Receptions may be big or small, lavish or casual. But regardless of their size or style, receptions all share a common element: they require that couples establish at least a basic seating arrangement for guests. Even though assigned seating isn't mandatory, selecting seats for a sit-down dinner makes things simpler and reduces confusion. Some reception venues may even require assigned seating so that catering staff can service tables accordingly. Seating guests can be tricky, but employing a few strategies can make the process go quickly and smoothly.
A seating chart, whether it's venue-specific or one couples make themselves, is essential. If you are using a self-made chart, chat with the venue about the shape of tables, how many guests each table can seat and the location of tables around the space.
When making the chart, start with the wedding party and move out from there. Couples can ease themselves into the task of seating by doing the easy tables first. The primary one is the wedding party table. This traditionally can be a dais or a sweetheart table flanked by the wedding party. According to Martha Stewart Weddings, the table should be centrally located and the wedding couple should sit in the middle. A male-female pattern follows on either side of the couple, consisting of the ushers, bridesmaids, best man and maid of honor. If much of the wedding party is already married, couples may opt to have the wedding party sit with their spouses instead of at the dais.
Tables for parents, grandparents and immediate family members of the bride and groom also are high priority. Both families can be combined at one table, or they can be separated into two tables. These tables should be the closest to the bride and groom.
Be sure to consider mobility issues. Elderly guests may want to be away from the band, deejay or speakers. Guests in wheelchairs may need an accessible seat near the exit. Likewise, place guests who tend to be the life of the party close to the dance floor to encourage others to join in.
When all else fails – get some help. Enlist the help of parents to seat their friends and extended family members. Parents will generally know best who gets along and who should be separated. There are a variety of apps available for the task and mock ups of seating charts are readily available online. Once set, be sure to create place cards or a central seating chart so guests can easily find their seat.