The dreaded seating plan…
Here’s our take on why you should do one and how to get it done without all the tears.
It’s definitely not the easiest part of planning a wedding, but seating plans are usually a necessary evil. Unless you’re having an intimate affair or a cocktail style party*, we suggest taking the time to figure out who sits where. Here’s our rundown on why you should have one & how to get it done!
Photo by Sarah Tew
*if you’re having a cocktail style party, we strongly suggest having a few tables reserved for the wedding party, parents, elderly guests, families with children or anyone with mobility issues. It won’t ruin the cocktail vibe, I promise.
MY GUESTS ARE GROWNUPS, CAN’T THEY JUST FIGURE IT OUT?
Normally, I’m a big fan of letting your adult guests make their own choices. However, I strongly suggest you do a seating plan for a number of reasons – most importantly, making sure that your guests don’t have to work hard to find a seat that’s comfortable for them.
FINE. WHERE DO I START?
Although you can’t really do your seating assignments until your RSVPs are returned, you can get a jump on things early on by having an organized guest list. When you create your guest list, do yourself a favor & tag people by category. This way, when the time comes to break larger groups like your families into tables, you’ve got a head start. Your categories can be as broad or as narrow as you like. Personally, I’m a fan of getting them as narrow as you can – for instance, Partner A - Maternal Family as opposed to Partner A – Family. This way, once your RSVPs are populated, you can sort the Yesses by each subgroup & see how many tables you’ll need for each.
OK, THAT MAKES SENSE, BUT NOW WHAT?
Now, you take those groupings and assign the tables & if you choose to, the individual seats. There are a few ways to get this done.
There are a number of cloud based options that you can use. We really like the options from AllSeated & WeddingWire. Or you could go old fashioned and use a spreadsheet. Because we heart you, here’s a TEMPLATE for both assigned tables as well as assigned seats. You’re welcome.
If you’re more into the hands-on approach, take a big sheet of paper (the backside of wrapping paper works great) and draw out a rough sketch of your floorplan. Write out your guest names on sticky notes (if you want to get really Type A, you can color code them). Start placing people on your map & make adjustments as needed.
Photo by Pat Furey
BUT WHO SITS WHERE?
You can choose to seat your wedding party at a head table or you can mix them into your friends/family groups. Regardless of where they sit, please don’t be a jerk and separate them from their dates. That is an old tradition that’s gone out the window (for good reason).
Where the parents & immediate family sit really depends on a few factors such as relationship & size.
If your parents & your partner’s parents get along, why not seat them at a table all together (this is a good place for grandparents & your officiant if they’re invited to dinner). This is also a great option if one of you has a small family or if one set of parents isn’t inviting any friends/colleagues.
If your parents want to sit with their friends/family, then you can have 2 parent tables, and if you have parents who are divorced, then you can let them each host their own table. I’ve worked on weddings where both sets of parents were divorced & remarried and therefore we had 4 parent tables.
Mix and match to your heart’s content! The best seating plans have a mix of old friends & new friends at each table. This is your opportunity to make thoughtful introductions to people from various parts of your lives. Think about hobbies & interests and group accordingly.
Try not to cop out with a singles table. It’s awkward & obvious, every time. If there are people you’re dying to set up, seat them next to one another at a table that has some couples too.
If you have a large group of friends or extended family that’s too big to fit at one table, split them evenly & fill in the gaps with other people who might get along well with the crew. Don’t leave one or two members of a large group out.
Keep the old people comfortable by making sure they’re not seated right next to the band or the bar (or air conditioners, if you can avoid it).
If you’re having kids attend, it’s lovely to give their parents a break & set up a kids’ table. If they’re small children, seat them with their parents.
Delegate! Let your parents figure out where their friends & family members will sit. Assign the parents a list & make them do some work. Nine times out of ten, they’ll be thrilled to have a way to contribute.
Photo by Chaz Cruz
OK, WE’RE DONE NOW, RIGHT?
Not quite… Now that you have everything mapped out, you have to figure out how to get that info to your guests. Here’s a basic rundown:
These are cards that have your guests’ names as well as which table number they are going to be seated at. Escort cards are placed in an easy to access location either at cocktail hour or near the entrance of the reception room. They can be the typical folded cards that I know you’ve seen on Pinterest or they can be something different – a candle with a label, a mini potted plant with a flag, a cakepop with a tag, you name it, as long as the guest’s name & table # are on it. NOTE: make everyone’s life better by arranging these alphabetically by last name.
Large seating charts are an alternative to individual escort cards. Same concept though. Make a chart listing everyone’s name (again, use alphabetical order) & which table they’re sitting at. You can do 8x10” picture frames with ranges of letters like A-D in one frame, E-H, etc. or you can do a large one that includes all of your guests’ names. There are tons of templates available on Etsy and you can easily have them printed for a few bucks at a local copy shop (hint: have them done as “engineering prints” and frame them or mount them on posterboard). Stand them up on an easel or lean them against the wall on a table. If you have a large number of guests, you may want to order 2 seating charts so that there’s no bottleneck while people look for their names.
Not the same thing as Escort Cards. You only need place cards if you’ve assigned actual seats to everyone. Place cards are what’s used at the table to tell folks which seat is theirs. Typically, they’re small cards (about the size of a business card) either flat or folded, with just the guests’ names on them (you don’t need the table number, because by the time they get to their place card, your guests already know which table they’re sitting at). Some couples incorporate the place card into the menu, by having each guest’s name printed on the menu. You could also use a tag & attach it to a favor (if you’re doing one) or have the tag tied to the napkin.
Nope – congratulations! You now know how to make a wedding seating plan.