Roll up your sleeves, pour yourself a glass of wine, and unfurl those eyebrows — it’s time to create a wedding seating chart.
Even couples who positively love the wedding planning process — those who wish they could get married 23 times over just to relive it — take a few shallow breaths at the mention of the seating chart. Those two words pose a laundry list of follow-up questions, from the standard, “Do the bride’s and groom’s parents sit together?” to the more family-specific, “Did Uncle Harry ever get over his beef with cousin Laura?”
So pull out the spreadsheets (we prefer digital over paper sticky notes) and call in reinforcements (your wedding planner, mom, or mother-in-law-to-be for starters), because you have a wedding reception to plan.
And since we love wedding planning at every stage — from sending your save-the-dates and wedding invitations to your cocktail hour — we’ll do our best to guide you through the process. Below, we’ll dive into a step-by-step guide on how to plan your wedding seating chart.
How to Create a Wedding Seating Chart: A 5-Step Process
As soon as the RSVPs come in (which we’d love to help you with, by the way), you can start mapping out the place settings for your reception. In the process, you’ll decide where you and your soon-to-be-life partner wish to sit, along with your wedding party, family, and friends.
Below, we’ll lay out how we approach wedding seating arrangements. Feel free to approach the below steps with a little elbow grease and an Excel sheet, or you can use an online seating tool. Allseated and Social Tables both offer free ways to map your seating chart online before your big day.
Step 1: Work With Your Vendors
Before you start arranging seats, take a step back. You need to determine how many people can fit at each table and how you’ll arrange tables within the reception space.
For buffet-style dining, you may be in the clear — guests can seat themselves. However, for served dining, or allowing guests to order from a small menu, a wedding seating chart is highly recommended. After all, it would be difficult for your servers to match food choices to your guests without one.
Each wedding venue has a unique floor plan which will influence how you arrange each table. As you plan your table arrangements, remember to leave space for a DJ, dance floor, florist, wedding photographer, bar area, dessert table, or other treats and attractions. Be sure to work with your venue when arranging tables, as they may have plenty of wedding seating chart ideas from past receptions.
Once you’ve made a generic floor plan for your reception, you’ll need to decide your table shapes. If you’re working with a venue or caterer, your wedding table shapes may already be decided for you. Reception seating usually comes in three viable options: round tables, oval tables, and rectangular tables.
Step 2: Seat Yourselves and Your Wedding Party
Once you’ve arranged your tables, it’s time to assign your wedding guests to specific tables. But before you tackle your entire guest list, you’ll want to decide where (and how) you, the happy couple, wishes to be seated.
If you choose to include a head table, you’ll dine with the rest of your bridal party (and their plus-ones, if space allows).
There are a few different approaches to a head table: First, you could sit in one long row facing your other guests (one side of the table is empty). Here, the bridesmaids typically sit on the “bride’s side,” and the groomsmen sit on the “groom’s side.” Secondly, you could create a king’s table, in which the wedding party sits around one long, rectangular table at the center of the room.
Otherwise, if you and your future-forever wish to make a sweetheart table, you can sit together, just the two of you. In this case, you’ll have a separate table for the rest of your wedding party and their dates.
Step 3: Focus on Your Families
Next, you’ll want to decide where to seat your families, starting with the parents.
If all parents get along and want to celebrate side-by-side (literally), then you can seat them together. However, more often than not, you’ll seat the two sets of parents at separate tables equally distant from the happy couple.
If you have more than two sets of parents or have family dynamics that pose a few hurdles, then remember that this is your wedding day — and therefore, you make the rules. The goal of a seating arrangement is to create an environment in which everyone can feel comfortable and celebrate. If you need to make several tables of family members, mixed between aunts, uncles, grandparents, parents, and step-parents, then go ahead and do so.
And remember: It never hurts to ask. Rather than guessing where your parents would like to sit, simply ask whom they would like at their table. Your parents might request to sit with lifelong friends rather than family members — remember, it’s also their party.
Step 4: Divide Your Wedding Guests into Groups
With family matters checked off your list, it’s time to seat the remaining wedding guests. To tackle this project, we recommend sorting your guests’ last names in alphabetical order, then dividing them into groups. For example, you could create separate tables for college friends, friends from different social activities, family friends, or high school friends.
Once you divide your guests into groups, assign everyone a table number. Remember to leave space at each table for plus-ones and dates. Here’s the good news: You don’t have to give specific seating assignments for each table. Instead, you can leave place cards with each guest’s name at the entrance to the reception, which they can carry to their respective table where they choose their seats.
Step 5: Think of Special Circumstances
When assigning table numbers, you might want to consider a few special circumstances. Do you want a separate kids’ table? Do you want to play matchmaker with a singles table (just try not to embarrass your sweet friends)? And lastly, where will you seat last-minute guests who text an RSVP the week of your wedding?
Again, if a certain table assignment stumps you, it never hurts to ask. Save yourself the time and energy and simply call or text friends to ask about their seating preferences.
A Wedding Seating Chart Is Just a Tool for Celebration
We understand mapping a wedding seating chart can be stressful. Therefore, we want to leave you with this:
Every guest in attendance is there to support you. They care more about you — and about expressing their love for you — than where they sit at the reception. While planning a wedding seating chart can feel like a giant, unsolved puzzle, it shouldn’t stress or frustrate you.
No matter where your guests wind up sitting, they will still snap photos, mingle, and dance the night away at your reception. Your wedding seating plan helps spark conversations and a celebratory atmosphere. Therefore, creating a seating chart should be a fun experience.
While we can’t help draft your actual wedding seating chart, we can help with the RSVP process. With Greenvelope, guests can RSVP in one simple click, giving you as much time as possible to map out seating arrangements.
And if we could reach through our computer screens and pour you a nice glass of red while you piece together your seating chart, we totally would.