How To Make A Seating Chart For Your Wedding Reception

A simple how to guide for making a seating chart for your wedding reception, including how to plan the bridal table and how to seat hard to place guests.

Developing a formal seating chart for your wedding reception can be tiresome and confusing, but a large wedding without one can be uncomfortable and even more confusing for your guests.As a general rule of thumb, if your wedding has less than 20 guests, if everyone attending knows at least 10 other people, or if the reception hall will boast more chairs than tables and a sit down buffet, then you don't need a seating chart.If none of the above apply to your situation, you do need one.

When making your seating chart, a pad of paper and a pencil will do, but you might want to consider writing each guests name on a slip of paper and moving your symbolic guests from pile to pile.You're going to be changing your mind at least once, and possibly numerous times.When done, staple each "table" together, and throw it in a baggie.As your wedding day approaches, and you're confident it's too late for anyone to try backing out of their RSVP, bring the baggie back out and review your decisions.It will surprise you how many of your friends will go from single to part of a couple (or visa versa) in as little as a month.

The Bridal Table

A formal bridal table at the reception is just that: formal.For a more laid back get together, you can usually abandon this tradition, but if you enjoy the formality and tradition around weddings you will want a bridal table.

Traditional etiquette places the newlyweds in the center of the table, with the groom to the bride's right and the best man to her left.The maid of honor sits opposite the best man, on the groom's right.If the table is large enough, you can place the other maid's beside the maid of honor and the other groom's men beside the best man, but remember that you will be separating them from their spouses and dates for the evening if you do this.For receptions where the attendants aren't close friends, you might want to consider scattering the attendants to other tables, and placing their significant other beside the maid of honor and the best man.

If you are skipping the bridal table, but don't want to dilute tradition, consider the more modern custom of leaving a space open at each table for the groom and bride to circulate and converse with their guests throughout the night.If you do this, just make sure you are committed to circulating, and aren't going to mortally offend your least favorite cousin by visiting every table but hers.

Parents and Family

For still-married parents and a close family, it is common to reserve a second table near the bridal table for them.Place parent sets opposite each other and add in grandparents or other close family members to fill the table.This is also an excellent place to seat clergy, DJ, or organist (if they're also a close friend of the family).

For divorced parents, or when the groom's parents don't hit it off with the bride's parents, have each parent or set of parents host their own table.Assign your mother one table, with her friends and close family, and your father another.Just be sure not to seat some parents at the bridal table, but not others (even step-parents).No matter how laid back the parent normally is, this can lead to hurt feelings or silent resentment.

Children

A children's table can be a great stress reliever for parents and the other wedding guests, but also a potential mess.Make sure the parents of the children are seated nearby, or slip your preteen niece a 20 to make sure nothing gets too out of hand.

Another option is to seat children with their parents.If there are fewer than four children attending, this is the most convenient course, and not particular disruptive to your guests.Make sure you don't seat a family at the same table as your crass friends from college, or your uncle who hates any children, and you should be fine.If multiple families brought their children, however, the children can quickly disrupt the conversations and enjoyment of your guests which just want to mingle a bit and have fun.If you're looking at more than 6 children at the reception, you might want to bite the bullet and find supervision for a children's table (or two).

Everyone Else

A party where you meet no one new is dull, one where you know no one is intimidating, and one where you dislike everyone is just miserable.Head off these potential problems by trying to follow these general rules for each table (assuming a table of 6):

1 to 2 married or dating couples

2 to 4 singles

At least 2 to 3 people they already know

Most wedding receptions will have 4 to 6 identifiable cliques (groom's friends, groom's family, office friends, bride's friends, bride's family).Only try to combine 2, or at most 3, cliques per table.Don't feel stretched to put someone from each clique at every table.

Potential Problems

Children - Seat them with people you know love children.Don't assume that every couple who has children themselves is going to enjoy sitting near a child, but in an emergency it's better than seating them with spinster aunts.

People you've never met - If you don't know them, someone must.Your husband can jot down who is who, or (even better) your mother-in-law can create the seating chart for the tables for her side of the family.

The inseparable group - It might be the guys from the groom's soccer team, the girls from the bride's office, or the sisters from new jersey that do everything together, but make sure you give them a whole table or a half a table, and nothing in between.Leaving one person from the group to fend for themselves would be rude and uninclusive.Seating one person, or a couple, at a table full of laughing best buds where they won't get the in-jokes is another form of punishment best avoided at receptions.

The long distance friend who only knows you (and isn't in the wedding party) - If she's going to be in town for a few days before hand, invite her to the rehearsal dinner and seat her with someone you think she'll get along with that will be there.If that's not possible, try to scoot over to her table as the reception starts and introduce her around.At last resort, call one of her extroverted tablemates before-hand and mention that she enjoys reading or her daughter's team just won a tee-ball tournament.

The handicapped - These guests aren't a problem in the same way that an annoying sister is, but they might need a little extra consideration.Make sure to drop them a note asking if there's anything you might overlook (such as extra space needed or alternative menu options) well before the reception.

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