Let’s start with the obvious…what is assigned seating when it comes to a wedding reception? Assigned seating is a pre-determined, planned seating assignment (built by the couple) which places guests at a specific table for meal service.
Now you might be thinking to yourself “this sounds like so much work that I really don’t want to do”….
Here’s the thing, guests need as much information and direction as possible, as this will help streamline the wedding day as a whole, keep your timeline right on track, and at the end of the day, be a more enjoyable experience for everyone in attendance.
The next question that I’m sure is running through your head is “where do I even begin when starting to assign seats?”. And I have to admit, I truly love this part.
*If you are more of a hands on/ artistic couple – I recommend getting yourself a big poster board (like the one you used to use in school for projects and presentations). From here, draw a rough sketch of receptions layout (including round/ rectangular guest tables, dance floor, bar, cake, stage for the band, etc.) we don’t need to be super fancy here. Once you have your sketched layout, get yourself some of the small, rectangular tab-like sticky notes. When guest begin to RSVP, write each individual name that is attending on a post it, and stick it to a table. *Be sure to discuss how many guests can comfortably sit at each table with your planner prior to starting this to avoid any frustration.
*If you are more of a technological couple, then I recommend either creating this directly within your planner’s/ venue’s layout software, or even just a simple excel spreadsheet. When using spread sheet, just create a bolded-header for each table, and fill in guest names once you receive their RSVP’s.
TIPS ON ASSIGNING SEATS
– Group your guests together so that they are comfortable. Maybe you have your college friends at one table, then your coworkers at another, etc. When grouping like-minded people together, you not only guarantee that they will have someone they fairly know and talk too, but to also enjoy your reception with.
– Be sure to notate your VIP Tables (immediate family and wedding party) as this will not only help to keep you organized, but will also help your wedding planner, caterer, venue, etc. in knowing who to serve first, check-in on, easily find those giving toasts, etc.
– Regardless of how you assign seats/make your seating chart, remember that guests can be easily shifted; so where you initially assign someone, may be an entirely different table then where they end up.
– There is no wrong way to put together a seating chart/ assignment, and if you need help, just ask your certified wedding planner!
Now that you know what assigned seating is, and how to stay organized while you put this together, here are the reasons why your reception NEEDS one
1. YOUR FOOD SERVICE STYLE IS EITHER PLATED OR BUFFET
The means that every guests will have a large plate that will require both a fork and knife (to eat properly at least). With these two service styles, the faster guests can find their table, the quicker you can be introduced/ have your first dance/ dinner service can begin/ but ultimately you get more time to celebrate!
** If your are specifically having a plated dinner (where your guests have pre-selected their entrée), not only will you have to have a seating chart, but you will also have create place cards (also referred to as meal indicated cards). Once a guest reviews a seating chart/ get their escort card, they will make their way to their specific table. At this time, the catering staff needs to know who specifically ordered what entrée at the table. With any wedding, we want your guests to receive the best possible service for this upscale event – meaning that servers should not be coming to the table asking “who got the salmon?”. A place card will be pre-set by your planner to notate which specific seat the guest will be in. It will also notate (in some form) the guests entrée selection. This notation can be as simply as the animal/ plant being served, or have the guest names written in different colors, use a series of shapes or icons, etc. – get creative with it!
2. THIS IS A WEDDING, NOT A MOVIE THEATRE
Assigning guests to a specific table guarantees that they will be able to sit with their date, significant other, family, etc. Guests almost always skip a seat when they approach a table with people already seated who they do not know. This in turn, will leave multiple single chairs scattered throughout the reception space, meaning that the last 30% or so of your guests will have to sit separately from their parties, and possibly with people they have never met before. We want to create the most elevated experience for your guests as possible, and this is certainly a key factor in doing so.
3. YOU HAVE FAMILY MEMBERS THAT DO NOT GET ALONG.
Similar to what was discussed earlier, you (the couple) can strategically separate flight-risk-family from one another, to help ensure a smooth, drama free, celebration.
4. GUESTS ARE LIKE HEARDING CATTLE, THE MORE INFORMATION, THE BETTER.
Its always so amusing to me, that once guests arrive to the wedding, its like they’ve just landed on Mars. They truly have no idea what’s going on, like its their first time ever hearing of some gathering called a “wedding” – a brand new concept! The more direction that you can give your guests, the better and smoother the night runs. Creating a seating chart/ assignment plays a huge role in this as it helps clarify any confusion, or maybe any anxiety when they are trying to figure out where to sit and which table has enough seats(all together) for them and their three kids.
5. THE FASTER YOUR GUESTS FIND THEIR SEATS, THE MORE TIME YOU HAVE TO CELEBRATE.
This one is pretty self-explanatory, but if guests aren’t assigned to a table, it could take upwards of 20+ minutes for everyone to be seated – as we all know how quickly people move when their initially instructed to do so… Can you sense my sarcasm here? Standard wedding receptions are 4 hours long, and I promise it will fly by, leaving you wishing you had more time for the extra fun stuff!
6. A GREAT WAY TO ADD A PERSONALIZED TOUCH
Seating charts, escort, and place cards are a great way to add another level of personality to your wedding! Get engaged on the beach? Have a calligrapher create place cards out of oyster shells! Do you and your partner love hiking? Incorporate pinecones into your design to hold each escort/ place card. Your options here are endless, so have some fun with it!
7. COVID SAFETY
Regardless of age, socio-economic background, or hometown, every single person has different views and comfort levels when it comes to COVID. A safe bet is to group immediate households together at the same table, as well as having different sizes of tables throughout your reception (incase grandparents who are at a higher risk would prefer to sit at a table with no one else). The last thing we want is for our guests to be uncomfortable.
Whether one or all seven of these reasons applies to you, assigning seats for your reception will keep everyone comfortable, together with their friends/ family, and help ensure that you have the maximum time to celebrate the day!