Everyone plans their wedding differently. Some prefer the traditional wedding, where it’s a serious and elegant ceremony and formal reception. Others prefer to be more modern, laid back, and casual. It’s up to the bride and groom (but sometimes the parents) what tone they want to set for the wedding. One of the things that will set the tone includes seating arrangements.

At traditional weddings, the bride and groom decide where their guests will be seated. Tables usually sit between 6 and 12 guests each, and could be in rounds or squares (sometimes long rectangle tables too). Some families have to arrange where their guests are sitting to avoid tension between family members. Others prefer to seat people so that they can get to know each other better.

The Ceremony

In a ceremony, you’ll usually see groups of seats separated by the aisle. On one side, guests that know the groom will sit. On the other wise, guests who know the bride will sit. Usually the bride’s side is the left and the groom’s side is the right. You typically don’t see much formality with ceremony seating. Immediate family of each side sits in the front, followed by the elderly and extended family. Depending on your religious background, certain family members are seated towards the end (the bride’s mother should be the last one seated in a Christian ceremony). Be sure your ushers escort guests to their seats.

The Reception

This is where the real seating arrangements come to life. Brides and grooms are known to spend weeks on their seating chart, making sure everyone will be comfortable on their big day. If you’re having a smaller wedding, let’s say 50 people or less, I suggest not bothering with a seating chart unless it’s to avoid possible tension. You also don’t have to arrange seating if you’re choosing buffet over a plated meal option. However, dinners that will be served by waiters should have a seating chart.

Wedding Seating Chart

There’s two different ways you can direct guests to their seats:

  1. Seating chart: Above, you’ll see an example of a wedding seating chart. It lists the names of each guest on a board, and the corresponding table they’ll be seated at.
  2. Place cards: You can place a place card at each seat with the guest’s name on it, but if they don’t know where they’ll be ahead of time, they may be wandering around aimlessly for a while. A nice gesture is to include the place card with a gift. At one wedding I worked, we put place cards in fruit for the guests.
Wedding Place Cards

Wedding Party

So where does the wedding party sit? That’s entirely up to you! You can have a head table, which includes the bride, groom, and everyone in the bridal party. You all will sit in the front in a long table, facing your guests. You can have a sweetheart’s table with just the bride and groom in the front. You can have your bridal party all sitting together at one table, or have each bridesmaid and groomsman as a head of a table.
Get started early. Planning assigned seating for your wedding can take longer than you expect. If you anticipate issues, ask your family who they would not want to share a table with, and take it into consideration. It’s your wedding, but you’ll want your guests to be comfortable and enjoy themselves as well.
How was seating at your wedding? Did assigning seats work well for you? Article originally published September 14, 2011.