Get Sh*t Done: Seating Chart Tips


(That Won't Make You Cry)

Get Sh*t Done: Seating Chart Tips | A Practical WeddingGet Sh*t Done: Seating Chart Tips | A Practical Wedding

If you’re like most people, you’ve probably attended weddings in the past, picked up your escort card, and found your table without ever really thinking about the work that has to go into making a seating chart. For many of my clients, the seating chart is one of the most stressful parts of wedding planning—I’ve seen clients both cry and fight with each other (and their families) over them. Just recently a client of mine posted something on Facebook about their seating chart, and one of the responses summed it up perfectly as being, “Like Tetris, but with emotions.”

By nature, seating charts have to be made at the very end of the wedding planning process (after your RSVPs are in) when you have a ton of other stuff on your plate. Plus, they’re not something you can delegate to someone else. (As I tell my clients—I could do your seating chart for you, but since I don’t know your friends and family, it’s entirely possible I’d end up putting your conservative great-aunt next to your anarchist college roommate.) It’s important to note here that you certainly don’t have to have a seating chart, and the logistics of a seating chartless wedding are something I’ll go into in a future post (because, hey, you don’t even have to have tables at your wedding!) but for those of you who are in the midst of staring at your guest list trying to figure out how exactly this is going to work? While I can’t promise to make the creation of your seating chart painless, here are some tips I’ve learned over the years that might just make it manageable.

Don’t overthink it

At most weddings, your guests are sitting at their tables for at max ninety minutes of what is a pretty long event. So, while ideally everyone has someone at their table who they like, and no one is at a table with someone they can’t stand, don’t stress too much about breaking all of your guests into the most-perfect-groups-of-eight ever—they’ll have hours to hang out with whoever they want. Now, if your wedding consists of a six-course plated meal that’s going to take three hours, you may want to work a little harder on creating great groups, but this is also where I encourage people to let the guests who won’t know anyone else at your wedding (see: that one former co-worker you’ve stayed close to, or childhood friend who lives out of state and doesn’t know any of your current friends) to bring a plus one, even if you’re not allowing them across the board.

Assigning Seats vs. Assigning Tables

For the majority of weddings, assigning your guests to tables, but not to specific seats at those tables is going to be fine—with the exception of a multi-course, plated meal with multiple selections for each course. If you do assign seats, you’re going to need both escort cards (which get picked up at the entry and tell you your table number) and place cards, which are on the table and tell you which seat is yours. With assigned tables you only need escort cards, or you can make things even easier, and scrap the escort cards for a seating chart (which is really just a big poster with a list of people’s names and table numbers on it. A chart also has the bonus benefit of not being able to get lost, which somehow always happens with escort cards even when no one is leaving the room).

Where do we sit?

I’m semi-convinced that the sweetheart table (a raised and/or “head” table at the front of the room where you and your partner sit) was originally invented for couples with acrimoniously divorced parents, since one way to avoid having to pick who to sit with is to sit with no one. But a sweetheart table is not your only option. If your families all get along well (or, well-enough) a table made up of you and your partner and both sets of parents can be great, or a table with your wedding party and their dates works just as well. Regardless, I often encourage couples to put their table in the middle of the floor plan, instead of on one edge so that you can put the maximum number of other tables close by and avoid anyone feeling like they’re in the “cheap seats” on the opposite side of the room.

Do toasts during dinner

If you’re doing a sit down meal, I always encourage toasts either a) after the last table has gone through the buffet, or b) after entrees have arrived (either family style or plated). Your guests are a captive audience at this point, people can totally eat and listen at the same time, you don’t have to carve a thirty-minute time chunk out of somewhere else in your schedule, and, if people don’t like who they’re sitting with they don’t have to try to make awkward chit chat with them (key point: the first person to give a toast should tell everyone to please keep eating while people are talking).

Seating Chart Logistics

How many people can fit at one table? The short answer is that you can fit six to ten at a 60″ round table (the most common table size). But what does that mean?

Round tables


Get Sh*t Done: Seating Chart Tips | A Practical Wedding

The fewest people you want per 60″ round is six—less than this and the table will feel oddly big and empty. You can see that people are pretty spread out here, but are just above feeling too spread out.

Get Sh*t Done: Seating Chart Tips | A Practical Wedding

Eight is the ideal number—it feels full, but not crowded, everyone is going to be able to pull their chairs in all the way, and still have some elbow room. Rad.

Get Sh*t Done: Seating Chart Tips | A Practical Wedding

Note how close the place settings and the chairs are to each other. Yes, ten people is really the maximum you can put at a 60″ round—there’s simply not space to squeeze an eleventh in there and still have enough space to pull chairs close enough to actually sit (or, more importantly, eat) at the table.

Rectangles

The most common size of rectangle table is 6′ by 30″. They seat either six or eight people, depending on if you use the endcaps (short side of the table.) As pictured:

Get Sh*t Done: Seating Chart Tips | A Practical Wedding

Get Sh*t Done: Seating Chart Tips | A Practical Wedding

Layout

But how many tables can you fit into your room? This is a big one people—do not forget to leave room for people to walk between tables and to actually get in and out of their seats. The standard is a minimum of 60″ between tables, and… it’s correct. Pictured below—about 48″ between tables:

Get Sh*t Done: Seating Chart Tips | A Practical Wedding

That seems fine. But then you pull the chairs out (which they are when people are actually sitting in them, unless your guests are somehow… flat?)…

Get Sh*t Done: Seating Chart Tips | A Practical Wedding

And really, there’s not enough room for anyone (a waiter, or guest trying to get to their seat) to easily get in between those chairs. Do not let this happen to you—keep those tables 60″ away from each other (or, at least 30″ away from a wall).

Okay, so you know how many people are coming, how many tables you have, and how they’re going in the room—how do you arrange all these people without losing your minds? There are a bunch of fancy software programs out there that will help you do this, and I’ve heard good things about the one from Wedding Wire in particular. But, for those of you on the low-tech end of things, I like to suggest a super easy paper alternative that can be done with things you likely have sitting in your house.

Get Sh*t Done: Seating Chart Tips | A Practical Wedding

Write each guest’s name on a post-it note, and line up as many half sheets of plain paper as you have tables. Then proceed to stick those suckers down, and move people around until you have the appropriate number of people at each table, and you are satisfied with the arrangement. Take a picture, or, better, transcribe this list into a bullet point list or spreadsheet (if you have a master guest list spreadsheet, just add a column labeled “table number” to it!).

I generally encourage people to ask their closest friends and family members for input on the seating chart—you may be surprised to learn that your parents would really rather be at a table with their college friends instead of their siblings. I also encourage people to think about mixing up groups of friends and family. At a friend’s wedding a few years ago they put a lot of thought into blending groups—everyone had at least one person at their table they already knew, but then other people who the couple thought they might have something in common with. Almost everyone commented on how lovely it was to have the chance to talk with people they might not have otherwise (and really, I love my extended family, but I know them well—I personally think it’s much more interesting to sit at a table with cousins from the other side of the aisle than one made up of just my cousins, who I likely just spent all of cocktail hour chatting with).

And, if you’re currently in the weeds of post-it-note (or software) hell, just remember—your guests are adults (or have an adult with them); they love you and are happy to be there, and will hopefully be gracious about whatever table they end up being placed at. If not—just remember that a well-stocked bar can go a long way towards soothing things.

Get Sh*t Done: Seating Chart Tips | A Practical Wedding

Setting Up and Breaking Down Your Wedding

(Almost) Everything You Need To Know About Buying Alcohol For Your Wedding

(Almost) Everything You Wanted To Know About Timelines, Part I

(Almost) Everything You Wanted To Know About Timelines, Part II

(Almost) Everything You Wanted To Know About Timelines, Part III

Photos by APW Sponsor Emily Takes Photos; centerpiece flowers by APW advertiser belle-flower; rentals from Hartmann Studios.

Elizabeth Clayton

Elizabeth has been planning weddings since 2006, and has done so full time under the Lowe House Events banner since 2011. She considers herself incredibly lucky to get to work on events full time—it just doesn’t get much better than going to a party most weekends because it’s your job.

read the comment policy before you post

  • http://dtpotp.com Caroline

    I jumped on this post to suggest the exact strategy listed — writing names on post-its, migrated around until everything works. That’s how we sat ~130 people for my wedding. Also, take a photo in case someone messes up the arrangement OR to send to other relatives for their input. It was a pain to make our tables, but I was glad I did.

    • APracticalLaura

      Truth is, I had no desire to write 120 names on post-its, so I just put everyone’s name into a document (they were copied and pasted from our spreadsheet) and then put 12 table numbers and grouped people according to who they knew and moved people around until the numbers added up – making sure that everyone knew at least 1 other person at the table.

      It was MUCH easier than having to hand write anything even though my pinterest board was filled with this same post-it tactic which I thought was brilliant! Just another way to do it for a computer-inclined bride

      • Catherine McK

        Me neither! For the spreadsheet inclined, I used our guest list, copied into a new spreadsheet, to the right of the names, I put the number of people per family group next to the, and to the right of that added a table name like “Michigan Friends” at the bottom I “sumif”d for each table, then reworked them until they were all 8 or 9.

        And then I embraced my inner nerd.

      • meg

        I don’t think this is a work vs. less work strategy, I think this is how your brain works. I’m visual, so the idea of doing it this way makes me want to cry for a million years. Post its = awesome. If you’re not visual, doing it this way probably makes more sense.

        • KB

          I’m like Meg – I really needed the post-it flags (same ones in the photo!) and I went even further and bought a piece of posterboard and mapped out the room. I put circles for each table, marked out where the bars were, the dance floor, etc. Once I saw how each table looked on the “map,” I made changes that I wouldn’t otherwise have thought of – like putting parents and kids near the door instead of across the room, putting my law school friends next to the bar (hey, they were going to be there all night anyways…), and keeping drama-prone folks on separate sides of the room instead of tables right next to each other.

          Another tip – try to think of people in pairs, but not just couples. For instance, we had a TON of couples and a chunk of what seemed like random single people. We tried plugging in single people into holes in the chart but realized that they sometimes would have zero idea who their tablemates were and we didn’t want to banish them all to a “singles” table. So we “buddied up” all our single folks and did our table layout in pairs – it was MUCH easier to move people around that way since we had an even number of people to work with.

          Also – you can alleviate a lot of stress by ditching the idea that you have to have exactly 8 people for each table (or 6 or 10 or whatever). We had a general set-up of tables of eight, but ended up having one table of 6 and a couple tables of 9 to accommodate my extended family. If you’re using a special events venue with a caterer, they are probably not going to bug out about this :-) It ain’t their first rodeo.

  • Kristen

    Doesn’t everybody wish they could have Elizabeth coordinate their weddings? I know I wish I’d had her intelligence and panache on my day.

    On the idea of asking close friends and family for their seating preferences – I had a problem with this because we had a small wedding and there was family on the in-laws side (close family – siblings of my in-laws) who had traveled VERY far and my MIL tried to dictate where to put everyone which included not seating these family members, with their family! I frankly chose to honor the distance they traveled and to have them seated with their 82 year-old mother/bubby and my in-laws because who knew when they’d be back and get to visit with the folks they came to see. My MIL sees her friends all the time and I didn’t think it appropriate to seat her with them. Also, its while they’re eating. It’s not like they are chained to these tables for the entire time.

    So asking friends and family is nice, but sometimes friends and family don’t make the appropriate choice and I felt responsible to do so. We got complaints afterwards from my MIL about our choices (also our choice not to sit with them) but I didn’t really care. I knew I’d made the right choices for my guests as a whole even if an individual wasn’t happy.

    • Chalk

      I agree, inviting friends and family to weigh in can add a layer of stress and obligation. I avoided it myself.

    • Jenny

      Yeah, I somewhat agree. We asked, but then family ended up sitting where they wanted anyway- regardless of where they were assigned.

      • Jessica Martin

        My hardest part with my seating plan is I have most tables of 10 – 9 people and one has 7, I am worried that if some one doesn’t show up at the table of 7 it will look funny. What do you all think

  • Lauren

    The seating chart was actually the easiest part of the whole reception planning for me. My husband’s parents had a pretty acrimonious divorce, so to make sure they didn’t sit near each other we chose to assign seats.

    It just so happened that we had quite a few groups of eight that were easy to just plop anywhere. Then we divided the others into groups by age or interest – young liberal single folk, older neighbors, church friends, parents’ friends – and pushed them together. We had two tables of 7 and two of 9 so we put those near each other so they could share chairs. And my husband and squeezed in with some of his groomsmen, because with 7 party members each, there was no way we could sit with everyone. It worked out great and I actually got compliments on the seating arrangement – something I didn’t even know people would appreciate.

  • Lisa

    Great advice! You forgot the “don’t make a reject table” rule. I find that often people make a head table with just the wedding party and then stick the wedding party’s dates/spouses/significant others at a table somewhere in the back. So then the dates are stuck at a table with people they don’t know, separated from the person they came with. I think it’s incredibly rude, but it happens a lot. I guess I can understand the appeal though; one of my bridesmaids just married a jerk, so maybe we can find him his own table away from us ;).

    • Ann

      Ugh. This happened to me once, but a worse version. My now husband (then boyfriend) was in the wedding party. The wedding party and any SPOUSES were at one table. All non-married partners of wedding party members were scattered throughout the room. It’s like they decided that anywhere they had an awkward single empty seat got filled with one of the four of us. I was between two elderly great aunts, both of whom had dementia. I had to explain to them like 10 times that no, I wasn’t their niece so and so. They were nice ladies, but they couldn’t hold a conversation. And the aunts + uncles at that table didn’t talk to them at all because of that and therefore wouldn’t talk to ME.

      We were stuck at the tables for 2.5 hours. It was really, really terrible.

      • Ann

        To clarify–I’ve actually had an okay time at tables with SOs of wedding party members. I’ve always had the experience of spending time with those people before the wedding–when our men were all off doing “groomsmen” stuff, we hung out all together even when we didn’t know each other before. But I do agree that putting that table in the back is just kind of… sad…

      • SamanthaNichole

        that is horrible!

      • meg

        Oh. My. GOD.

        No. Nonononono.

        • Ann

          Another girlfriend of a groomsman was at the kids table, so I don’t think I even had the worst of it. The mother of the bride came up to her while she was finding a seat and said “Thanks for volunteering to wrangle the kids!” She had not volunteered. She doesn’t even like kids!

          I think they had assumed that both of us would be willing to take on “caretaker” roles at the reception. They also didn’t talk to us one bit about it before hand–both of us hardly knew the couple (she and I also didn’t know each other before hand, but we bonded over drinks later!).

          There were a lot of things that couple did at their wedding that were super insensitive to the wedding party/their SOs. My husband is decidedly less close to that friend these days.

    • ART

      I told my fiance we can’t break up any couples in our seating arrangement for this very reason. We are going to a wedding together in a month in which he is in the wedding party, and I will be very sad if we do not get to sit together! For ours, we’re doing long end-to-end rectangular tables, which I think will help a lot (our head table will seat 16 to 18).

    • Kristen

      I felt really bad we couldn’t sit with our whole party but tables/number of people – it just didn’t work. Since our bridal party was made up from different parts of our lives (like our guest list was) we just sat bridal party members with folks they knew, kind of maybe having them “host” the tables for us. Everyone seemed really happy and the leftover groomsman and his parents sat with us so I think everyone was pleased.

    • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.ca/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

      I got put at a “leftover” table with only single people once, which was a little weird because it was me (mid-30s at the time) and one other woman (probably 10 or so years older than me?) and then everyone else was college-aged young people. I knew the everyone from church and I liked everyone a lot (and had in fact worked with those students, so I enjoyed being with them), but I think I might have had a hard time if I had been the other woman and my friends of my own age range were all at “couples” tables. And I was actually not single at the time (just there at this wedding on my own), but if I had been single then, I think it would have definitely been painful. And if this had happened today….I would have been crying in the bathroom.

  • Sarah NCtoPA

    We had a casual picnic-style buffet wedding and did not use seating charts. It worked out just fine, but I would make sure to have an extra 10 or so seats because some tables of eight only have seven people at them, and single guest may not want to join a table of couples/families. I think seating charts are a good idea for those who are tight on space.

    Also, at a buffet wedding that’s outdoors not everyone will be seated at exactly the same time due to family pictures, waiting in the receiving line, taking fussy kids over to the playground, etc.

    • Becca

      Good idea about the extra seats, we are also having an outdoor reception without a seating chart (I just knew from day one that my brain couldn’t deal with it) and I was wondering how to handle the awkward “single guest out” situation.

    • http://irvingplace.net Kayjayoh

      We are also planning on doing buffet w/o a seating chart, with the food being treated as a cocktail style thing and tables spread throughout the venue (three floors of a museum, including a rooftop garden) so that people can move about and enjoy and eat as they see fit. The food is portable finger food (pizza, fruit kabobs, caprese kabobs, cheese plate, veggie crudites…) so I am really hoping that this works out.

      At the same time, it is also giving me conniptions, because people keep questioning the logistics. I’m sure it will be fine, but every time someone asks something like “oh, are you doing toasts? how will that work?” I start to worry and have to talk myself down. I think, maybe I should seat everyone together in one place! Maybe I should have assigned tables! Maybe a heavy hors d’oeuvres/pizza for dinner is a terrible idea!

      [breathing deeply] That being said, I am crossing my fingers that Elizabeth will work her magic on a Getting Sh*t done for the buffet/non-seated dinner type affair. For example, what should you already have on the tables if people are dishing themselves up at a buffet? What should they pick up in the food line? I’ve been to buffets a million times, but I think I need to start taking notes.

      • SamanthaNichole

        Don’t stress! This is similar to what we are doing. You are just bucking the rules! We are also doing a heavy hors d’oeuvres reception BECAUSE we don’t want people sitting down to a full dinner. We are having the food cycle through all night and dancing all night. We aren’t having assigned seats, we aren’t even having seats for everyone! We are having seats for like 70% of our guests and encouraging people to mix, mingle, and dance. It sounds like you are doing something similar with the milling through multiple spaces. I think it will be fantastic. Toasts? Yea have ‘em. When? I don’t know – we are still working on that one . . .

        • http://irvingplace.net Kayjayoh

          “You are just bucking the rules!”

          But you must admit, there is a certain amount of stress to bucking the rules, particularly when the groom himself keeps having the vapors over things not being tuxes and champagne toasts…he doesn’t *like* the idea of being traditional, he just has it in his head that this is how it is done. So each deviation from “the rules” requires negotiation and hand holding (sadly, he nixed donuts for dessert as just too casual). Even when the buy-in happens, it is easy to feel pressure to make sure your “crazy” non-traditional idea actually works like you convinced people it would. :)

          Which, by god, makes me appreciate this blog and you ladies so much.

          • Kristen

            My husband nixed donuts for dessert too. And we had breakfast for dinner AND I j’adore donuts like times a thousand. What did I do? Put off dealing with desserts until 2 days before the wedding, walked into a local bakery with him to ostentatiously order sweet rolls and danishes and oh! Oh, they sell donuts here too? Well…

            I looked at my husband and he was like, of course we should get donuts. Manipulative? Sure, but not terribly so. And I got my donuts. Which I didn’t get to eat. ;)

          • ART

            ha! this is my fiance exactly – he has been to so many weddings because he’s worked them, either in the band or doing sound for the band, so he has a pretty firm idea of “this is when you do the bouquet toss,” for example. He’s not emotionally attached to the bouquet toss, he’s just a little horrified when I say I don’t want one because…that’s what happens at a wedding.

            he’s the one who talked me into a darn seating chart.

        • Sarah NCtoPA

          Yup, not everyone will sit at once. We probably could have had less tables/chairs even but for me the extra cost savings was small (7/8 bucks per table, chairs were a dollar and change). And we already had ten tablecloths we bought in the pack so no savinfs there!

      • http://www.wrightremedy.blogspot.com Addie

        I think heavy hors d’oeuvres and pizza is an awesome dinner and am willing to eat any of the naysayers food for them. And like it.

      • MM

        We’re also doing heavy hors d’oeuvres and no assigned tables. There are tables scattered around, and we are bringing in a bunch of high top tables. I figure as long as people know what to expect, it will be fine, so I was sure to include on the invite that it is hors d’oeuvres, desserts, drinks and dancing starting at about 5pm. But that has not stopped me from occasionally panicking! And then rational me pipes up… if adults are hungry after all that, they will go get themselves a meal at 8pm.

  • Rachel

    I feel like the sweetheart table was invented for couples who want to do their wedding party a solid and let them sit with their dates. Seriously, the fact that I got to sit with my date made me SO happy when I was a bridesmaid a few weeks ago.

    There are a variety of sizes of tables at the restaurant where we’re having our reception and brunch is a buffet so we’re not going to do a seating chart at all. The “head table” (the one round table in the corner of the restaurant) is too small for our bridal party but too big for just the two of us, so we’re thinking we’re just going to sit there with our parents!

    • http://thevanillabride.blogspot.com Sonarisa

      This is why we’re having a sweetheart table. I’ve been a bridesmaid a couple times, and it’s always sad to have my wonderful date/fiance sitting on the opposite side of the room! As a bonus, we’re planning to set up a couple extra seats at our table. Perhaps this will encourage guests to come visit while we eat!

      • Stacie

        We are doing exactly this! We are using a 4-top as our sweetheart table, so that people will be able to visit with us while we EAT! :)

        • anon

          This is a great idea because a lot of people came by and talked to us at the sweethear table while we were eating. It worked out perfectly and we actually saw most people this way. We didnt know that would happened and still went around to table s to greet people, but we had seen a lot of people already because they stopped by the sweetheart table on the way to the buffet.

      • Gina

        We are doing a sweetheart table for the same reason, and I LOVE the idea of a couple extra chairs at the table so visitors aren’t standing awkwardly over you! Thank you :)

    • Katelyn

      Totally agree on doing the wedding party a solid and letting them sit with their dates/friends/etc.

      As for the sweetheart table, I once asked my mother what she thought and she said it didn’t matter because I wouldn’t be sitting down at all…I would be too busy WORKING THE ROOM (she said it that emphatically).

      • Emily

        I was pretty set on having a sweetheart table, mainly since I thought we wouldn’t really get to sit down (or eat) at all, and I didn’t want to have to choose between friend & family groups. (We couldn’t have the whole wedding party sit at one table anyway, especially not with guests.)

        I was grateful when my mom, surprisingly, convinced us to just sit with one part of the wedding party and their SOs; her argument was that we’d be lonely otherwise. And you DO actually get to eat dinner. We ended up having lots of fun at our table, and no feelings were hurt in the process.

      • MG

        I have no idea what your mom sounds/looks like, but the way I imagine this is making me giggle. WORK IT!

    • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

      It’s a huge favour to the bridal party’s dates as well. As a bridesmaid chances are you at least know the rest of the bridal party, maybe parents and have had a chance to meet some extended family and friends at all the pre-wedding events. Spouses and significant others of the bridal party, not so much.

      • http://spaceysteph.blogspot.com Stephanie

        Totally agree. I’ve never had my date relegated to a table in the back while I’ve been a bridesmaid before, but I did have it happen where I was the date.

        I’d already spent all of cocktail hour trying to mingle by myself while the wedding party took pictures and then here I was again, by myself trying to make more awkward conversation. I actually managed to befriend the fiance of one of the groomsmen who was also awkward and alone, and then she ended up at a different table. Drat!

        It’s no fun to be sitting at a table of other people who are equally uncomfortable and just waiting for the music to start so they can escape. I know some people love being dropped into a room of strangers and left to mingle, but I do not.

        • http://spaceysteph.blogspot.com Stephanie

          Edit not working…
          Wanted to add: this is why I did pictures before the ceremony so my wedding party could hang with their dates at cocktail hour, and why we did a sweetheart table. My fear of my own awkwardness makes me overprotective of putting other people in situations I would find awkward.

      • Rachel

        Agree completely! I felt bad for Eric while I was off doing bridesmaid things the day of and during the wedding…he definitely felt a little awkward all by himself!

    • Laura C

      I can’t believe people actually do this! Not sure I’ve ever been to a wedding where the wedding party and their SOs were separated, so I just didn’t realize it was really a thing — how awful.

      We’ll have to see how our tables work out, but right now I’m thinking one option for us will be to have a table with my MoH and her husband, who won’t know many people there, and the best man, my fiance’s brother, who is unlikely to have a date and who will have tons of family there and know plenty of my fiance’s friends, but not necessarily either want to sit with older family members or fit neatly into a table of people who know him but are actually friends with each other. Then add in a few other similar people — people we’re really close to but who don’t know as many people there, and we have a table that we’ll enjoy and that will hopefully make it less likely we have a remainders table of people who didn’t know enough people to fit at a really coherent table.

  • Emmy

    Question on the endcaps for rectangular tables: Are they okay? We’re renting 8′ rectangular tables and had more guests RSVP than we expected. We can either endcap, or get more tables (which also means more centerpieces and tablecloths, about $250 extra). But I don’t want people to be uncomfortable! Thoughts?

    • http://spaceysteph.blogspot.com Stephanie

      I think they’re fine, as long as you give people room to walk.

      Also from my own experience, it’s much easier to group people in groups of 8 or 10 than 6 so it’ll make seating chart much easier for you!

    • Rachelle

      Definitely endcap it! Like the other commenter siad, it usually works out better to have more people per table. Just make sure there’s enough space between tables and go for it! Why would anyone be uncomfortable? Saving $250 that you don’t need to spend is definitely worth it!

  • http://spaceysteph.blogspot.com Stephanie

    Post it notes would have been effing brilliant! I used slips of paper and it went fine, but while entering them into the computer I was petrified a strong gust would ruin all that work. Post it notes. Duh!

    Totally agree with recruiting help: I took all the friends, I gave my mom all my parents friends/relatives and his mom all their friends/relatives. His mom had the hardest time because between his parents they had too many siblings to sit with them all and so half the siblings had to be at the neighboring table. Decisions, decisions. Also two of his dad’s sisters didn’t speak for a long time so they had to be separated. Oh the drama. But it worked out just fine (or, at least, nobody complained to me!)

    My mom, who already planned 3 Bar/Bat Mitzvah parties with seating charts was an old pro and got hers done in like 5 mins. Go mom!

    I did all my/his/our friends. 3 of my bridesmaids didn’t really get along so rather than have a wedding party table, I put those 3 at all different tables, mixed in other friends they knew, plus coworkers, plus cousins. Like Elizabeth said, people don’t sit for that long anyways.

  • rowany

    We have rectangular tables and instead of a sweetheart table I was thinking of seating 8 people per table and the two of us rotating and eating a little bit with each table at the endcaps. The food is family style so this also ensures we eat!

    • Ann

      I did something similar-ish. We had a sweetheart table + tables that comfortable sat 10 (so…. 70″ round? I don’t know how big). We put 8 guests at each table plus 1 extra seat. The servers brought out our food 5 minutes before everyone else, so we could eat our food (it was DELICIOUS and also expensive. I was eating that stuff!) and then get up and move around. It ended up timed so that we were walking around in the lull between courses (3 course meal). I *loved* it. The servers also found us to give us a 1-2 minute warning before they were bringing out our food so we could find our way back to our table.

  • Martha

    WARNING TO ANYONE WITH A CAT:

    If you do the low-tech version of this and leave it out overnight, your cat will take a shit on it. And after you angrily replace the poster board and re-color code everything because you only have 10 blue post-it’s left because your family is ENORMOUS, your cat will shit on it. Again.

    • Breck

      Priceless information I learned today: cats despise seating charts.

      And now I will go wipe the coffee off my keyboard.

    • http://irvingplace.net Kayjayoh

      {dying}

      I’m sorry to hear that. Never mind the hysterical laughter, I’m really sorry to hear that.

      {dying some more}

      • Martha

        Oh it’s such a funny story now, especially since the wedding is now over and marriage has begun, with our cat still in one piece, god help me.

        • http://irvingplace.net Kayjayoh

          {still dying an hour later}

    • Laura C

      Less hilariously, but your cat may also eat the little post-it tags.

  • Casey

    Oh my gosh, this could not have come at a better time! We are getting married in 3 weeks and currently wrestling with table arrangements. It was SO helpful to see the 60 inch round tables set for 6, 8, and 10 people as I think we will end up having some smaller groups and some larger at each table. THANK YOU!!!!!!

  • Katherine

    Out escort cards were actually little envelopes with just names on them. Inside the envelope was a card with the table number. This was a bit more expensive in terms of paper, but it had two advantages:

    1) I could write out the names before I’d decided on table numbers, which meant less last minute work for me.

    2) We could sort the escort card envelopes to create table groupings, so we didn’t have to write out post-it notes with all the names.

    • http://partialto.tumblr.com LIZ (SINCE 1982)

      This is a great idea! I am ALL about front-loading as much work as possible. And it sounds like the end result was lovely and simple.

  • Meghan

    Seating charts emphasize all my most OCD tendencies, so I actually enjoyed the process more than most, I think. My addition to the discussion is that we did banquet-style (i.e., rectangular tables lined up 2 or 3 long), which I think is a relatively rare choice. It allowed us to do a few things, though: (1) we were able to seat my husband’s very-divorced parents at the “same” table, but very far apart; (2) we were able to mix up the groupings a lot; (3) we were able to keep large friend groups relatively together.

    In terms of bridal party – we split ‘em up. Used them as “anchors” for tables and then planned the tables around them. It’s not a bad starting strategy if you’re looking at a bunch of names and blank tables and don’t know where to start. That’s actually what was done at the two weddings I’ve been a bridesmaid in as well – the couple grouped associated wedding party members (and their SOs) and then filled in the table around them with folks that they knew.

    We did a sweetheart table (see previous comment about very-divorced parents) and got our food first so that we then had enough time to socialize. But we also didn’t try to get to every table – just the ones where we thought we wouldn’t see folks on the dance floor much.

    Last tip – we did specifically assigned seating, but didn’t need to have both escort cards and place cards. Instead, we had a seating chart with table numbers, and then place cards at the table when folks got there. It seemed to work out fine for everyone.

    YAY seating charts!

    • Abi

      This is exactly how I feel- I love organizing and may possibly be a little OCD, so I’m kind of looking forward to the seating chart! :) Also, I love your idea about the seating chart and then place cards, that’s great! Thank you!

    • Bindi

      This is exactly the seating arrangement im having for my wedding, thanks for the tips!!

  • Chalk

    My mother wanted to “help” me with the seating chart upon her arrival a week before the wedding. To avoid the arguments I knew were coming, I did the seating chart in advance and had a calligrapher draw up the place cards before mamma touched down in my city. I blamed the calligrapher for “needing to get these done by X date” and not being able to change the seating arrangement because “the place cards have already been made.” I splurged on the calligrapher because had I printed these up on a computer, I would have been put on the spot to simply print up any changes my mom could come up with. With the calligraphy, the place cards were as good as written in stone. Totally worth the money to avoid what is, as has been noted, an extremely stressful and emotional process.

    • Emmers

      sneaky! love it!

  • Emily

    I was a guest at a wedding recently and (despite having sent in an RSVP clearly saying yes, and double-checking that I was absolutely invited to the reception), I had been left off the seating chart entirely! This was pretty hurtful as I had been a long-time friend of the groom, and had gotten to know the bride pretty well. Thankfully they had a wedding stage manager who smoothed over the extreme awkwardness of the whole thing without me having to notify anyone too close to the couple, but it was pretty mortifying! I know there are so many details that go into planning a wedding, but I guess I’m just saying – your guests really appreciate the time you take on setting up the tables, especially cross-checking with received RSVPs :)

  • Laura

    Im not sure if it has already been mentioned above, i know the idea certainly came from an older post on this site, but we had a top table of our closest friends and their partners. Our wedding was small, 42 people, with no bridal party but we wanted to regonise our friends and enjoy a meal with them.

    Our parents really enjoyed hosting thier own tables and it allowed divorced parents to socialise as much or little as they chose. All parents were grateful to be sat with friends, or their family instead, and many other guests commented on it being a nice idea. It may be a good option for others navigating family trees.

  • Riah

    I just did my seating chart like 4 hours ago, so it’s funny to have this pop up today. We did the post it note thing, except we put them in columns on full sheets of paper (3 columns per sheet) which was nice because we could put sort of similar tables together on the same page. For us it was surprisingly smooth and easy. Most people fell into logical groups, and the few set of people who were left got matched up easily with tables of people we think they’ll get along with. Seriously, this is one of the only parts of wedding planning that’s gone smoothly for us, and I’m so grateful. We put ourselves at a table with our friends who know both of us.

  • Meagan

    We used wedding wire and it was amazing. I had 8-10 guests at rounds but I put a 3 tables pushed into a big rectangle in the middle and sat the entire wedding party, dates and ushers- my closest friends. We sat in the middle on the left side of the rectangle. I put my moms family table right behind us to the left, my dads table right behind us to the right and grooms table on the other side of the rectangle. Everyone was close, I avoided a fight about who would sit with us. I was able to sit with my friends and every table was within eyesight of us. We had just under 200. Bonus: big pretty tall flower arrangement was right in the middle of the big rectangle (as well as the room) making the others decorations less necessary. Wedding win

  • Rachelle

    Can I make a plea for seating arrangements? I understand the appeal of not having to do all that work and just letting people sit with whomever they want, but it can be awkward as a guest when you don’t know many people.

    I recently went to a wedding where my fiance was a groomsman, so he sat at the head table and I was on my own to find a seat. Luckily I knew a couple other people there who weren’t in the wedding, but if I had waited a few more minutes before sitting down the table could have filled up and I would be stuck with no where to sit.

    Even when you do get to sit with your date, it’s awkward to walk up to a table with a bunch of peole you don’t know and hope they’re cool. Just my two cents for anyone wondering if they should arrange seating or not :)

    • ART

      this was the argument that finally made me want to do a seating chart. i hate the whole “er…is this seat being saved?” thing.

  • Gina

    I have to second the Wedding Wire seating arrangement tool. Especially if you need somewhere to keep a guest list/RSVPs. Once you have the names uploaded, you can drag and drop people, set the table size, etc. Even if you’re not into wedding planning “tools” in general, this one has been invaluable for us so far!

  • http://theselfcateredwedding.wordpress.com/ Savannah

    In a sea of “oh god the wedding is in 15 days” frantic feelings, this is making me feel so much calmer. APW, how did you know I was secretly freaking out about the seating chart?

  • Emerald

    Great to know about the table distance. We aren’t having assigned seating, and in fact aren’t even having enough sit down tables for everyone (lots of stand up tables in an outdoor space and a nice wall with cushions overlooking the ocean to sit on with low tables for plates), but it is nice to know how much space we need between tables for people to walk through. A question that popped into my head while reading this is if you aren’t having a sit down dinner, and people will be eating indoors and outdoors, when and where should you do speeches? Any suggestions?

    • Margaret

      My sister’s wedding was sort of similar to this. She had an hors d’oeuvres and cocktail reception with tables on two levels but the top level was open to the bottom one. Anyway, the toasts ended up being during the dancing portion of the evening. She had a jazz band playing and when they got ready to take a break, the best man and I stepped in to do our toasts. Luckily, I’m kind of loud and good at getting people to pay attention to me. Maybe something similar would work for you.

  • Vyvyan

    I thought the tip about doing toasts while guests were eating was GENIUS. Slots easily into the schedule, everyone’s listening but they don’t have to do the awkward “stop what you’re doing *now*” thing — fantastic.

    Read it out loud to my English fiance and he was HORRIFIED. Absolutely horrified. Possibly the most horrified I’ve seen him during this whole process, including setting the budget. “*Eating* during the *speeches*?”

    We high-fived to cultural differences and will be scheduling the toasts in separately. This tip may not cross the Atlantic well!

  • http://www.jalondraadavis.com Jalondra

    I wasn’t going to do a seating chart because our wedding was small, like 80 people, but decided to do it when we told a lot of single friends they couldn’t have +1s. After watching me stress over a table-by-table chart for two days, my fiance came up with the idea of assigning sections instead of tables. I had already gotten different colored table runners to match our peacock feather inspired color scheme, and we had already planned to do mixed CD favors. So we developed internal loose categories: Immediate Family, Extended Family, Close Family Friends, Friends and assigned them colors. Every guest that walked in was handed a CD the color for their section and could go to one of the tables where the runner matched their CD. We overestimated how many seats were needed for each category and section in case people had to be moved around. This worked out extremely well, especially since we only had eight tables of 8-10 so people did not have a lot of tables to choose from, and it was hardly any work at all. In cases where we thought there might be a situation (people who didn’t get along, guests who wouldn’t know anyone else in their category) we just shifted them to the next most appropriate (internally known only) group. We had no-shows and additions right up until the last second, so with this plan the day-of was able to place people without us ever having to know there was a problem. In case you can’t tell, I’m really proud of this plan and think it could be accomplished with a larger wedding if you have more categories and colors or something else which obviously sets the tables apart.

  • Laura K

    When my mom asked me who I wanted to sit with for my sister’s wedding, I answered that I didn’t care, until I realized that I would be on entertaining-the-people-who-don’t-know-anyone duty. So I requested to have my favorite uncle sit at my table, problem solved… almost. Turns out, I put the very liberal city-dwelling uncle and aunt right next to the very conservative rural-dwelling friends of the family. Whoops! Seating chart fail. The conversation was definitely interesting.

  • Brianne

    I had a lot of fun doing the seating chart but I think it just happened to work out very nicely. We had 8-10 people at each table and sat at a round table in the center of the room with part of the wedding party and their SOs. Our college friends fit perfectly at the two tables closest to the bar and they all remarked how happy they were to have been placed where they were.

    We did it all in a new tab of the Google Doc with our guest list.

  • http://www.missmystra.wordpress.com Tahlia Kirk

    I avoided choosing seats by including a link on our e-vites to a google doc of our seating chart and letting our guests choose their own seats. Of course, this only worked because we didn’t have a sit-down dinner, so reserving the seat ahead of time was optional, but it worked out brilliantly.

  • Danielle

    After attempting a variety of seating charts, each of which seemed certain to offend somebody/everybody, I gave up. We had ~185 people, including VERY divorced parents.

    We reserved tables in the middle for members of the wedding party + their dates, and I reserved one table for each of my parents and my in-laws, and trusted that a room full of adults would be capable of seating themselves.

    To my surprise, it worked very well! We printed signs for the non-reserved tables that said “Have a seat and say hello!” to encourage people to sit and chat. I think the key was telling all of the parents ahead of time that they would have a table reserved, and that they should think about who they wanted to sit there, but that they should not include us in that conversation, because we did not care. :)

  • http://makegoodweather.wordpress.com/2010/08/10/across-five-aprils-a-tragedy-in-progress-2003/ strength training for women

    Hi my family member! I wish to say that this post is amazing, nice written and come with
    almost all important infos. I’d like to peer extra posts like this .

  • http://youtube.com/watch?v=6xreaVrFwas silver investing youtube

    I love your blog.. very nice colors & theme.

    Did you make this website yourself or did you hire someone to do it
    for you? Plz reply as I’m looking to design my own blog and would like to find out where u got this from. appreciate it

  • Laura

    My best friend and her husband sat at a table with their parents, and then the bridal party got to sit with our dates at tables of people we knew. Bridal party didn’t all sit together, and that was totally ok and a lot of fun!

  • Eh

    I was pretty lucky with the people that came to our wedding. All of the table groupings naturally fell together. I thought it was going to be a lot harder. We had round tables with six to eight people assigned to each. I used a spreadsheet and organized people by family or people they know. To do this I added a column to the spreadsheet to label each group so they could be sorted together (e.g., my aunt and uncle were in a group with their son, daughter and grandson; and my dad’s friends were in their own group etc.). I had to keep in mind some family dynamics – my mom’s family has a few people who don’t get along so I made sure that those families had their own group labels and then I made sure that they weren’t sitting at the same table or adjacent tables. These groups were usually 4 to 8 people. If the group was 8 people, that was easy – they got a table. If the group was 4 people I found another group of 4 to put them with (trying to pick a group that they might have something in common with and keeping in mind family dynamics). Many of the groups of 6s also got their own table.

    I did find it weird that people called me (or my MIL) to tell me who they wanted to sit with (or not sit with) – especially since in all of those cases I had already placed them with (or without) those people. I know not to put my mom’s sister and brother and their families at the same table. I figured that my husband’s friend who is also related to his cousin would like to sit with his cousin since she didn’t know anyone else. I figured that since my MIL’s friend attended my bridal shower that I would put her at a table with some people she seemed to click with at the shower since she didn’t know anyone else.

    My favourite table of all was the table with all of our friends. We had only invited a handful of friends so we put most of them at the same table. These were people from different places in our lives. It included one of my grade school friends, one of my high school friends and her husband, one of my university friends, one of my husband’s childhood friends and his wife who is also my husband’s childhood friend (and their baby), and one of my husband’s college friends. My husband’s friends had previously met a couple of times. My high school friend also went to university with my university friend so they knew each other, and my grade school friend was at my bachelorette with my university friend so they had met. Our centrepieces were board games and this table had Cards Against Humanity (requested by popular demand after the girls played it at my bachelorette). They had a great time with the game. It was definitely the best table at our wedding.

    We originally planned on having our Best Man (my husband’s brother) and MOH (my sister) with their partners at the head table with us. That plan was changed because we decided it would be easier for his SIL (and my in-laws) if she sat with their three children. So we decided to have just the Best Man and MOH at the head table with us. In the end we had a sweetheart table because we ended up not having a Best Man (due to a family feud that boiled over in the month before our wedding) so I had my MOH sit with her fiancé. Seating arrangements like that were done on the fly at the last minute (since we had hoped that our Best Man would come).

  • kristylisty

    Did you write a post on the logistics of a seating chartless wedding yet? I looked around but didn’t see anything. I’m currently planning such for my wedding in August and look forward to any advice!

  • http://www.beingangel.co.za/ Angel Conradie

    Hey! Did you write a post on the logistics of a seating chartless wedding yet?

  • Treasure Stirling

    After reading this, and all the comments, I am so glad we are doing things the way we are (my wedding is almost a year away!)

    No seating chart/table numbers etc
    8ft rectangles, in pairs – 6 pairs for the guests, and then 3 pairs for the bridal party and the head table…
    I am putting me & the groom, and our parents at the head pair, at 45 degree angles will be the wedding party tables – my 5 and their SO’s on my side, and his 6 and their SO’s on his side (this set up will look like half of a hexagon)
    then the guest pairs will be staggered, in 3 rows, vertically to the head table (going horizontally) with the cake table between the middle row and the food tables for our buffet which will mirror the head table and attendants tables (closing the hexagon)

    we are only putting 14 chairs at each pairing of tables, because with the theme of our wedding, our guests will be in full skirts, and may have swords on… this requires extra room. We will have each place set when guests come in – we are not doing a cocktail hour, but are encouraging guests to go ahead and start eating while we finish up photos (as we are doing the majority of them prior to the ceremony – but none with the groom and I together before he sees me coming down the aisle)

    We’re also encouraging guests at the ceremony to “choose a seat, not a side”… because we do have so many friends in common.

  • vitali

    Thank you for sharing with us. Really good advice. any good website to arrange online a seating plan ? I will try http://www.meshotes.com it seems to be free. Other suggestion ?

  • Pingback: Creating a Guest Seating Plan for the Reception | Larry James' CelebrateIntimateWeddings BLOG

  • Pingback: Seating Charts for Weddings | Classic Catering & Events