Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Seating Chart- Who, Where and Why?

A seating chart makes your wedding easier for:
- your guests (They can quickly find their way to the table or seat you pre-selected for them without worrying about who will/will not fit at a table together, and without feeling like they're in a high school cafeteria.)
- the staff at your wedding venue (If there is a served dinner, and especially if there are multiple entree options, they will use your seating chart to determine how many of each dish will go to a table, and ensure a fluid, smooth delivery of the main meal, giving you more time to dance and party!)
- your wedding party and parents (who will likely enter the reception space last- before you two- and will want to know exactly where to go)
- guests with young children and special needs/dietary restrictions
- YOU! The day of your wedding, you don't want to be worrying about seating, who is/is not sitting with whom, why there aren't enough chairs at one table for everyone who wants to sit there, etc.  Your seating chart will make everything easy, and assure that everyone will have a pleasant experience, from seating to greeting to eating and beyond!

There are many ways to create a seating chart and many tools online with which you can play, but the best plan of action is to create a little note card or post-it note for each guest (you should know the names of all Plus Ones and they should technically get their own cards, too) and arrange them in 'tables'. Don't do this too soon- you don't want to get too set on one arrangement and then be bummed when you have to change it. Find out when your seating chart is due to your venue (typically 10 days in advance), ask guests to RSVP by a date that falls 1-2 weeks BEFORE that date, and create your seating chart once you have all responses.

Here are some seating chart tips:

Typically, one side is devoted to the bride's family and the other is for the groom's family.  The wedding party and parents' tables are closest to the bride and groom, then family, then friends.  The sweetheart table/head table should be in the middle of the seating chart plan, so nobody feels like they're in the 'cheap seats' and are too far from you on your big day. 

Wedding Party seating considerations:
You can have a sweetheart table for just the bride and groom, putting your favorite guys and gals together at a table or two nearby (consider allowing them to sit with their significant others- simply because it'll be more fun for them that way, and because they're important to you)!
   You could also do a head table with the bride, groom, and wedding party (or bride, groom, wedding party, and significant others, if the wedding party is small!).
   The wedding party should be in a place where they can see (and be seen by) as many guests as possible. Whatever you choose is good, just communicate it to your party so they know where they'll be going!

If you have round tables, you should aim for 6-10 people at a 60" (8 would be ideal) and 7-12 at a 72" (12 is REALLY tight, 7 is really spread out. Go for 8-10 if you can).

Your venue may help you figure this out, but if you're setting up the room yourself, you should leave about 60" between tables on all sides to allow guests and staff members to get through once guests are seated for the meal.

Some brides and grooms like to name their tables after places that are special to them, or favorite __'s (fill in the blank).  This is a really nice idea in theory, but can be very confusing. If you do this, you should either use a table number in collaboration with the name or you should provide a seating chart for your guests to check before they go into the reception venue so they know where to find their table.
Try to make guests feel comfortable by offering a mix of familiar and new faces at a table. It's nice to meet new people, but guests will be most comfortable around people they already know. Generally, putting families together, coworkers together, college (and/or high school) friends together, etc. goes a long way.

When your seating game is at a standstill, you can use your seating chart powers to introduce people with similar interests, backgrounds, etc. Try and sort based on the guests' relationship to you and your betrothed, and place similar connections together. 

Tip from my hubby: Don't drive yourself too crazy. People will get along no matter what and will be happy to be there celebrating with you.  They'll find things to talk about and have a good time.
Interesting Side Note: There are a LOT more pictures online of stressed out brides than stressed out grooms. Ladies- if you're feeling stressed, consult with your guy.  He should be able to help, and if he can't, at least you can be stressed together :p

If your parents are divorced/remarried, you can have a table where each parent heads and is surrounded by their own posse.  It's okay to have multiple parent tables on each side, and is not uncommon. If they do not get along, consider placing one parent at the top of that side of the room, and the other at the bottom.  If one parent is sitting at the bridal table (some brides and grooms sit with their parents for dinner), then all parents should be included.

Kids' Seating Considerations: You can either place kids together at a kids' table or seat them with parents. Up to you. If you do go with a kids' table, try to place it close to at least a few of the parents or have someone assigned to supervise. Young children should be seated with parents even if there is a kids' table in place. Consider asking your venue to substitute champagne for shirley temples for the kids, and they should already be removing wine glasses from children's place settings. For more kiddie considerations, check out my Weddings and Kids...Yes, No, Maybe So post.

Assign Tables or Specific Seats? Assigning guests to tables- but not specific seats- is the norm these days and is totally fine.  Guests can figure out their places at the table once they get there.

Consider asking your parents, closest family members and friends for some input. They may prefer to sit with someone you hadn't thought of.

Place guests who will be ready to get the party started close to the dance floor!

If your college buddies will be drinking, consider placing their table away from families with young children (and near the bathroom?)

Try not to create an entire 'singles' table, a table of newlyweds with just a couple singletons, or a table of almost-alcoholics with your non-drinking, chill friend. Try not to place exes together, unless you know that it's okay with both of them.

Elderly guests, disabled guests and pregnant guests may appreciate being close to the restrooms.  Anyone with hearing difficulty will want to be in a place where they can see and hear speeches, but not too close to the music.  If you know that a guest is pregnant (and okay sharing the news with her table) and champagne/wine will be served, perhaps you can request a shirley temple instead, and no wine glass. If a disabled guest does not need a chair because he/she has a wheelchair, you should inform the venue in advance.

You'll undoubtedly have some guests that will be less obvious placement-choices. Consider spreading them all around the room, as opposed to putting them all together.

Don't forget your cake table and gift table! Usually a small table placed near the head table or sweetheart table, the cake is displayed until it is cut and served. You may have a gift table for gifts or just for your cards. It should be in a safe location far away from any entrances/exits that is easy to see by any guest.

If you're having a smaller, less formal wedding reception, you do have the option of not going with a seating plan and letting guests seat themselves. You might want to save a few tables for elderly guests. You'll also want to have more chairs than guests. 

*Dietary Preferences- There will be another post about this eventually, but for now it should suffice to say that if any of your guests have specific dietary preferences or allergies, you should notify your venue/caterer in advance.

It is likely that your venue's servers will not only be serving the food, but also serving as the host(ess) to your guests while you enjoy your big day! Equip them with any information 
that they may need to provide the best experience 
to your friends and family members.  

Once you have your seating chart all figured all, you can go ahead and find a way to tell guests where they'll be sitting. Whether you use a printed seating chart or escort/place cards is up to you, as long as they can read it and find their way to their tables. Place card post coming soon!

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