HOW TO CREATE YOUR WEDDING SEATING CHART
Now that the RSVPs are in, it's time to figure out where everyone will be sitting at the wedding reception. Keep in mind that the wedding seating chart is one of those last-minute tasks that sneaks up on you and often takes a lot longer than you anticipate! But by following our steps below, you'll be able to easily create your seating chart without stressing out. Here's our rundown of where everyone should sit and how to get them to their seats.
Seating chart: "Someone Like You" by Design Lotus
1. Don't wait until the last minute.
Plan to create your wedding seating chart at least two to three weeks before your wedding, once all the RSVPs have come in. This means you'll need to set your RSVP deadline for two to three weeks before the wedding, too. Your caterer will want a head count at least one week before the wedding date, and you'll need a few days to get in touch with people who you haven't heard from.
2. Spreadsheets will save your life.
Our best advice: Use a spreadsheet to track RSVPs as they come in. Next, insert a column into your RSVP spreadsheet categorizing and color-coding all guests by relationship. For example your family, your partner's family, your friends, your partner's friends, your coworkers, your partner's coworkers, and so on. That way, you'll be able to easily sort your guest list and break it down into more logical table groupings.
3. Finalize the reception table layout.
Once you have a finalized headcount and the square footage of your dining area, it’s time to start drawing up your layout. Work with your caterer to figure out the most optimal table layout, so guests won’t be bumping into each other and servers can easily cater to each guest.
It is key to understand that the shape of the table you select can influence how your guests interact with each other. Round tables are the standard option and are even sometimes included in a venue's rental package. Round tables are also the easiest table shape to work with since you'll only need to consider who each guest will be sitting next to on their right and left sides. Round tables tend to be more social as all table guest’s can easily hear and interact with each other. Longer rectangular tables take a bit more planning to figure out how to seat guests, as there are guests to the left, right, and across from you.
4. Map it out.
The next step is figuring out where to place each person at the reception. You could do this via a new spreadsheet or by using a website like AllSeated. Or, you could do it the old-fashioned way and take a large sheet of paper and draw outlines of your finalized table layout. Once your tables are drawn, write names inside them in pencil. Or, using your color-coded guest list, you could write every guest's name on a coordinating colored sticky tag. Follow the next steps below and keep arranging and rearranging names until everyone has a seat at the reception.
Photo: Lauren Gabrielle
5. Seat yourselves, first.
You and your new spouse will be the center of attention all evening, so seat yourselves in a central, highly visible location. This is wedding seating chart etiquette 101. One option would be to sit at a table with your wedding-party members (this is often called the "head table"), with your seats in the middle. Or, you could sit with your parents and let that be the head table, with the wedding party at their own tables with their dates. And lastly, another popular option is to sit with your new spouse at a table reserved just for the two of you. This arrangement is often called a "sweetheart table".
Photo: Jessa Schifilliti
6. Next up: the wedding party.
Figuring out where to seat your wedding-party members depends on how big your entourage is, as well as how many of them attended the wedding with dates. One option would be to place all wedding-party members at a long head table with the newlyweds positioned in the middle (as described in the previous step). However, a drawback of this seating arrangement is that attendants' dates and spouses will have to sit at a separate table, which might not be ideal (separating dates and partners is never a good idea). Another (more preferred!) option would be to place wedding-party members at several VIP dinner tables that are positioned near you and your new spouse.
Photo: Jenna Greenawalt Photography
7. Then, place your parents.
Wedding seating chart etiquette states that your and your partner's parents will share a table at the reception, along with grandparents, siblings not in the wedding party, and the officiant and their spouse if they're attending the reception. However, if your or your partner's parents are divorced and would prefer to sit separately, a solution would be to have each parent host their own table of close family and/or friends. Keep in mind this could mean up to four parents' tables, depending on your situation. You can also try seating them at the same rectangular table, but at opposite ends. But remember that if you're unsure of how to proceed, it's probably best to talk to your parents about what they might prefer, before you make your final seating decisions.
8. Enlist help from your parents to help seat their friends.
If you have no idea where to seat your parents' friends, let your folks arrange those tables. They'll be happy to be included in the process and to have a say in where their pals are seated.
9. Figure out what guests have in common.
As you're figuring out where to seat the remaining guests, refer to your color-coded guest list (see Step 2). While you don't have to necessarily seat them exactly according to their group, you should start to get a clearer picture of who already knows each other and gets along. Also consider guests' ages, interests, lines of work, geographic locations, and backgrounds. Those are all natural conversation starters, so be conscious of seating people with those they're already familiar with or have things in common. And, of course, be tactful. Avoid seating people together that might have a history they wish they could forget.
Photo: Vicki Grafton
10. Make a separate kids' table.
Children are much more comfortable around other children (as opposed to adults), so if there will be kids at your wedding, seat them together at a separate kids' table. Provide activities and crafts at their table to keep them occupied. If the children are entertained, it allows their parents to have a bit of a break and enjoy the festivities. However, if your flower girl and ring bearer are the only children present, seat them with their parents.
11. Skip the singles' table.
Even if you've been itching to matchmake, resist the urge to group all of your single guests together at one table. Trust us, no one wants to be assigned to the "singles" table! Rather, try to create table assignments that feature a mix of guests attending the wedding without dates, families, and couples. Group folks by things they might have in common instead of their relationship status.
12. Think of guests' needs.
When it comes to table placement, be sure to also consider any guests with special needs. Seat elderly guests near aisles and exits, so they can enter and exit easily. It's also a good idea to keep older guests and those with children away from the band or speakers.
Photo: Natalie Watson Photography
13. Alternative: assign tables but not specific seats.
Remember, you can always assign guests a particular table instead of a specific seat, if that makes it easier. That way, guests can choose who they'd like to sit next to, without you having to figure it out for them.
14. Make it easy for guests to find their seat.
Now that you've determined everyone's seating assignment, the final step is to figure out how you'll tell guests where they're seated. Tented escort cards—individually printed with each guest's name and table number—is a simple way to do it. Or, you could get creative with larger seating-assignment signs or charts.
Arrange guests’ names in alphabetical order by last name, so folks can easily find their table assignment. Also, be sure to use a large, readable font so there's no confusion.
For more creative seating chart ideas, read our roundup of 15 clever ways to guide guests to their seats.
WEDDING SEATING CHART FAQs
Have some questions about making your wedding seating chart? We've got all the answers to help you figure out where to seat your guests and guide them to their seats.
Do the parents of the bride and groom sit together?
This all depends on your family situation, but traditionally, your parents and your partner's parents would share a table at the wedding reception. Additional VIPs would also be seated at the same table, like grandparents, siblings who aren't already in the wedding party, and other close family friends.
However, if your or your partner's parents would prefer to sit separately, then each set of parents could host their own table of close family members and friends; the same applies if your or your partner's parents are divorced—each parent could similarly host their own reception table. But if you're truly stumped about where to seat your parents, it's best to talk with them directly to find out what they would prefer.
How long does a seating chart take to make?
About two to three weeks before the wedding, set aside an hour or two with your partner and start working on your wedding seating chart together. If you get stuck on a particular seating conundrum, move on to the table. Keep going until you've reached a good stopping point and then take a break. For any seating problems you encounter, talk about it with your partner, friends, or family members for some helpful insight. Return to the seating chart the next day and you should be done in no time.
Who sits at the head table at a wedding?
The "head table" refers to the table where the newlyweds will be sitting. You could decide to sit with your new spouse at a table just for two, which is sometimes called a "sweetheart table." If you prefer to sit with your guests, you could sit with your wedding-party members (with you and your new spouse positioned in the center) and designate that table as the head table. Or, you could opt to sit with your parents and let that be the head table.
How many guests can fit at a 60" round table? And a six-foot rectangular table?
The standard size reception table is a 60" round table, which can comfortably seat eight guests and as many as 10, but that will be a tight squeeze. A six-foot-long rectangular table is also considered standard size and can seat six guests, with three people on each side. If needed, you could add two additional guests (one at each end).
What's the difference between an escort card and a place card?
These small, tented cards look very similar but serve two different purposes. Escort cards are printed with a wedding guest's name and their table number assignment. This card lets the guest know which table they will be sitting at. Place cards are printed with just the guest's name and indicates which seat at the table has been assigned to them.
Should a seating chart list names alphabetically by guests' first name or last name?
For clarity and ease, it's best to arrange guests’ names in alphabetical order by last name, followed by his or her assigned table number. Resist the urge to group guests by table, that will take guests a very long time to find their name and will result in a bottleneck as guests crowd around to get their table assignment.