This is a big one, and something that Brides and Grooms stress out about, but planning your reception seating doesn’t have to be hard! Below are some helpful tips to create a seating plan that will make everyone happy.
First things first. Why should you have an actual seating plan? Can’t guest just pick their own tables? If you have ever attended a wedding that has no type of seating plan (and survived the mad rush to find a table), you know how crazy it can be. Making a seating plan will make it so much easier for guests to find a seat, without having to “save seats” for their friends, and ensures that they can sit with their significant other, family or friends. When weddings have no assigned seating, we also see a lot of guests pulling chairs to other tables, which can lead to a 10-top table squeezing in 14+ guests, and another table with 5 sad guests.
If you’re planning an event with a buffet, we don’t require assigned seating, but it’s still the best option to have at least assigned tables. The easiest way to do this is with a seating chart near the entrance of the reception room, with guests names and table numbers listed.
Although a lot of seating traditions have fallen out of fashion lately, there is still some etiquette that is a good general rule when planning your seating plan:
Bride & Groom: The traditional placement for the bride and groom is in the middle of a long rectangle Head Table, with the bridal party on both sides. Many people like the head table because of the grand look, and they like having the Bridal Party prominently displayed. It also gives the bride and groom a chance to talk to their bridal party during dinner! This also means that the bridal party may be separated from their date during dinner. A popular trend in the last few years has been a Sweetheart table, usually a small round or rectangle table with just the bride and groom. This is a more intimate look, and gives the bride and groom some valuable “alone” time where they can talk to each other during dinner. This also allows the bridal party to sit with their dates.
Pro Tip: Don’t forget to add some decor to your head table! A specialty table cloth, flower arrangement, or candles go a long way in adding some extra pizzaz!
Bridal Party: If you are having a head table, the bridal party traditionally sits at this table. You can do ladies on one side, or men on the other, or mix and match them. Traditionally the bride sits on the left, and the groom sits on the right. If you’re doing a sweetheart table, the Bridal party can sit at a dining table, with each other, their dates, family or friends. It’s ok to have them sit at different tables, put them where ever you think they’ll be most comfortable!
Family: Often times, the parents, grandparents and close family members will sit at a table near the head table/sweetheart table. In the case of divorced parents, couples usually opt to put them at separate tables. It’s always a good idea to place parents and close family members near the head table so they can easily see the important moments like the first dance and toasts.
Friends: Friends can be a little harder to place, who should you sit them with? Try to be considerate and think about who your friends would want to sit with. Although it’s good to put some new people together, no one wants to sit at a table with strangers. If they don’t know anyone else at the wedding, consider seating them near people who you think they would get along with, outgoing guests, or guests who have similar interests.
Not sure where to place your parent’s friends? Reach out to your parents and see if they have any suggestions on where to sit.
Children: If there’s a lot of kids, consider making a kids table. Providing some fun activities like puzzles, coloring books, games, etc. are all a great way of keeping kids entertained during the reception. If children are younger than 10, we recommend that they sit with their parents.
Once you’ve got an idea of how you’d like to lay out your floor plan, it’s time to decide how you’d like to guide guests to their seats.
Seating Charts: These are typically displayed near the guest book table, or by the entrance to the reception room. The seating chart has a list of guest’s names, and table numbers, and is usually displayed in a frame. This is the easiest way to display where guests are seating.
Escort Cards: These are pre-placed at each place setting at a dining table, to assign a seat to a guest. After guests find their name on the seating chart, they can go over to their table, and find their assigned seat. The escort cards should have the guest’s full name. If you are doing a plated meal, the escort card should also have the guest’s entree selection. This way during dinner, servers can quickly and easily see what each guest is eating.
Pro Tip: If you are doing escort cards, we highly recommend also doing a seating chart so guests know which table to go to. Otherwise your guest will have to check every seat to find their spot!
No idea on how to do your seating charts and escort cards? We’ve got you covered! Check out our Pinterest Board dedicated to giving you some creative ideas.
Click on the pictures below for some more inspiration!
"This was our perfect wedding location. It is a beautiful venue with a gazebo for an outdoor ceremony and a hall for an indoor reception. Everyone at Elliston was so kind, professional, thoughtful, and so on top of their game! It was a pleasure working with the Elliston team. They are so detail oriented and made not only the venue picking, but the whole wedding planning process so easy! I still absolutely glow when I think about how wonderful Elliston helped make our wedding!" - Rachel & David - June 4, 2016