Putting together a seating chart begins with deciding whether or not to have one. There’s a reason so many weddings employ the use of a solid seating arrangement, so make sure you think through your reasoning before abandoning the idea altogether. Seating charts add a level of cohesiveness to your day that ties your reception together and takes some stress off of your guests. Weddings of any significant size without a seating chart tend to feature guests milling about, isolated satellite groupings and large families dragging 20 chairs around a 10-person table. If you want to avoid all of that, here are a few organizational tips:
Scope out the Venue
Before you think about table assignments, you need to now how your venue arranges reception seating. If you’re hosting a smaller gathering, the venue may not have 10 or even 8 person round tables. You will either need to push a few tables together or plan accordingly! Communicate with your venue and learn about your seating options. As soon as you can, draw up a crude map of how your venue will look come game time. You will need it as you plan out your seating arrangements!
Make a Map
Mapping out your venue and the available seats with something interactive and visual will really help with the charting process. If you are comfortable with technology, you can draw up a map with something as simple as MS Paint. For the rest of us, I find that a solid hand-drawn map with little sticky notes works just fine. Write the names of your guests on your sticky notes, and – using a crude drawn mockup of how the reception space will look – arrange your guests in a few different ways, noting relationships, tensions and the individual preferences of your guests. Play with a few floor plans before committing the final decisions to ink.
There are a few ways to let your guests know where they will be sitting. Escort cards are the most popular, and are a fun way to distribute favors and set up an aesthetically pleasing welcome table. You can also set up a chalkboard or other stylish poster with the table assignments on them. Many couples have found creative ways to display guest table assignments without the use of escort cards. Some couples choose to designate individual seat assignments to their guests, but they will largely be ignored. It seems you can lead a guest to a table, but you can’t make them sit.