On Assigning Seats

Posted by rnewton on Aug 13, 2009

At most wedding dinners, tables – but not seats – are assigned; escort cards will guide you to your table and you will grab any empty seat  And, if you are like 98% of wedding guests, your significant other will flank you. (note: escort cards, of which you will need one for each couple, will tell you your table number, place cards will guide you to your specific seat.)

I am often asked if seats should also be assigned.  In many cases, and especially with smaller weddings, my answer is an enthusiastic yes.  Presuming that you will not seat guests next to their significant others, here is why I like it:

  • Your guests will feel compelled to be charming and witty to each person at their side, not just the one they don’t already know, making for an immensely more vibrant table.  It’s hard to understate this fact; it’s not uncommon to see a table of couples acting as if they were each at their own private two-top.  You can prevent this from happening, and in so doing double your wedding’s charm and wit factor!

  • It’s a great way of making introductions – people will talk to the people they are seated next to, “I’m thrilled that Joan seated us together, we have so much in common!”  Take advantage of this to make significant and relevant introductions.
  • The effort you put into a seating plan will be obvious to and appreciated by your guests.
  • Last but not least, assigned seats add a degree of elegance to the occasion.
But, as with all good things, reality can intrude.  Most of all, a full seating plan is a lot of work, and you can’t complete it until the RSVP’S are in.  So here are some reasons not to bother with assigned seats:

  • Don’t assign seats if you feel compelled to seat couples together. Sit together is what couples will do naturally, so why go to all the effort if the results won’t be any different?
  • Don’t assign seats if you have territorial or extreme territorial seating (TS is when the groom’s family is on one side of the room and the bride’s on the other.  Extreme takes it further, with entire families at the same table.)  In that case, everyone already knows everyone else at their table, so just let them fend for themselves.
  • Don’t assign seats if you don’t want to incur the added cost; in addition to the escort cards, you will need a place card (with calligraphy) for each guest.
  • Don’t assign seats if you don’t have the time to do it right.

As a general rule, and notwithstanding the above exceptions, I prefer assigned seats when fewer than 80 guests are expected, especially if the wedding is black tie, or when the focus is more on dining and conversation than dance, as is often the case at luncheons.

The way you choose to handle seating at your wedding will impact your guests in a lot of ways, so please give the decision fair consideration.