So it’s like a month before your wedding and you have a million details to figure out and you are BUGGING everyone for their final RSVPs and owe information to the caterers and final layouts to the venue and OMGGGG whyyyyy so many things. A huge part of that final countdown to-do list is your seating chart. Ima break it down for ya the best I can…
First- do you really need a seating chart?
The short answer is yes. There are a few situations where you can get away with open seating at a wedding. If you are having a cocktail style party or if it’s a casual buffet or food truck catering – AND if you have a guest count less than 100, you can pull off open seating. Does it save you from having to deal with a seating chart? Yes. However it’s not easier for your guests this way. They don’t want to have to fight for a seat, feel awkward walking up to strangers, or have a family or a group potentially having to sit separately because there isn’t room at one table.
Assigned seating vs assigned tables
“Assigned seating” is when you assign the actual seat that your guest’s bum will sit in. “Assigned tables” is when you tell your guest to go to a table and it doesn’t matter which of the 8 or 10 chairs they choose.
Ok so is one better?
Usually the only reason you MUST do assigned seating is if you are serving a plated meal to your guests and they had to pre-order (like on the invite you asked them if they want chicken or fish). Generally in this case, you must know where they are seated and indicate somehow on their place card what they are eating. It is more formal, and traditional to do assigned seating. I have also seen people with touchy family situations choose to do assigned seating so they could keep certain guests back to each other and away from each other #realtalk.
Assigning tables is quite a lot of work and tricky enough on its own- unless you need to assign seats- just stick with assigned tables.
Escort cards vs Place cards vs Seating charts
This is how you are communicating to your guest how the heck to find their seat. We’ve all been on pinterest and seen the HUGE variety of options for seating charts- this is an opportunity for you to get creative and do something unique! It is also an easy spot to save time and just print something on foam board #forrealtho
You can also make individual cards. “Escort cards” direct people to their table. “Place cards” go on their actual place setting, indicating their exact seat.
The advantage to doing a seating chart vs individual cards is literally, you are only printing one big thing, instead of 150 small things. The disadvantage is that if Uncle Joe decides he is bringing his new girlfriend 2 days before the wedding, you have to re-do the whole seating chart instead of just adding one card for Ms. Plus One. (Seriously Uncle Joe, screw you.)
Table sizes and guest counts
There are obviously many seating styles and possible combinations but these are the most popular you will see:
60″ round tables- seat up to 10 guests squeezed but 8 comfortably
72″ round tables- seat up to 12 guests squeezed but 10 comfortably
Long tables- 8-foot tables can fit 4 guests on each side and potentially one on each end- consider your table settings however- if you have lots of plates and glassware on the tables, you won’t fit anyone on the end. 6′ long tables fit 3 on each side.
Obviously you are grouping together people you think will mesh at one table – all your old friends who are around the same age, work people, parent’s invites etc. But also consider where in the room you are placing each table. Maybe your close friends can be closest to the kitchen or furthest from you because a) they will be drunk anyway and b) won’t feel slighted like your aunt who traveled from out of state. Even though you are closer with your friends, you see them all the time and auntie will be stoked to have a better view of you.
Where do we sit?
Most often, we see the couple sit at one of three places:
A “sweetheart table” – this is a table for just the two of you. Pros- everyone can see you clearly, it looks nice in photos, you don’t have to talk to people if you don’t want to. Cons- everyone is staring at you, you feel isolated from friends and family.
A “head table” – This is usually a long table where the couple is in the middle and there are either wedding party or family members on either side. Pros- you get to sit with the people you are most excited to spend the day with and your wedding party and family feels special. Cons- you can get lost in a large head table and it doesn’t look as photo-friendly, and unless you have a very long head table (often dubbed a “kings table”) your wedding party’s dates are sat separately.
Mixed in with the crowd– It is totally ok to have 10 round tables and just seat yourselves amongst your guests. Pro- you don’t have to feel like everyone is staring at you, you can engage in conversation with your friends and family. Cons- you get a bit lost in the crowd and many guests won’t be able to see you at all.
For even more information including helpful pictures and tools- I recommend this article on one of our favorite blog resources A Practical Wedding.