How to Seat Your Reception Guests
If you're having 50 guests at a buffet, you may or may not want to give people specific seating assignments. But if you're having 100 guests or more and serving a seated meal, you'll want to make sure everyone's got a specific place to sit. Why? For one, people like to know where they're sitting—and that you took the time to choose where they should sit—and with whom. It's also helpful if you're serving several different entrée choices, because the caterer and waitstaff can figure out beforehand how many chicken, filet and veggie dishes a given table gets, because they know who's sitting there. Read on for tips on how to seat neatly.
We've been at kitchen tables the night before the wedding (or even wedding morning) with a couple just starting their seating chart. Don't let this be you—you've got more important things to think about at that point! Sure, it's fine to make last-minute changes, but try to get the chart mostly done at least a week before the day.
Hit the Keys
Create a new spreadsheet. If you haven't already, insert a column into your guest list document categorizing all the invitees by relationship: your friend, your family, your partner's friend, your partner's family, your family friend, your partner's family friend and so on. This way, you'll be able to easily sort the list and break it down into more logical table assortments. Now you'll need to separate these lists into distinct tables.
Create a Paper Trail
If you're feeling more low-tech, draw circles (for tables) on a big sheet of paper and write names inside them (make sure you know how many people can comfortably be seated at each table). Or you could write every guest's name on a sticky note and place it accordingly.
Head Up the Head Table
A traditional head table is not round but long and straight, and it's generally set up along a wall, on risers, facing all the other reception tables. It may even have two tiers if your wedding party is large. Usually the bride and groom sit smack-dab in the middle (where everyone can see them), with the maid of honor next to the groom, the best man next to the bride, and then boy/girl out from there. Flower girls or ring bearers usually sit at the tables where their parents are sitting, much to the relief of the bridesmaids and groomsmen. Decide to sit this way, or plan a sweetheart table for a little one-on-one time.
Switch Things Up
But you don't have to do it that way. All the bridesmaids can sit on the bride's side, and all the groomsmen on the groom's. Or maybe you're not into being on display, or you don't want your wedding party to feel isolated from other guests. Let your wedding party sit at a round reception table or two with each other and/or with their dates/significant others, and have the head table be a sweetheart table for the two of you. (How romantic!) Another option: You two sit with your parents and let that be the head table, with the wedding party at their own tables.
Place Your Parents
Traditionally, your parents and your fiancé's parents sit at the same table, along with grandparents, siblings not in the wedding party, and the officiant and his/her spouse if they attend the reception. But if your or your partner's parents are divorced and are uncomfortable about sitting next to each other, you might want to let each set of parents host their own table of close family and/or friends . This could mean up to four parents' tables, depending on your situation—or have the divorced parent who raised you (or your partner) and his/her spouse/date sit at the table with still-married parents. (Phew, confusing!)
Remember, the parent-seating question is a flexible one. Set it up in whatever way best suits everybody. If you're unsure, don't hesitate to talk to the parents in question about it before you make your final decision.
There may also be situations in which certain family members just do not get along. Maybe they haven't spoken in years. Maybe the last time they saw each other there was a drunken cat fight. Understandably, you want to keep them as far apart as possible. Think about these kinds of relationships (or lack thereof) before you even start making your chart, so you can take them into consideration in the first place and begin by seating Aunt Hattie at table three and Aunt Lucy across the room at table 15. Trust us—they'll appreciate it.
Again, all your college or high school friends will be psyched to sit at a table together. This especially works out well if you and your beloved went to the same school and have the same friends. It also gives them all an opportunity to catch up with each other, because they may not have seen each other for a while. But again—reception tables offer a cool opportunity to mix and match your friends and your partner's—who knows who'll hit it off? Consider seating friends who don't know each other (yet), but who you think will get along exceptionally well, at the same table—and the rest is history. It can't hurt!