Which Seat Can I Take? Seating Chart

Woo Tuesday post!  I hope everyone had a great Memorial Day weekend.  Tim was out to visit so we could (attempt to) wrap up some of the last wedding bits, including figuring out seating…

I take back what I said about trying to get RSVPs in being the most frustrating part of the end of the wedding planning process.  Setting up table assignments is the new reigning champ.

60-some sticky notes + blank wall = seating setup

There are 3 ways you can go about seating at the reception, and which you use depends on your formality level as well as your setup: assign seats, assign tables and let the guests choose their seats at said table, or allow a free for all.  It may be obvious to you which method you want to use, but just in case you’re not quite sure, here’s a handy guide to help you!

Assigned Seats

This method is typically reserved for very formal, black-tie type affairs, but can also be used just for giggles (although since it is the most work it’s probably not the option you want to use “for giggles”) or when someone has a dysfunctional family and you need to keep certain people separated.  Here you will decide who sits next to who, as well as who sits near who when other tables are right behind them.  With all the planning involved here, there are quite a number of ways this can make you want to tear your hair out.  This is the least flexible option if you unexpectedly have guests show up, and it requires a knowledge of everyone’s relationships with each other.  You may not know Sue and Zoe had a fight recently and wouldn’t mind having to sit at the same table but will kill each other if they have to sit side-by-side.  Likewise, maybe you do know that, and now you can make sure they’re not only at the same table, but that they’re at opposite corners of their respective tables.

If you decide to assign seats, a name card should be placed at the table at the seat where you expect that guest to sit.  To get the guest to the right table, you can either provide a list near your venue entrance that lists each guest and their table number (do it alphabetically to help your guests out; don’t make lists of “Table 1”, “Table 2” and so forth!) or have escort cards setup at the entrance that lists each person’s name and table number to guide them to their spot (these escort cards can be identical to the name cards on the table, or similar, or even completely different, it’s up to you!).

Be aware some people won’t get the hint and will still trade spots with other guests.  Actually, most people will probably trade spots.  I’ve never seen a wedding with assigned seats where people stayed put.  If you’ve set up your caterer in such a way that people staying in their places is paramount, have some kind of plan in place to either encourage people to stay still (sometimes even a sign that says “until your dinner is served we ask that you remain in your specified seat to make things easier for our catering staff” will do the trick) or a plan for dealing with any confusion that results from moved places.

Assigned Tables

This is the most common seating method as it’s a compromise between what is easiest for you and what is easiest for the guests.  This gives everyone an idea where to go, but lets them set themselves up at each table.  This is a great option for semi-formal to casual affairs that have plated or family style meals as it gives the catering staff definite numbers of where to take things.  You will assign your guests to specific table numbers, but what seat they take is up to them (so don’t invite Rebecca Black).

If your wedding is on a Friday, you’re pretty much screwed.

Similar to the assigned seats method, at the entrance to the reception you should either have individual (escort) cards for each person with their table number on it or a chart that lists each person and their assigned table.  Name cards at the tables are unnecessary; meal selections can be indicated on the escort cards that people will use to find their table.


This is best reserved for casual buffet events.  This requires no work on your part other than making sure there are enough chairs and table spaces for every butt.  It is up to the guests to seat themselves, which both allows them to sit with whoever they want, but can also create some chaos if you end up with a stray empty seat here and there and you have a group looking to sit down.  Be aware this is not an option you can utilize if you’re doing the type of dinner where each guest has selected their entrée ahead of time.  It will cause too much confusion for the catering staff.  You can get away with it for family style, so long as what you’re serving isn’t dependent on the number of people at each table.

Here there are no cards and no charts.  It’s literally show up and sit down.  This is great if most of the people you’ve invited all know each other; it discourages cliques to form and encourages active mingling.  Every time someone gets up to get more food/cake/punch/hors d’ouerves they have an excuse to sit down and talk to a new group!

We are doing assigned tables.  We’re doing plated dinners, so we needed something organized like that, but assigning actual seats felt stuffy considering how laid back everything else is.  What are you doing?


Posted on May 29, 2012, in Guest List, Misc. Topics (Wedding), Reception, Wedding Planning Isn't For Sissies and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. We’re having a casual wedding at a farm with a buffet dinner, so no seating charts for me – yay! I can hardly decide where I’m going to sit half the time, so deciding even what tables each guest will be at would be way too much for me.

  2. We’re having a buffet for dinner but our caterer specifically requested that we assign tables so booooo… gotta get that going eventually. We decided that our table centerpieces will include a spiky cactus that can then hold up the table numbers. Ahahahaha… 😉

  3. I am so happy that we decided to do assigned seating! Even though it was a casual wedding, all of the guests seemed to have a better time because there was no mad dash to find seats. It can be stressful but here are a few tips that helped me: http://blog.socialtables.com/5-seating-arrangement-tips 🙂

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