As the RSVPs roll in, and your approaching wedding begins to feel more and more real by the day, it can be a challenge to enjoy the last months of single-dom. For many brides, one of most frustrating last-minute wedding tasks is the creation of the dreaded seating chart.
Whether you are preparing for 300 guests or 50, deciding who should sit where is definitely not easy. That’s why we asked five top-rated wedding planners from across the U.S. for their advice to help brides as they enter the seating chart ring. With their help, the process doesn’t have to be nearly as painful…and might even be a little bit fun!
Wait until all the RSVPs are in
Sandy Walker, owner of In Awe Weddings & Events, said that the biggest mistake she sees brides make is attempting to create their seating chart months before the RSVP deadline. She finds that brides who try to make the chart based on guesses and assumptions end up more frustrated with the entire process. With each new “happily accepts” and “regretfully declines” that arrives in the mail, the bride has to make unexpected adjustments that add to already high stress levels.
By waiting until every single guest has replied, Walker said that what takes the overeager bride months of corrections and alterations to perfect only actually requires about an hour of a busy couple’s time!
Be honest about who gets along…and who doesn’t
It’s no secret that every family that ever was has a little drama now and then, and some of that drama can create friction during a wedding reception. Kimberley Bentley, owner of Silver Thistle Weddings & Events, said that the best thing a couple nervous about how family members will get along can do is not to force it. If Mom and Dad can’t within ten feet of each other without squabbling, put them at separate tables. If Aunt Jenny and Grandma June will be looking daggers at each other over their wedge salads, put them on opposite ends of the room.
It is tempting to gather all family members together into designated tables, but if doing that would create unnecessary drama, do yourself (and them) a favor and build in a little space.
Use visual aids to lay out the tables
Rather than creating your seating chart using lists and spreadsheets, help yourself to picture the space using visual aids. Heather Allen, president of Table 6 Productions, says they always encourage their clients to buy a large poster board, draw out the tables and then write each guest’s name on a narrow sticky note, placing them around tables based on how many people each table seats. That way, it is easier to see whom each guest will be near. Remember, the person Uncle Jim doesn’t get along with may be behind him.
Bentley, of Silver Thistle Weddings, also said that for brides planning in small apartments or traveling between spaces to plan, using paper plates rather than a poster board can be effective. Label each plate with a table number then place your named sticky notes around the plates. This way you can relocate whole tables if you realize you want a particular group closer to the buffet or the dance floor.
Don’t forget about the dance floor
Speaking of the dance floor, Dana Allison, owner of Keyed Up Events, reminded brides to keep in mind which, if any, tables will be moved to accommodate the latter half of the party. You don’t want to put Great Grandma at a table that is going to disappear halfway through the night. Those seats are best reserved for younger guests who will almost definitely be lighting up the dance floor the moment the music picks up.
She also recommends that the guests placed at those tables should be some of the first served to ensure that they aren’t rushed through their meal or dessert to clear the space.
Stick with table numbers rather than specific seats
And if the idea of creating a seat-by-seat chart still makes your heart race, Lindsey Ritter, owner of Lindsey Mae Events & Designs, feels your pain and encourages you not to stress about the particulars. Rather than dictating the exact seat you want a guest to sit in using pre-placed cards, just assign tables to your guests and let them take it from there!
Seating charts seem big and scary, especially with massive guest counts or uneasy family relationships in the mix, but they don’t have to be! Let these five pieces of advice from experienced wedding planners guide you, making even the preparation of this part of the reception a joyful experience. Happy planning!