How to Master Your Reception Seating Chart

A table at a wedding reception decorated with yellow and white florals and peaches.

Your wedding seating chart can quickly become a nightmare. From last-minute RSVPs to making sure each table is filled with people who will enjoy one another’s company, you can quickly start overanalyzing and stressing out on what should be a simple task. But mastering the seating chart can actually be done if you follow some guidelines.

Don’t Start too Early

Don’t start the seating chart until you have all of the RSVPs. Of course, you’re going to get some in last-minute, which might throw things off a bit. Random people you never thought would come will RSVP “Yes,” and people you thought would for sure be in presence for one of the biggest days of your life might not be able to come. You can easily group all of your guests onto a spreadsheet or sheet of paper. Sort them according to their relationship to you to make it easier to know where to begin.

Decide Your Organization Method

Choose if you’d like to create a seating chart online or scribble it out on a piece of paper. Remember, you may be making many edits, so choose which way is easiest for you. Many people choose to create a chart online because you can easily move people around with the click of a mouse. Some like to see the entire outline on paper and erase/pencil-in people as they go. Some brides even color-code their seating chart with Post-it notes, creating a key for friends, family members, co-workers, and other groups.

Choose Between a Head or Sweetheart Table

A place setting at a wedding reception.

You should decide when you begin seating arrangements if you’ll have a head table where traditionally all of the wedding party sits. At this table you not only include the wedding party, but their plus ones. Many times, the venue will supply a special table that is longer in length in order to fit everyone. If they do not do this, then you may need to split the head table into a few separate tables in a special location if you have a large wedding party. Some couples choose to sit separate from the wedding party at their own table, commonly called a “sweetheart table.” You can also designate a special table like this for the immediate family of the bride and groom.

Calculate the Number of Tables and Chairs

You need to know how many tables will be at the wedding reception and how many chairs will be placed at each table. Don’t try to cram in more chairs just because you need more people at one table. Guests like to be comfortable as they eat and socialize, so just move some of the group to another table if needed. The wedding reception facility should be able to send you a chart of where each table is placed as well as how many people can sit at the tables. If you aren’t getting married at a venue and/or are providing your own tables, the standard number of seats at a table is eight.

Sit Groups Together According to Their Relationships

A seating chart at a wedding reception

Sit people in groups where they will feel most comfortable. It’s a great idea to seat together family members or friends who don’t see one another often. Sit your high school and college friends together, and sit co-workers together so even if they don’t know your other family and friends, they feel comfortable and are able to just relax.

Many brides choose to have a kids’ table—it’s totally up to you! Sometime, a kids’ table can get out of hand quickly if there’s no immediate adult supervision. Other times, it can be nice to contain all the energy from kids in one spot at the reception.

Don’t Sit Guests Together Who Can’t Stand One Another

Keep in mind those guests who might have issues with one another. If one uncle doesn’t get along with another, don’t sit them next to eachother. Never force people to sit at the same table because you think you can be the hero who gets them to be buddies once again. Also keep in mind that people who are divorced should be placed far apart to make it easier on everyone; the ex-wife doesn’t need to be stuck staring at the new wife all night.

Share the List with Loved Ones

Don’t be afraid to get recommendations from your loved ones. Your mom may want one of her old college buddies at the table next to her, or your best friend may not want to bring a plus-one after all. It’s no big deal to change people around according to what your family and friends tell you. Take some of the pressure off of yourself by crowdsourcing help for this task, especially if you want the best experience for your guests.

Don’t Forget About the Vendors

Don’t forget your vendors! Many couples will choose to feed their vendors at a table together. They may not all know one another, but it will give them a great chance to meet new friends and network.

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