For some reason I had a hard time wrapping my head around ANYTHING having to do with wedding seating. I had a mental block the way I do when I think about geometry…which basically meant if my wedding were a high school class I might not have passed!
But thankfully I did, and I finally got to the root (math pun!) of the problem. Here’s a few things that helped me figure our wedding seating out.
First things first, you’ll want to know the basic wedding seating terms:
These are used to tell guests which table they’re at, and are typically placed near the reception entrance. These have your guests names (either the full name(s) of a single guest, couple, or invitee plus guest) and their assigned table number. Here’s a few examples:
Mr. and Mrs. Steve Jones
Mark Green & Julie Fredericks
We hired a calligrapher to write each guest’s name and table number on plain cards for our wedding, but if a site like Minted had been around at that time I would have 1,000% went with one of their great designs.
For instance, Minted offers flat or folded escort cards and place cards to to match your Minted wedding invitation suite. Or, you can choose a complimentary design. To help narrow down the perfect look, you can filter by printing type, style, color, and even your venue type.
They also offer free guest printing with a great collection of fonts, including script. Considering I paid over $1/each for calligraphy on our escort cards, this savings can definitely add up.
If you do opt to go with escort cards vs. a seating chart (more on that, below) you can have fun with the different display options. For instance we chose to attach each person’s escort card to a single rose in a wooden box covered with moss (pictured here). You can also choose a simple yet chic holder like the ones Minted offers.
Like escort cards, the main goal of a seating chart is to let guests know which table number they’re at. Couples have gotten really creative with their wedding seating chart designs, using everything from vintage mirrors and acrylic boards to beautiful boards like these from Minted. I love how Minted lets you continue your invitation and wedding website design throughout so many of their products. In fact, their seating charts are each crafted from independent designers who have won a design challenge, so you have such a great selection to choose from. Ranging in price from $75-$100, they’re an affordable, modern option that supports the artists we love.
If you want to have assigned seating (vs. just assigned tables) then you’ll need place cards. These are used at each place setting to inform guests which seat is theirs. While it will be a bit more work figuring out exactly where you want guests to sit at a table, I happen to love weddings with assigned seats. There’s something nice about knowing where you’ll sit, and it also eliminates any awkwardness with guests that might need to be near or far from each other, or if there are three or more people who need to sit next to each other (like a family).
OK, now that you know the difference between escort cards, seating charts, and place cards, you’ll need to figure out who sits where!
How to Figure Out Your Wedding Seating:
As soon as your RSVP’s start rolling in you’ll want to finalize your seating chart. While a wedding planner can definitely help you out with this, it’s really going to come down to you and your parents weighing in on who should sit where. But let’s start with the other details first:
What size/shape tables do you want?
Depending on the size and shape of your tables, you’ll want to work with your caterer/wedding venue to determine not only how many tables the room can fit, but how many people can be seated at each table. While the pandemic has changed this a bit, a good rule of thumb is to make sure tables are 60″ away from each other and 30″ from a wall. And don’t worry, you don’t have to be an architect to map out the dimensions. Just ask your venue and/or caterer how many tables can typically fit in the space and what your options are.
Below are typical guidelines for table sizes. And just remember: It’s always better to err on the lower end of the maximum capacity so people don’t feel cramped!
- 6’ (rectangular) : 6-8 (depending on whether you use the ends of the table)
- 8’: 8-10 (depending on whether you use the ends of the table)
- 30″ (round): up to 4
- 48″: up to 6
- 54″: 6-8
- 60″: 8-10
- 66″: 9-11
- 72″: 10-12
OK. Now where should people sit?
Once you know how many tables you’ll have and how many people they can seat, you’ll want to start assigning guests to each. While there is wedding software out there that allows you to do this, I’m a fan of a good old sheet of paper and pencil. You can also write each table number on a sheet of paper and write guests names on sticky page markers so you can move them around. Or, you can start a Google/Excel sheet and have each column be a table number and copy/paste guests from your guest list into each.
TIP: Create a Minted wedding website and take advantage of their universal guest list feature. It’s a great way to not only keep track of RSVPs, but to address your Minted invites and escort/place cards.
Let’s start with where you and your partner should sit. If you know you want a sweetheart table (a table for just the two of you ) then you’ve got that one checked off the list. Otherwise you’ve got a couple options. We chose to sit at a a round family table in the middle of the room with our parents and other relatives. Remember that you’ll want whatever table you sit at near the center of the room and easily accessible for guests who want to come over and say hi.
Here is what our family table looked like:
Uncles No. 1 and 2 (Bride)
Note that our siblings, cousins and their spouses all sat at a different table, along with our groomsmen and bridesmaids and their partners. Since we had 12 people in our wedding party, it would have been impossible otherwise.
We also come from blended families, which meant we had my husband’s mom and stepmom at the same table. The bottom line is you should do what feels most comfortable for you, your partner, and your families when it comes to who sits where. Obviously it’s important to take everybody’s feelings and relationships into consideration when planning a seating chart. But chances are everybody will just be happy to be there and won’t really care WHERE they’re sitting. And if they do, hand them another glass of wine and give them a hug! 🙂
Other Wedding Seating Arrangements Include…
Bridal Table: This table would seat the wedding couple and their attendants. Or, depending on the size of the table, the couple and maid of honor and best man and their significant others.
Family Tables: The couple’s parents can sit together along with officiants, grandparents, and other close friends or family members. Each set of parents can also “host” close friends and family members at their own tables.
Friend Tables: It’s usually best to seat groups of friends together that are close, but it’s also OK to add in couples or other single guests whom you think will get along with one another.
Kids: If there are several kids in attendance, you’ll want to create a separate kids tables. If you only have 1 or 2 you’ll want to seat them with their parents.
Don’t Forget Your Table Numbers!
Your table numbers are going to be the first thing your guests see, so don’t leave them to the last minute! Minted offers a beautiful selection of table numbers (most with matching invitation suites) to display in a wide variety of paper types, such as their Signature, Premium 100% Recycled, or Pearlescent Paper for the folded option. They also offer DoubleThick or Luxe Museum Board for the flat option. With free double-sided printing, you can choose text, photo, or pattern backers as well. Don’t forget to add a matching holder or standing picture frame to complete the look.
A few tips to keep in mind:
Always seat couples together, and take guests’ disabilities into consideration. For example, you’ll want to seat a guest near an exit if they frequently need to get up, or in a quieter area of the room away from the music if they are hard of hearing.
Keep in mind that while this part of the planning process will most likely be taking place in the home stretch when there are a million details to put together, IT WILL GET DONE. Once your final guest tally comes in, get together with your partner and take these steps along with input from your parents and it will be done before you know it! I promise.
Have any wedding planning questions? Leave them in the comment section below and we’ll be sure to answer them!