Wedding Mapper and Tablerrr are great free sites to utilize.
For those of you who prefer the low-tech end of things, I suggest an easy paper alternative that can be done with supplies you probably already have sitting in your home or office. Write each guest’s name on a tiny post-it note, and line up as sheets of plain paper to be the tables (remember to number each table). Then stick those “tiny guests” down, and move around until you have the appropriate number of people at each table, and you are satisfied with the arrangement. Transcribe this list into a bullet point list or spreadsheet (don’t forget the table number!).
That’s it. Best of luck and happy planning!!