The Seating Chart Dilemma
Your wedding day is almost here, the RSVPs have begun to pile in and now it is time to decide how you would like to seat your guests.
Are you planning on having Escort Cards? Do you think having a Display with everyone's names at the entrance of your venue is closer to the vision you have for your special day? No matter what your aesthetic, the seating arrangements for your wedding day can turn out to be a stressful time during wedding planning.
When doing the seating arrangements for our wedding in June my fiance referred to the seating plan to be "as intense as war room tactical plans". Between family dynamics and trying to keep guests within the same age group, there is an endless supply of reasons why this process can turn into a nightmare. Since we can't control the "decade old feuds" within our family history, we can at least make the process a bit easier by choosing the right tools for the job.
The best advice I received for putting our seating plan together was being told to use Post-It Flags. They come in an assortment of colors and are the perfect size for placing around a diagram of tables. I suggest color coding your guests into three different categories, Bride's Family, Groom's Family and Friends. Even though this seems a bit like overkill, it will be worth it in the long run. Color coding the different groups of guests enables you to take a step back and see your seating arrangement, not based on names, but based on group. After looking at the names for so long they can all begin to look the same, but with different colored flags you can see the flow of your seating arrangement through the groups of guests and make adjustments accordingly. Another great advantage to using the Post-It Flags is that you can rearrange them over and over again without affecting the diagram below.
Once you have your Post-It Flags labeled with your guests names, grab a large piece of poster paper and draw out how many tables you will be having at your reception. Be sure to draw them to match the type of tables you will be using during your reception, i.e. rounds, rectangles, etc.. It is important to keep the number of guests you can fit at a table in mind so if you notice one table may need to be larger you can notify your venue. For us, we are having round tables that only seat 6 guests, not your standard size tables, so when we started putting our arrangement together we realized some of them would have to be changed into rectangular tables that could seat 8 guests.
Now that your tables are drawn and your Post-Its are labeled it is time for the fun part! I found it easiest to place people we knew would be a perfect fit together. Grandparents and Great-Aunts/Uncles together, Aunts & Uncles grouped with each other, cousins who are all the same age at the same table and friends who all have known each other for years reminiscing together. Even grouping your Bridal Party into the mix can be one of the easiest groups to place. You may not be able to fill every table on this first pass, but it will get the bulk of your guests onto the board. After your initial pass you can take a look and see where your groups have landed and begin to weave in the guests you have left, based on where they will fit and what you believe to be the best place for them. Since you are using the Post-Its you can also rearrange any of the guests you placed during your first-pass to adjust the seating arrangement to accommodate these additions.
After what I can only imagine will be a couple of hours of musical chairs, you can take a final look at your seating arrangements and write out a list of where everyone ended up. (This is just in case the Post-It Flags betray you and either fall off due to you moving them a thousand times or blow away the one day you open the windows for a little fresh air and it turns out to be the windiest day of the week)
The final piece to this puzzle is to decide if you want traditional Escort Cards or if you would like to have the seating arrangements laid out in some sort of display instead.
Having a display set up at the entrance of your reception is a newer trend that is growing in popularity. Just one Pinterest or Etsy search gives you an endless supply of options and ideas for how you can tie in this unique feature to your wedding reception. The example to the left features a popular frame arrangement you can find in most stores and it a great way to incorporate one of you favorite photos as well. Another great idea is using a chalkboard and someone with impeccable handwriting to list the guests at their corresponding tables using a chalk pen. (No where near as messy as actual chalk!) If you are the creative bunch you could design your display yourself and have it printed at a place like AlphaGraphics or Staples. The options are endless and the cost can be minimal, depending on your display type of course.
If you prefer the more traditional route of using Escort Cards but still want to be a little different, don't worry! Just because you want to go in a more traditional route doesn't mean you can't be creative. For our Disney Wedding we are making our Escort Cards resemble the old fashioned FastPass tickets from Disney parks and our table names relate to different rides you can find in one of the 4 Disney Parks. This was a great way to introduce some fun colors into our reception as well as take the traditional white folded Escort Card and spruce it up a bit. If your wedding has a beach, masquerade or even great gatsby theme you can create Escort Cards that reflect that same theme. For example, with a beach theme you can create a sandbox with shells and starfish scattered around the Escort Cards. You can even make the Escort Cards little messages in bottles. Just as you can find plenty of options for a Seating Arrangement Displays on Etsy or Pinterest, you can find these ideas as well.
No matter what your vision for your wedding always remember one thing, do what makes you and your fiance happy. Something unplanned will inevitably happen, but the goal is to just roll with it and enjoy your day.