Wedding Planning Guide

How to Create Your Wedding Seating Plan

Everything you need to know about wedding seating etiquette
and how to seat your guests at your wedding reception.

wedding place setting with flowers

Photo: @jesworkman

"Mixed Type" place cards by Erica Krystek

1. Don't wait until the last minute.

Plan to create your wedding seating chart two to three weeks before your wedding, once all the RSVPs have come in (read: 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: 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 your guest list is finalized, you'll need to determine how many tables you'll need and how many people will be seated at each one. Work with your caterer to figure out the most optimal table layout, given your final guest list numbers and your reception space dimensions.

Keep in mind that table shape plays an important role: While rectangular ones make it easier for guests to chat and will give your reception a more dinner-party feel, round tables might be simpler for you to sort (you'll only need to consider who's sitting directly next to one another).

4. Map out your seating chart.

The next step: 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 WeddingWire. Or, you could do it the old-fashioned way: Take a large sheet of paper and draw outlines of your finalized table layout (you might want to photocopy this master diagram, just in case!) and write names inside them in pencil. Or, using your color-coded guest list, you could write out everyone's names on a coordinating colored Post-it flag. Follow the next steps below and keep arranging and rearranging names until everyone has a seat at the reception.

5. Seat yourselves, first.

You and your new spouse will be the center of attention, so your table should be centrally located. One option would be to sit at a table with your wedding-party members, 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. You also have the option of sitting at a sweetheart table, which is reserved for just the newlyweds.

6. Next up: the wedding party.

Depending on the size of your wedding party—and how many of them invited plus-ones—you can seat everyone together at one long head table with the newlyweds in the center (see above), or divide the group among several tables that are situated near you and your new spouse.

7. Then, place your parents.

Traditionally, 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 making your final seating decisions.

8. Ask your parents for help seating 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. Find common ground.

When seating 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.

10. Make a separate kids' table.

Kids like being around other kids, so if there will be children at your wedding, seat them together at a separate kids' table. Provide activities and crafts at their table to keep them occupied; that way, their parents can have a bit of a break, too. 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 seat all of the single guests together. Instead, mix things up and intersperse single guests among couples, focusing common interests, not relationship status.

12. Think of guests' needs.

When it comes to table placement, consider any special needs of your guests. 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.

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 (high five!), 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.

See more creative escort card and seating chart ideas here.