So your wedding invitations are out and you’ve received your RSVPs. Now comes the hard part: figuring out who sits where. Planning your wedding reception seating arrangement is a lot like piecing together a puzzle: You want to make sure that tables aren’t overcrowded, and that guests are comfortable with their tablemates. (Read: You probably don’t want your great-grandparents at the same table as your husband’s rowdy fraternity brothers.) But mapping out seating arrangements doesn’t have to be complicated. Follow these eight easy steps to nailing your wedding reception seating chart, minus the stress.
Break out the poster board and mini Post-It notes.
Trust us: A visual aid is super-helpful. First, draw big circles on the poster board to represent the approximate number of tables you think you’ll need. A good rule of thumb: Plan for six to eight people per 60-inch table (any less and a table feels empty; any more and guests might be jostling for elbow room). Then write guest names on mini Post-It notes and stick and unstick them to tables until you have the chart finalized.
Decide where you’ll be sitting first.
Will you and your new spouse be sitting at a sweetheart table or with your bridal party? If you choose to sit with your bridal party, make room for their dates at the table as well. If your entire bridal party can’t fit at one table, have a few tables where members of the bridal party and their dates are seated with mutual friends.
Figure out family tables next.
The next most important tables are those for your family. Generally, parents of the bride and groom sit together with both sets of grandparents and other close relatives or family friends, but talk to your parents and future in-laws to get an idea of where they prefer to sit before making any plans.
Mentally categorize guests in groups.
Try your best to sit guests with people they already know or will have something in common with. Start by grouping guests together by how you know them—high school friends, work friends, family friends—and seat these groups together. For larger groups who won’t fit at one table, split them in half and fill in the table with other guests.
Think of which guests will get along.
Making seating arrangements is a lot like playing matchmaker: You want to encourage mingling and conversation. Sit people who don’t know a lot of other guests with others who have similar interests or personalities. And don’t put one person or couple at a table where everyone else knows each other. (Awkward.)
Ditch the singles table—but keep the kids table.
It’s safe to say that plopping all your single friends at one table leads more often to embarrassment than love matches. (If you are trying to set a particular couple up, do it discreetly.) But feel free to sit children at a table together. Just be sure to keep this table close to the parents’ table, in case any little ones need to be wrangled.
Consider the floorplan.
Generally, the most important tables (the bridal party and family) are seated closest to the bride and groom, with the best vantage points of the dance floor. And when arranging tables, try to be sensitive of guests’ needs. For instance, grandparents and other elderly guests will most likely prefer to be seated away from the band or loud speakers.
Call in reinforcements.
Not sure where to place your future mother-in-law’s best childhood friend? Ask for her advice! Letting parents weigh in on where to seat their friends and close family members allows them be involved in the process and takes some of the pressure off of you, so you can turn your attention to the fun part: figuring out how to display all those place cards. (Take a peek at our Pinterest board of ideas for inspiration!)