As much I would like to promise you the opposite, I’ll be the first to admit that not all parts of wedding planning are fun. After you’ve chosen your colors and centerpieces, partied with your pals and said yes to the dress, there are still a few logistical details that need to get taken care of. One of these details, if you choose to include it, is… the seating chart.
While casual cocktail receptions are becoming trendier these days, a majority of weddings still choose to do a formal seated dinner as a part of their evening. There are many reasons for this, including a proper platform for welcomes and toasts and providing a nice dinner as a way to thank your guests for traveling. When planning a formal dinner, it is customary to plan the seating chart as a way to help your guests socialize with ease during your event. This can include keeping your arguing aunts away from one another, trying to squeeze that last person at a table who won’t fit, or having no idea where to put your groomsman’s random date.
First off – why even have a seating chart? Your guest list is likely composed of mature, friendly, adults… can’t they just find a spot and sit politely through one dinner? The focus is going to be on you and you’re probably providing them with plenty of free beverages, so what’s the big deal? To be honest, sometimes it isn’t a big deal. I’ve known a number of couples that have opted to not do a seating chart for various reasons: not enough time, not a high priority, guests all know each other, etc. It typically works out fine. There are a few things to keep in mind if you decide to go this route.
The most important thing? Plan for a few extra seats.
Photo: Lexia Frank Photography
As much as we hope everyone can just get along politely, your guests are human and there is bound to be some awkwardness if the only seats left for your college roommates after they grab drinks from the bar is with your partner’s boss or kid cousins. Extra seats (I usually recommend 5-10 depending on your attendance) provide a buffer when needed and won’t even be noticed in the long run.
Another thing to keep in mind? Build some extra time in your schedule between inviting your guests to be seated and when they should ACTUALLY be in their seats.
With assignments your guests know exactly what they are looking for, but with open seating there will be a bit more meandering around to find a good spot. Not a bad thing, just something that needs to be planned for!
On the flip side, there are many reasons to have a seating chart. The obvious ones being that it creates less awkwardness for your guests (as long as you have a handle on any “issues”) and more efficiency in seating. Instead of Crazy College Roommate Joe ending up with Great Aunt Meredith, you can make sure that the college bros all have a spot reserved to reminisce while your family members are able to easily plant smooches (whether wanted or not). Additionally, if your guests know where they are going, it just allows you all to get to the food (and the late night party) faster!
So say you have decided to go with the chart. Where do you even start? Half the tables are probably pretty easy – coworkers, parents and grandparents, cousins, etc. What happens after that though? Where do you put those four neighbors from your childhood or that couple from your mom’s book club? What about those family members that have been out of the picture for a while but now you’re both trying to repair relationships? Unfortunately there is no good answer, but there are steps that can be taken to make it easier.
First of all, it is absolutely okay to accept help.
If parents are helping to pay for the wedding, it’s pretty common for them to have their own hand in the guest list. Feel free to ask their advice for those family members or acquaintances that you are not as close with. It’s likely that they will be happy to advise because they don’t want their own friends to feel weird either. In addition to getting help, also make sure that you are using every piece of knowledge at your disposal. You don’t need to put people together just based on blood or social relation. Are there three different couples that have all traveled to the same country? Perfect talking points. Got two or three study abroad friends who you haven’t seen in years? They’ll fit in well with your college gang. You’ll realize this seating chart thing is easier than you think!
We hope these tips help you feel a bit more prepared to take on this next step of wedding planning. It’s only a small piece in the grand scheme of things, but one that if done properly, can set everyone’s mind at ease. Good luck and have fun!