Putting together a seating chart begins with deciding whether or not to have one. There’s a reason so many weddings use a solid seating arrangement, so make sure you think through your reasoning before abandoning one. Weddings without a seating chart tend to feature guests milling about, one or two shy outsiders, and large groups of sorority sisters dragging a dozen chairs around a 6-person table. If you want to avoid the worries and woes of open seating, here are a few organizational tips to get you started:
Escort cards are the most popular way to alert your guests to their table assignments, and are a fun way to distribute favors and set up a fun and stylish welcome table. You can also set up a sophisticated wall hanging or poster with the table assignments on them. Many couples have found creative ways to display guest table assignments without the use of escort cards. Some couples choose to designate individual seat assignments to their guests (by way of smaller escort cards or menu inserts), but – if my previous experiences are any indication — they will largely be ignored.
Before you think about table assignments, you need to now how your venue arranges reception seating for groups of your particular size. Usually, they know the flow of a room. If you’re hosting a smaller gathering, the venue may not have 10 or even 8-person round tables. Plan accordingly! Communicate with your venue and learn about your seating options. If you want to negotiate a change, listen to their advice against it carefully. Once you’re satisfied with the result, draw up a crude map of how your venue will look come the big day. You will need this map as you plan out your seating arrangements.
This may seem silly, but mapping out your venue and the available seats with something interactive and visual will really help with the charting process. I find that a solid hand-drawn map with little sticky notes with scribbled names works just fine. Write the names of your guests on your sticky notes, and – using a crude drawn mockup of how the reception space will look – arrange your guests in a few different ways, noting relationships, familial tensions, and the individual preferences of your guests. Some couples choose to color coordinate their guests to make sure that they are seating an appropriate mix of backgrounds at each table, but you know your guests better than I do! Play with a few floor plans before committing the final decisions to ink and paper.