(Pretty) Please Be Seated

INTRO

Unfortunately, this blog post will not answer all of seating chart questions. I could spend an absurd amount of time talking about this task, walk you through a bunch of specific scenarios, and still most likely not hit on every aspect involved. Plain and simple, every event is not plain and simple — the event type, venue, styling, vendors, group dynamic, size of the guest list, etc., can completely change the setup. If you are thoughtful and organized in the planning process, it will all be work out just fine. Your guests aren’t spending a ton of time at their table, and are not strapped to their seats. Don’t overthink it.

Sometimes talking through a seating situation (family stressors, merging multiple “types” of guests, etc.) can be helpful. A coordinator’s experience can become pretty handy, we most likely have encountered similar situations and can share our experience. Below, I’ll run through a few helpful pointers to get you started, make the planning process feel a bit more manageable, and hopefully spark a few creative ideas to make an impression on your guests. 

Photos taken by: J Hicks Photography

LAY IT ALL OUT

I’m in the seating chart fan club. Musical chairs was fun as a kid, but doing it in heels after throwing a few back at cocktail hour— “it’s a ‘no’ from me Dog” (do people still use this early 2000’s Randy Jackson quote or is that just me?!). There are certain times open seating is appropriate and functional. For instance, if you are hosting an intimate affair (under 50-ish people) or one with grazing food service and no official start/end time. Most other times, I would suggest taking the guesswork away from the guests. Having an organized layout avoids any confusion or uneasiness.

Before you jump into it and start grouping people together, have a chat with your venue coordinator. Ask if there are any limitations concerning the floor layout, setup, or table sizes. I also suggest asking them to share their personal favorite arrangement for a similar guest count. They know the ins and workings of the space when it’s full of people and can suggest successful options that will offer the best flow for your event. 

If at all possible, choose a setup that is free of table teardown between dinner and dancing. It keeps the timeline running seamlessly and keeps guests seated for photos during speeches, special dances, etc.

—Jacob Hicks (J Hicks Photography)

If you are planning a wedding or event where you will have a table of interest (wedding party, sweetheart table, or a panel of speakers) consider the sightlines of the remaining tables. We all know that “table in the back feeling” where you have to goose-neck the whole time to see what’s going on up front. Placing the VIP table in the center of the floor chart, rather than against a far wall might be a better option so that they are visible to all. 

Photos taken by: J Hicks Photography

PLUG IN THE PEEPS

It hangs on the fridge, they see it every day, they are super pumped for the date, but they STILL don’t RSVP to your invitation on time. It happens. I suggest waiting until you have (as close as you can get to) your final guest list to start creating your seating chart. It can be a headache spending the time picking placements and thinking you have it perfect, just to have a few late comers throw the whole thing off. Help yourself out by setting the RSVP date for 4-6 weeks prior, so that you have plenty of time to organize. 

You (as the host) are the most qualified person to group your guests and assign seating. You know their personalities and interests, so you can probably imagine who would engage and have a good time at a table together. Try to avoid grouping all of the same “category” of people together— encourage mixing and mingling between your work friends, extended family, college buddies, single people, couples etc., while still including a few familiar faces at their table. 

Tip: mix up the chattier guests with the wallflower types to keep conversations flowing.

In addition to the social aspect, keep in mind the physical space and layout while you are assigning tables. Think about each individual and how you can make them comfortable. Place elderly guests further away from loud DJ speakers or busy walkways, families with babies closer to exits in case they get fussy, and young children with a clear path to the restrooms. The tables along the dance floor might be best saved for the party animals in the group (they won’t mind being closer to the action)!

Surrounding the dance floor with tables gives more guests a clear sightline for speeches, dances, games, etc. and includes more people in your photos!

Photo taken by: J Hicks Photography

THE “SIT” SHOW

I chose this heading not only to get a little chuckle out of ya, but also to encourage you to consider the seating process as a production. This is a great opportunity to create a unique, personal experience for your guests. There are two main methods for “directing” people to their tables. Escort cards are the most common— guests enter, find their name on the card, and make their way to their assigned table, and choose their seat. A seating chart allows you to assign individual spots for each guest— they enter, find their name on the display, head to their table, and find their escort card already in place at their seat. I find this option to be the more seamless of the two. Having one (or two) large scale chart(s) visible avoids crowding around an escort card table. You can also ask your ushers to read guests their table numbers from a clipboard chart. 

Photo taken by: J Hicks Photography

Dare to do double duty. I love the idea of combining the place card with a special guest takeaway. It is an easy way to cut costs and get creative. Woot woot! Customize this concept to tie-in with your personal story or event theme. If the wedding hosts’ first date was at a Mexican restaurant, perhaps the escort cards are attached to mini bottles of hot sauce favors. Want to show a little love for your city? Write each guest’s name on the backside of frame-able postcards created by a local artist. When my husband Seth and I got married, we placed custom seed packets at each seat to connect with the underlying wildflower motif. Brainstorm some of your own ideas or use Pinterest as inspiration!

As you plant these

seeds and watch them bloom,

may you remember the love shared today,

in this room.

Custom day of stationary created by: Hall Creative Co.

Best Wishes & Happy Seating!

-Jenna


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Company and Cheer

Company and Cheer provides planning services for any variety of event, priding ourselves on attention to detail. Together, we have many years of experience executing occasions of all sizes and the passion to make your special day truly unique and memorable. We always go for the “wow” factor!

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