Where your guests will sit at your reception probably isn’t the first thing on your wedding planning checklist—and it doesn’t have to be. Once you receive those RSVPs, though, it’s time to start mapping out your wedding seating chart. Like lunch tables in high school, seating arrangements can carry a lot of weight. There are plenty of variables to consider, but making your wedding seating chart doesn’t need to be overwhelming—and can actually be fun. Here’s everything you need to know.
Why do I need a wedding seating chart?
Well, you technically don’t. Assigned seating at your wedding isn’t mandatory, but many couples will create a wedding seating chart. It’s traditional, sure, but a clear seating arrangement benefits everyone from the guests to the catering staff and helps you maximize your reception venue space. Assigned seats just tend to make things simpler. (You can always assign tables and let your guests choose their individual seats, too.)
Here are a few reasons to create a wedding seating chart:
- It ensures each table will be filled to its maximum capacity.
- It makes it easy for servers to locate guests and provide them any previously requested meals or meal substitutes. (Some venues may even require assigned reception seating for this reason.)
- Wedding guests actually like to know where they’re sitting—it cuts confusion and any potential awkwardness.
Where do I even begin?
Before you even think about your actual guests, first you need to consider the size of the space and of your tables. The size and shape of the tables will tell you how many guests can sit at each table. Wedding tables come in four basic shapes: round, rectangle, oval, and square.
Rectangle and square tables make it easier for guests to chat across the table and next to one another. You can also typically fit more of these shapes into the space. Round tables, on the other hand, provide guests more legroom. These tables also may make your job easier as you’ll only need to pay attention to who’s sitting directly next to one another.
Once you choose your tables, map them out in the space, and know how many each will hold, then it’s time to start filling in your wedding seating chart.
How To Make A Wedding Seating Chart
Now the fun begins. Whether your wedding is big or small, organizing your wedding guests into tables comes with a number of considerations. Here are some things to think about as you create your wedding seating chart.
1. Start with the head table.
It’s a good idea to seat the two of you first. Decide if you want to sit at a traditional head table made up of your wedding party or if you would prefer to sit together as a couple at your own private sweetheart table.
Traditionally, a head table is long and straight. The couple sits in the center and the wedding party (and sometimes their dates) fills in the rest. If you go the sweetheart table route, you can place the wedding party at one or two other tables nearby. It’s up to you, but be sure to place yourselves first.
2. Place your parents and grandparents.
Next, it’s a good idea to figure out where your parents and grandparents will sit. If they’re not sitting with you (some couples will include their parents at the head table), be sure to keep them close. It’s common for both sets of parents to share a table at the reception so they can bond and bask in their children’s newly wedded glow. This table will also typically include both sets of grandparents and any siblings that aren’t in the wedding party.
In the case of divorced parents, things can feel a little more sensitive. You likely know the situation best so proceed with care. If things between your parents are comfortable—meaning, they can spend quality time together without any palpable tension—you may feel fine placing them together at a table.
If things are a little more strained, be sensitive. Consider letting each parent host their own table (if space allows) of close family and friends. Be sure to keep these tables equally close to yours so everyone feels included. Depending on each family’s situation, this could mean potentially four parents’ tables. If you feel unsure, talk to your parents. They most likely want what's best for you and will do what it takes to help you figure out a solution that works for everyone.
3. Figure out your family and close friends.
Once the key players and planners involved in your wedding are situated, it’s time to move on to your extended family and friends. Barring any significant unrest, your family should be pretty easy to place. Traditionally extended family members sit together with their immediate family members. So, your aunt will sit with her partner and their children, grandchildren, etc. Each family group can cover a full table or, depending on family size, you can, of course, combine families into one table.
It’s more common to place members of your respective families together, but feel free to mix it up if you want. Why not set one of your extended family groups with one of your partner’s? You’re all family now after all.
You know the saying “keep your friends close.” Well, that same sentiment works at your wedding. Simply put, sit your close friends together—and definitely mix them in with your partner’s BFFs, too. More likely than not, many of your friends already know each other and are eager to reunite to celebrate your fresh union.
4. Categorize the rest of your guests by groups.
Beyond your family and best friends, weddings also usually include other attendees from the various parts of your life. This mix is a little more random and, therefore, can be a bit more challenging to place in your wedding seating chart. The easiest way to handle the last handful of guests is to separate them by groups. For example, these wedding guests may fall into the following categories:
- Your boss and colleagues
- Your parents’ friends
- High school friends
When seating your remaining guests, it’s nice to consider things like backgrounds, personalities, and interests. Many of these people will end up at tables together so it’s best to always take a moment to think about who could really mesh well together. Here's how we recommend handling each of these groups.
Boss and Colleagues
This group is totally dependent on your relationship with your boss and coworkers. It’s also important to consider your coworkers' relationship with your boss—they may or may not want to spend the night sitting next to their daily manager or colleague. Hopefully, though, if you invited people from your work life, you did so because you know they’ll have a fun time together and with the rest of your wedding guests.
If that’s not the case, you can seat your coworkers with a group of your close friends or high school friends. You can place your boss with a group of your parents’ friends or even with members of your extended family, depending on how the tables work out.
Instead of stressing over this as a couple, let your parents take the reigns here—they’ll be happy to be involved. Trust us. They may even invite some of their closest friends to join them at their table. Either way, they’ll be the best judge of where to seat and how to group their attendees.
Additionally, you should also include your parents in any decisions about placing non-family members at family tables. If there are seats to fill at tables with your families, they’ll likely have an opinion about who should fill those places.
High School Friends
Depending on how many high school friends you invite to your wedding, they may take up a table of their own or you can likely combine forces with your partners’ friends from back in the day. However, if you don’t have enough old friends in attendance, find seats for them at tables with your college friends or even your coworkers. As always, consider personalities and interests. Presumably, though, anyone you invite to your wedding is there to celebrate you and your new spouse so there shouldn’t be any weirdness.
This group can go a number of ways. Typically, the vendors you'll include and feed at your reception include the DJ or band, your photographer(s), and your wedding planner. Depending on your relationship with any other vendors, though, that could increase. If your florist is a family friend, for example, you’ll, of course, include him or her, too.
In the case of vendors who don’t qualify as family friends, it’s best to simply ask each vendor what they would prefer. Many DJs will eat at their station because they usually play music during the cocktail hour and dinner. Similarly, photographers are still on the clock. They may also prefer to grab a plate and eat somewhere quickly before getting back to work.
However, if you have a group of vendors that you would like to include in your wedding seating chart, offer them a table. If you are tight on space and need to fill in remaining seats, seat some friends or colleagues with them. Maybe you have a friend with an interest in photography or floral design—he or she could enjoy discussing these crafts with the experts behind your big day.
If you choose to include children at your wedding reception—and many people do—it’s best to consult your parents and the kids’ parents. These kids are likely your cousins so you can sit them with their parents at family tables. Alternatively, if you have a large number of kids in attendance, consider setting up a designated kids’ table. Have some crafts or activities at each place to keep everyone occupied.
Wedding Seating Chart Etiquette
As you plan your wedding seating chart, there are a few considerations to keep in mind while you’re placing all of your guests.
Think about past relationships and histories.
There will undoubtedly be a few wedding guests that share some kind of tense history—exes or old frenemies or even family members who don’t get along. Stay cognizant of these past relationships and be considerate. Yes, it’s your day, but don’t throw people together who really don’t mesh. It will only create an awkwardness that you don’t want at your reception.
Avoid the singles’ table.
It’s tempting to throw single attendees into a table with the hopes that they’ll mingle and maybe even match up throughout the night. However, try to skip the singles’ table altogether. It could be embarrassing for your guests once they realize where they landed on your wedding seating chart. Similarly, don’t place your unmarried friend at a table of married couples. Try to use your best judgment and make everyone feel comfortable.
Consider personalities and interests.
We touched on this before, but keep your guests’ personalities and interests top of mind as you map out your seating chart. Don’t sit your more subdued coworkers with your rowdy college friends, for example. It might take some more thought and a few last-minute shuffles to really accommodate all of your wedding guests, but, again, it’s all in the name of a stress-free and fun reception.
Ultimately, your wedding seating chart should create a fun and comfortable atmosphere. Don’t let it drive you crazy, though. This is your celebration, and your wedding guests will treat it as such, regardless.