How to Avoid Seating Nightmares (Especially for Large Weddings)

wedding table numbers

Wedding guests may not realize the amount of work that goes into making a wedding seating chart. You and your partner, as an engaged couple, not only have to figure out how to group family and friends so everyone is comfortable (Let’s not seat the feuding Aunt Liza and Aunt Claire at the same table!), but you must also figure out the best table format, how many meals to order and what to do if “unexpected” guests arrive.

On top of all that, your hope is the seating process will be implemented in a way that makes it as easy as possible for guests to find their tables. This was one of the concerns I had at my wedding because it was on the larger side (300 guests), so I had a few ways for guests to find their tables just in case one wasn’t working. With so many stresses involved with wedding seating, there are a couple ways to alleviate the execution of it on your wedding day.

Place Cards

A table or area of place cards with the guest’s proper name (no nicknames) and table number listed is the obvious and most common way for guests to find their tables at a wedding. It’s important to go a step further and organize the place cards, preferably in alphabetical order by last name, so that guests can easily find their names. It is also wise to organize the overall seating in a way where guests won’t be wandering around the venue looking for their table. The easiest way to do this is to organize even numbered tables on the right side and odd numbered tables on the left side.

If you want to participate in the trend of naming tables after places or things that are important to you and your partner, go for it! BUT still assign a table number to each significant place or thing on a master seating chart so it’s easy for your wedding planner or attendants to help guests find their seats if they have any questions.

Seating Charts

I just mentioned a master seating chart and for a good reason. You should create a document listing each guest or family’s first and last name with their table number and meal choice. It’s another tool to assist guests in finding their tables in case they can’t find their place cards. (That was one of the mishaps that occurred at my wedding—guests had a hard time finding their place cards because the calligraphy was on the more difficult side to read—but since I had backups in place, it wasn’t as big of an issue as it could have been.)

Printing out a copy of your master seating chart for your wedding planner or attendants will not only assist confused guests who are having issues with their place cards, but it can also serve as a source of information if there are issues with the guests’ meals once seated. (Uncle Jack was supposed to get steak but was served fish.)

Poster Boards

If you want to be extra cautious, or possibly use this idea in place of seating cards, printing large poster boards with the last name, first name and table number of guests and hanging or displaying the boards in a popular area where guests will certainly walk through, such as the entrance of the venue or main room where the reception is taking place, is yet another tool to aid guests to find their tables.

Overflow Tables

Some wedding guests simply do not understand the RSVP policy and they show up with dates or extra family members without informing the bride and groom. If you think this may be a problem at your wedding, it’s wise to have an extra decorated table at your reception (a.k.a an overflow table) and add a couple meals to the final headcount for your caterer. If you don’t want to have a whole table dedicated to “unexpected” guests, leaving extra seats open at a couple tables and noting them well on the master seating chart will work as well. It may cost more, but it can be worth it to avoid sticky seating situations, especially if Cousin Ken unexpectedly brings a date.

It’s important to make sure your vendors have a table as well, or at the very least, a meal. Vendors need to eat too! Perhaps they will have a table of their own or sit at your overflow table since their meal breaks are generally short because they’re working. Either way, do not forget to include them in your final headcount for meals and seating.

Some couples opt to not have a seating chart. This can work well for intimate weddings where most people know each other. But since that’s not the case in many circumstances, the bride and groom create a seating chart to keep guests comfortable, track the number of meals and seats, and generally have order over the situation. There are bound to be mistakes with wedding seating, especially at the end when there are several numbers to deal with, so it’s always good to hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

*Photo Credit: Keren Sarai Photography

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

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