Assigning Seats is Too Much Work: and why you should do it anyway
Updated: May 12
One of most daunting tasks when planning a wedding is creating the seating chart for the reception. There is so much to consider, including familial relations, who is friends with whom, which guests might have some animosity or resentment between them, whether strangers at a certain table will have enough in common to strike up a conversation...and what do you do with that one friend you invited from out of state who doesn't know anybody else at the wedding?! Should you really take precious time from the rest of your wedding planning to assign seats?? Isn't it just easier to ensure there are enough tables and chairs for everyone and to allow them to organize and seat themselves?
Here are some examples of things I've recently seen happen at weddings without assigned seating:
The Chirping Cricket Table
My first example was a reception full of tables with 8 chairs. The couple invited 14 friends who were all close to one another. Since they didn't have assigned seats, they decided to crowd around one table together, leaving another table with just two guests who didn't know one another, ostracized from the rest of the reception like the fellas below. *chirp chirp* With assigned seats, the couple could have split that group into 8 and 6 or 5, 5, and 4. They probably all still would have had a great time, and nobody would feel secluded.
The Homer Simpson Exit Table
Back in December, I attended a wedding with my wife, parents, sister, brother-in-law, and their four kids. 10 of us in total. Since the wedding was for my brother-in-law's sister, we all had to be in photos during the cocktail hour and ran a bit late to the reception. As we searched for available seats, the only table that could fit us already had one lone guest who was probably 10 years younger than us and knew nobody at this wedding except for the bride. In an effort to save face and not show how uncomfortable this guy was being surrounded by my family, he suddenly jerked up his phone and said, "Oh no, my friend blew his car's tire in the next town over...so I gotta go."
With assigned seats, my family could have all eaten together and that poor outsider could have been brought into a less tight knit group of people closer to his age who he maybe would have gotten along with really well.
The "Don't Touch Me" Table
A client I worked with recently told me that his uncle and aunt had gone through an ugly divorce about 6 months before the wedding and needed to be seated as far away from one another as possible. With a seating chart, that was easy to accomplish. But imagine the stress for that recently separated couple if they had had to seat themselves, looking around for one another and finding a way to sit at opposite tables. Don't make your guests worry about that!
It's also worth noting if you're doing plated meals, that your catering staff relies on knowing where each of the guests is seated to provide the best possible service. If servers need to walk around asking each guest which entree they'd like, about 40% of your reception is going to be spent waiting for food.
As a simple rule of thumb, if your wedding has more than 40 guests, you should probably at least assign people to specific tables using escort cards. If there are more than 100 or if you are doing a plated dinner, assign each guest to a specific seat with a place card.
Here at Woodland Events, we use a pretty neat software to make creating your seating chart and menu choices really quick and easy. You just drag and drop each guest where they go, click which entree they're having, and press "send" to ensure the caterer, florist, decorator, photographer, venue, and whoever else needs it each has a copy! And our planners will be by your side ready to help you think through any family tensions or potentially awkward scenarios that could arise from the seating arrangement.