How do I arrange seating for my wedding guests?
Deciding who sits with whom requires being tact, being considerate, having diplomacy, and having a sense of adventure. This is similar to a jigsaw puzzle, where you will be putting all the pieces together, one by one.
1). Do I really need assigned seating? Most guests prefer having assigned seating to a table. Unassigned seating sounds great in theory, yet it rarely works out well.
- Do you like going to an event which is “general admission”?
- There may be a “rush” for the best seats.
- Couples may get split up.
- If people turn up who did not RSVP, they may take seats intended for your RSVPed guests.
2). Assigning tables or assigning seats? Guests may be assigned to a table (where they may choose any seat) or assigned to a specific seat. Assigning tables is more common in the United States, where assigning seats is more common in Europe.
3). Obtain a floor plan of your room from your reception site manager. Make photo copies of the floor plan so you may work with the seating arrangements. A few items are critical in the seating placement of your guests, such as placement of your:
- band/DJ (not the best seating placement for your grandparents)
- dance floor (next to your DJ/Band)
- food tables (depending on the type of service you have chosen – sit-down/plated, action stations, or a buffet)
- cake table
- dessert bar or candy bar (not the best seating placement for children)
- number/name your tables (make sure you place Table #1 next to Table #2; if you have “names” for your tables, make sure they are alphabetical beginning with the letter “A” and have the tables in alphabetical order where it makes logical sense [A next to B, next to C, etc.])
4). Know your tables sizes and how many guests fit at each table.
- 36” rounds seat 2-4 people
- 48” rounds seat 4-6 people
- 60” rounds seats 8-10 people
- 66” rounds seat 10 people
- 72” rounds seat 10–12 people
- 4’ banquet seats 4–6 people
- 6’ banquet seats 6–8 people
- 8’ banquet seats 8–10 people
- 36” square seats 4 people
- 48” square seats 8 people
- 60” square seats 10 people
- 72” square seats 12 people
NOTE: If you are having chargers/base plates, you may want to reduce the number of people at each table, since some charges are 13” in diameter.
5). Seating the bride and groom.
- together at a sweetheart table for two
- together with your matron/maid of honor and best man
- together with your matron/maid of honor, best man, and their spouse/guest
- together with your wedding party
- together with your wedding party and their spouse/guest
- together with both sets of parents
6). Seating parents. Traditionally you would have one table for the bride’s family and close friends, and another for the groom’s family. You may want to combine the two tables, yet normally there is an entourage of extended family and friends. When the bride and/or groom’s parents are divorced, and all are in attendance, it is usually not the best idea to seat them together. Hopefully they are amicable, yet the extended family of each may make it difficult logistically to seat them all at one table.
7). The bridal party table. Be creative with your wedding party. Think of how you feel when you attend weddings or events. You may want your wedding party to sit with their spouse, guest, or family. The bridal party table may be a rectangular table set against one side or end of the room. The bride and groom sit at the center of the long side of the table, facing out so guests may see you. No one is seated opposite of the bride and groom. The bride sits on the groom’s right, with the best man on her right; the maid/matron of honor sits on the groom’s left, and the bridesmaids and groomsmen alternate along the same side of the table. If you have a large wedding party, or if you want the spouses/guests of the wedding party to be seated with them, you may want a U-shape table with the bride and groom in the center.
8). Other guest tables. Your basic objective is to make each table as congenial as possible. For couples, try to mix and match while considering their personalities and interests. Try to “fill the table”. If you have a table for 10, try to fill it with 10 guests. It will cost you more money on each table, linen, centerpiece, etc., if you do not fill your tables. Trust your instincts and common sense. If you do not personally know the guest, discuss with your fiancé or the parent which invited that person to assist you in the most logical positioning and grouping. NOTE: Seating a guest at a table where the other guests are close friends may leave the person feeling uncomfortable.
9). Seating children. Younger children are usually seated with their parents. Older children, tweens, or teens enjoy not being seated with their parents. Find out if the child requires a booster seat, high chair, kids' meal, or is okay eating the adult menu. Typically meals for children and vendors are less expensive than your guest price point per person. Find out if your venue is able to accommodate you for the variances is seating the children, you may have to make special rental arrangements.
10). Seating disabled guests. If you have a guest in a wheelchair, you may want to put them close to the entrance doors so they easily may get in and out of the room. You may want to remove the chair for them if they will be seated in their wheelchair. If they would like to be seated in their chair, you may want to move the wheelchair to the side of the room for them. If someone has difficulty walking and has a cane or walker, normally it is easier to place them closer to the entrance doors. A person with impaired hearing or impaired vision may enjoy being placed near the bridal party or opposite of the band/DJ.
11). Seating charts, escort cards, tables numbers, and place cards. Guests will need to know which table they are seated at so they don’t have to walk around to every table to find their place. Place cards are recommended for seated dinners and formal buffets with more than twenty guests. Table numbers with stanchions or frames are placed on each table to display the number or name of the table. Table cards assign a guest to a specific table. Place cards assign a guest to a specific seat at a specific table. The table number of each guest’s table is written on his or her place card. These place cards are in alphabetical order by last name at the reception entrance. For assigned seating at the table, you will need to assign a direction in the room such as “the band is at 12 o’clock”, and seating is clockwise in the room. Make sure you number your floor plan with the appropriate table number or table name, and make sure the reception site has table numbers and table number holders/frames (hopefully their selection will match your décor), otherwise you will need to rent or purchase frames for your table arrangements.
12). Alphabetical list by last name of guest with their table number or table name. Make sure your wedding planner and head captain have your approved floor plan as well as an alphabetical list by last name of the guest with their assigned table number. It is also helpful if you have a table number or table name list with the guests listed under this. You will want to double and triple check this to make sure everyone has a seat.
13). Dietary restrictions. Denote guests who have special dietary restrictions (i.e., lactose intolerant, gluten free, vegetarian, vegan, nut allergies, etc.).
14). Open the doors. Make sure at each entrance you have your wedding planner, a head captain, or a server with a detailed floor plan directing guests to their tables.
Kim M. Horn, MWP
Master Wedding Planner | 1 of 75 in the World
2016 Couples’ Choice Wedding Planner | WeddingWire
June 7, 2020 & January 9-10, 2021
Phoenix Convention Center | South Building
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