For a lot of couples putting together the seating chart for their wedding is one of the most dreaded tasks of the planning process. And it certainly doesn’t help that you can’t work on it ahead of time, because you have to wait until all of your RSVP’s are in. But fear not! I have broken down this overwhelming task into some small, manageable steps. You can do this!
1. Plan ahead when ordering your invitations and response cards.
When you order your invitations, you will want to make sure your RSVP date is scheduled earlier than the date your final head count is due to any of your vendors (your venue and caterer in particular). This way if some people fail to RSVP on time (there’s always at least a few!) you will have time to contact them and confirm whether or not they will be coming and still have time to put your seating chart together. I usually recommend setting the RSVP date for 3-4 weeks prior to the wedding.
2. Confirm your table sizes.
You will need to check with the venue or rental company to make sure you know how many guests can fit at each dining table. Depending on the size of the tables, there will be a suggested number of guests that will fit comfortably and an absolute max number of guests that will fit (which might be a little tight, but is sometimes necessary). This will come into play because even if the table normally seats 8, you might be able to fit a 9th person in if you have a group of 9 people you would like to seat together.
3. Decide where you and your fiancé will sit.
Many couples do a traditional head table and sit with their entire bridal party (facing out towards the guests), while some opt for a King’s Table or a sweetheart table instead. Some also invite the bridal party’s dates to join them at the head table. And I’ve also seen some couples opt for something completely different and sit at a table with their families. It’s your wedding day, so you can choose what best suits you and the style of your wedding. Typically you want to be in a fairly central location that can be easily seen by all of the guests. You will also want to choose a place with a nice looking backdrop for photos.
4. Start dividing your guest list into smaller sections.
Once you have your complete guest list, I would recommend starting with the most obvious groups first and make individual lists for each one. For example: immediate family, work friends, school friends, and any groups that are large enough to be their own table. These are the easiest because they are no-brainers. Keep in mind, you don’t have to fill each table. For example, you can have a few tables of 7, some with 8, and some with 9 and that’s ok. You may need to ask your parents for help in determining which of their friends and relatives should be seated together.
After grouping together the obvious groups, this is where it often gets a little tricky, because you start to end up with smaller groups of people who don’t know each other. But at this point, your list will be narrowed down, so that helps a lot. I would suggest listing them out in smaller groups (couples or groups of 3-4 people) so you can easily match a few together to fill up a table. Think about who might get along well or have similar interests if possible.
5. Lay out the room.
Once you have divided all of your guests into groups according to your table size, you can start to figure out where they will sit throughout the room. Most venues can provide you with a room diagram (either blank or filled in with the number of tables for your guest count). I recommend starting with immediate family and parent tables, because those should be the closest to where you and your fiancé will be sitting. From there, other close relatives and close friends should be the next closest. If you have some college or work friends that you know wouldn’t mind sitting close to the bar, put them there (they will love it!). Know some guests that love to dance? Put them closer to the dance floor.
6. Assign table numbers.
Now you can number each group to correspond with the tables on the diagram. It doesn’t matter too much how you number your tables, but keeping them in numerical order (as much as possible) is helpful when your guests are looking around for their table. You might opt to name your tables something creative instead, and in that case it doesn’t really matter. Make sure to provide a copy of the final layout including the table numbers/names to your venue, caterer, and wedding planner. You will also need to let them know how many chairs should be at each table. This is also a good time to note any guests with allergies so the caterer knows where they will be sitting.
7. Print the place cards or seating chart sign.
Now you can have your place cards or seating chart sign printed. The best way to list the names is alphabetically by last name so guests can find their names quickly (wedding day tip: make sure the place cards are already in alphabetical order for an efficient set up). If you are serving a plated dinner you will need to use place cards with meal indicators for the catering staff. If you are serving a buffet, stations, or family style you can use a seating sign if you prefer.
8. Double and triple check!
During each step of this process, I would advise you to double check that you didn’t miss any of the guests on your list. You would hate for one of your guests to show up without a place card or a place to sit.
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