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How to Make a Seating Chart

By Anita Cule
With many thanks to Ultimate Weddings

Once the RSVPs are in, you have to deal with seating your guests. This article aims to help you do just that.

Most banquet tables are either round or rectangular and seat eight people. Some banquet facilities have long rectangular tables that can seat up to 20 on each side. This article will help you seat your guests, regardless of the table.

You will need a large work area, a dining room table is suitable.

On a large piece of cardboard, draw a rough outline of the room setup. Draw the location of all tables, i.e. head table, dj table, cake table, etc.

Buy Post-it notes in different colors. Assign the bride's family one colour, the groom's family one colour and friends one colour. If you want to seat your guests boy-girl-boy-girl, you can assign different colors to women and men however be warned, this could be more trouble than it's worth.

Once the colors have been chosen, write each guest's name on the appropriate coloured Post-it. Keep each colour together, placing each note in a row. Keep couples together.

You are now ready to start seating people.

Depending on the family situation, the tables closest to the head table are reserved for immediate family. How many tables depends on the family. If neither parents are divorced, this will be two tables but if divorces have occurred, there will be more tables. Divorced couples should never be sat at the same table. It is uncomfortable for them, their spouses/partners, anyone else sitting at the table, and confusing for other guests.

The bride's family traditionally gets the best table. Start from the most important and work your way down. If the bride's parents are still married, start with the mother and father. Seat them so they will be facing the head table, you don't want them having to turn in their chairs during speeches. Now seat the bride's grandparents. If the officiant is attending the reception, seat him/her at this table. If there is room, seat the bride's siblings and their significant others.

If the bride's parents are divorced, allow each parent to host a table. Seat the appropriate grandparents with each parent. Depending on family relations, you can sit siblings with either parent or allow them to host their own table.

Seat the groom's family in similar fashion.

You may now seat the rest of your families. Aunts and uncles, cousins, siblings, close friends of the family should be seated as close to the head table as possible.

If children are invited to the reception, do you wish to seat them with their parents or at a special “children's table?” If you think the children can behave, then seat them together. If some are more rambunctious than others, seat them with their parents. If you opt to have a children's table, do not sit any adults with them. This happened to a friend of mine. It's been five years and she is still insulted.

Now you must seat your friends. Arrange the Post-it notes into groups of friends and seat them accordingly. It is likely that you will have some guests who won't fit into a particular group, try to seat them with guests whom you think they will share common interests. Don't sit a shy friend with the rowdy group with whom you went to high school.

If the MC or other speech makers are not seated at the head table, try to seat them so they can easily get to the podium.

Don't sit elderly guests near the dj table/speakers.

If the tables are long rectangles, seat family close to the head table and progress gradually towards friends. Friends know they don't get the best table.

If you think creating a seating chart is too much work and you want to let your guests sit wherever they choose, please reconsider. I have heard countless horror stories from people who went to weddings and had to fight for a seat, or sat amongst complete strangers with whom they had nothing in common. Setting aside an evening to take your guests comfort into consideration will be greatly appreciated.