Four Essential Etiquette Tips to Keep in Mind as You Create Your Wedding Seating Chart

It's important to get this wedding-planning task done right.

raw edge linen seating chart hanging on tree
Photo: Cassidy Carson Photography

After months (or years!) of planning your dream wedding day, the end is finally near: You're just weeks from the big day and you're finally feeling like you've ironed out every nitty-gritty detail. While that's largely true, there is one more important task on your to-do list, and that's creating the seating chart, which tells guests where they'll sit during the reception. In most cases, it's the couple who creates these table groupings. "In order to communicate those seating assignments to guests, couples can either create escort cards, indicating which table each guest has been assigned to, or they can have the assignments in list form and on display for all guests to see," says Leah Weinberg, wedding planner, owner, and executive planner at Color Pop Events.

Although it might seem easier to let guests take any seat they'd like, Alison Laesser-Keck, event planner and designer at Alison and Bryan, believes that a seating chart is the backbone of a good event. And Weinberg agrees, adding that it's critical for couples to assign their guests to a specific table, especially when they're having a seated dinner. "Not only are your guests expecting it, but they might be overwhelmed with seating choices if it becomes a free for all—not to mention people might have flashbacks to the middle school cafeteria where they were flooded with anxiety over whether they could sit with the cool kids or whether anyone wanted to sit with them at all," she says. "Also, there are likely some personality dynamics at play amongst your guests that you might want to account for by not sitting certain guests with others."

To help you create a seating chart in the most seamless and stress-free way, we asked planners to share their etiquette dos and don'ts.

Seat people together who know one another.

While not every single person seated at the same table has to be buddy-buddy, you don't want to strategically break up friend groups or seat people together who don't know each other with the intention that they'll make new friends. "People want to sit with people they know and aren't betting on your wedding being an opportunity to expand their friend circle," says Weinberg. "If you have a group of friends who all get along, seat them together instead of trying to force them to make new friends."

Don't assign guests to specific seats.

Though you can certainly direct guests to specific seats via place cards, it's smarter to simply assign everyone a table and let them choose any seat they like. "While guests like to be told which table to sit at, they don't want to be told what seat to sit in," says Weinberg. "Also, if a guest doesn't like their seat, they are just going to rearrange the place cards." You'll save yourself serious time and anguish not having to figure out the seating specifics of every single guest invited to your wedding.

Avoid overfilling tables.

While keeping tables slightly smaller will make everyone more comfortable, it's also practical. "Whether your friend brought a surprise plus-one or your great aunt simply never sent in her RSVP, having extra room at your tables can be a serious lifesaver," says Laesser-Keck. "Seating eight people at tables that could accommodate ten will give your guests some more elbow room, while making it easier to add that last-minute place setting."

Finish your chart with time to spare.

"Once complete, your planner will promptly relay your seating chart on to your day-of print designer and calligrapher, and your displayed seating chart, escort cards and place cards will be created using your seating chart as a guide," explains Laesser-Keck. "If you lack timeliness, you may be faced with rush fees from print designers, or worse—receive your escort cards too late (or with errors)." Expert tip: Sticking to the timeline will prevent this ugly domino effect from unfolding.

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