How To Construct A Wedding Reception Seating Chart

» Posted by on Feb 3, 2012 in Wedding

How To Construct A Wedding Reception Seating Chart

One of the dreaded tasks of planning a couple’s big day is most definitely the wedding reception seating chart.  Trying to determine who should sit with who is daunting and may stir up the thoughts of running away to elope.  Aunt Millie can’t sit next to Grandpa Joe or they will argue all night, mom’s friend, Tina, doesn’t know anyone so she needs to sit with mom, yet she is not important enough to be at the parent’s table, cousin Tom is a dud and will bring down the energy at his table so he shouldn’t sit with the “fun” people, and Uncle Joe and Aunt Barbara are divorced and need to sit on opposite sides of the room.  And that’s just getting started!  AAAHHH!!

All of these thoughts may lead you to the decision of not having a seating arrangement and let people find seats on their own. This would be ok if you are having a VERY small and intimate wedding.  However, as wedding DJ’s, we have seen that most receptions these days have anywhere from 100 to 250 people.  And it would be quite a nightmare to watch 250 people scramble to find seats.  Here are some of the reasons why not having a seating chart is NOT a good idea:

  • There may be a disorganized rush for the ‘good’ seats.
  • It will take a lot longer to get guests seated.
  • The last few guests end up walking around looking for seats, a bit like the unpopular kid at school lunch.
  • Couples can get split up. It is not unknown for guests to end up eating outside the venue because they couldn’t get a seat together at a table.
  • Elderly relatives may end up seated where they can’t see or hear anything.
  • Having guests deal with this hassle may put them in a lousy mood, which is not the way to start off a wedding.
To help you plan your seating arrangement, here are a few hints:
  • Grab a glass (or bottle) of wine and know that this task probably won’t be the most fun you have had in planning your wedding, but is necessary to make sure your wedding starts off smoothly and has a positive energy throughout the event.
  • Before you even think about starting your seating plan, you need to make sure you have ALL of your RSVP cards returned, or at least know everyone who will be attending your wedding.  If you start the arrangement too early and have a few stragglers say they are coming, it can throw off your entire chart, causing more work and more headaches.
  • Make sure you talk to your reception coordinator to determine the size of the tables so you know how many people can sit at each table.  Many coordinators will give you a layout of the table arrangements to help you determine what the set up will look like and where to sit your guests.
  • Group your guests into categories first:  Parents/siblings, grandparents, aunts/uncles/close cousins, distant family, friends, coworkers, etc.  It will be much easier to  set your arrangement if you have everyone listed in a group and can easily check them off once they have been placed.  (if you are keeping the bride and groom’s families separate, then I would do separate category lists, ex. one list for bride’s parents and siblings and one for groom’s parents and siblings).  Double check that everyone made the category list before starting your seating arrangement.
The below four tips are from Perfect Table Plan:
  • Try to put each person next to at least one person they already know. People are more likely to get along well if they are similar ages or have similar interests. It might not be a good idea to put your ’alternative lifestyle’ friend with the piercings and tattoos next to your 80-year-old grandmother. A little common sense goes a long way.
  • Generally you should try to put families together and work colleagues together. But if you know people don’t get along, try seating them separately. It is worth breaking the tradition to have a stress free event.
  • Avoid mixing age groups too much. However, young children should be seated with their parents. Older children can be seated with their parents, or at a table together.
  • Try to avoid putting guests at the same table as ex-partners, unless you are sure this is OK. Remember that every room has 4 corners!
Start with the most important people first:
  • Determine who will be at the head table, or if you will have a sweetheart table.
  • Next, seat parents, grandparents and siblings.  Typically, the grooms family is on one side of the room and the bride’s is on the other, however this arrangement is completely up to you.  If possible, try to put these family members together and limit any empty seats, so as to not have to put any distant cousins at this important table (we don’t want any grudges against third cousin Patty who gets served dinner first!)
  • Next, determine any guests that may need a little extra “attention” when completing the chart – divorces, feuding family members, distant family members/friends that may be without a date, children, etc.  Maybe mom’s friend Tina can be placed next to a cousin that did not bring a date?  Get a rough idea where you think these people would be best off seated.
  • Now, figure out if you can fill tables for friends and co-workers.  You can combine these two groups if you can’t fill the tables evenly.  And if you have extra seats, you may want to place some distant family members here as well.
  • Now that you know where the most important people will be seated and you have ideas for placing the more “challenging” guests, start to fill in the rest of the tables with the remainder of your guests.
  • Keep in mind, the seating arrangement process is usually done based on trial and error.  You’ll think that you have a table set perfectly and then you determine that you forgot about one friend and don’t want to sit them alone with crazy Aunt Mary and her endless cat stories , so then you have to re-work some tables (this is why the category list comes in handy and why you need all RSVP’s first).
Again, this isn’t the most exciting aspect of wedding planning, but once it is complete you will be glad you spent the time to guarantee positive energy at each table, which in turn will help you to have the fabulous wedding you envisioned!
Best of luck and happy seat arranging!!
Jamie