Seating Your Wedding Guests: Open Seating or Assigned Tables?

Posted by on Aug 17, 2016 | 0 comments

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Open Seating

Open seating at weddings means there are no table or seat assignments. Guests will enter the reception room and choose a seat at any table.

Open seating may seem as if it would be fun and spontaneous for your guests, but you don’t want your guests to feel stranded without somewhere welcoming to sit, or rushed into claiming their seats. With open seating, it will take longer for your guests to seat themselves. If you choose to have open seating, I would highly suggest having at least one extra table for every 100 guests or at least 4-6 extra place settings (per 100 guests) than the expected guest count. This allows the last guests who enter the reception room to find seats together and avoid any awkwardness.

Assigned Tables

Many couples have assigned tables for their guests. The bride and groom create a seating chart or provide escort cards that assign a specific table for guests to sit at. For example, a seating chart would have the name of each guest with a table name or table number listed next to the guest’s name. The guest would go to that specific table and choose a seat.

A Wedding Planner’s Recommendation

As a wedding planner, I encourage clients to assign tables. I recommend you use table numbers and escort cards and plan a seating chart for your wedding guests. Guests will feel more comfortable knowing where they are going to sit. Having a well-thought-out seating plan helps avoid the “running of the bulls” moment or a mini family feud as guests scramble for their seats.

Figuring out where to seat guests is probably one of the hardest tasks of planning your wedding. And you are the one who has to do it, since it would be difficult for a wedding planner to assign guest tables or seats, since we don’t know the relationship you have with your guests or the relationship they have with one another. It may be much easier to just have open seating, but it will be well worth your time and effort to assign tables and make a seating chart.

Your main goal is to make sure your guests are as comfortable as possible and are having a good time. A well-planned seating chart can help you accomplish this.

Seating Chart Tips

Make a seating chart according to your venue. For help, you can go to theknot.com and weddingwire.com; they both have great online charts you can use. You can also do it the old-fashioned way, and just get a large poster board and Post-it Notes, draw out a diagram of your venue (your venue can often provide one for you), and then label each table with a number. You will need to know how many seats will go at each table, and then start putting names to each table with the Post-it Notes.

Start early. You can always start to put your seating chart together as your RSVPs start to come in. If you know which guests are definitely going to be at the wedding (e.g., immediate family, the wedding party), you can start early with those people and then add the others as your RSVP cards arrive. Or if you prefer, you can always just wait until you get all your RSVP cards to start your seating chart.

Know the difference between escort cards and place cards. Escort cards tell your guests which table they are sitting at (e.g., “Mr. & Mrs. Ken Smith Table No. 1”) and are usually placed just outside the reception room entrance. A place card assigns your guest to a specific table and seat at that table; the place card is to be placed directly on the table at the guest’s actual place setting. If guests have chosen a specific dinner entrée on their RSVP card, their entrée choice is often shown on the place card with a small icon or a specific color. The catering staff will use this information to serve the correct dinner choice to guests. Place cards are not necessary, though, and another thing to keep in mind is that they don’t always allow your guests to sit by who they want to sit by at their table.

Assigning seats. When you sit down to make your seating chart, try to seat guests at a table with at least one person they know or with people they may have something in common with. Avoid putting a single guest at a table with all married couples. Try to put college friends together, uncles and aunts together, and so on. Always be aware of who you are putting in the corners, the back of the room, close to the bride and groom’s table, and near the band or DJ.

If you are having children at your wedding, make sure they are close to the dance floor and with their parents or an adult.  You can seat children together for everyone’s benefit, but make sure they are under adult supervision. A great idea is to give small children something to entertain themselves with at the reception tables (e.g., coloring books, crayons, stickers). Get creative and give them a small box or bag of goodies to help entertain them during the wedding. Try to stay away from food items such as crackers or cookies that can make a big mess, or any kind of candy or food containing lots of sugar.

And one more word of advice: don’t tell anyone their assigned seats before the wedding; let them be surprised!

Happy planning!

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