When looking at seating charts before going to school for Event Management, I always thought they were over the top and unnecessary. But after planning multiple weddings, I wish my couples would have chosen to take that extra hour or so and find a place for their guests to sit! But, that is not to say that having a free-for-all option for guests to seat is a bad option either. When planning a wedding, it all comes down to decisions, like a ginormous Coke or Pepsi quiz crossed with a very confusing flowchart. That’s where an event planner can be very handy to help you maneuver through the planning process.
When having your guests come to your reception and sit for a meal, the main decision of this blog post is deciding whether to have a seating chart or a free-for-all and having guests find a place to sit themselves. There are pros and cons to both options. Logistically, having a seating chart is smarter. If you are having a plated meal, a seating chart is highly advised. This is because it is easier for servers to get meals to the correct tables/guests as quickly as possible. However, if you are very anti-seating chart, you can choose to have escort cards without a specific place to sit, which will help servers know where plates go. Guests would find their card with a label of what meal they got, then take it to wherever seat they chose, so the servers still know which plates to take where. Now if that sounds like something you don’t want, the option is also there (depending on caterer) for servers to go around, take orders, and then go back and bring specific meals to each guest. This can come into the problem of guests changing their meal choice day-of and messing up what the caterer has prepared, but that would be a conversation with your caterer to see what they recommend and what they are able/not able to do. If you have a seating chart, you can also expedite the process of guests sitting down, which doesn’t seem like it would take long, but those extra 10 minutes could be spent in better places-like dancing or photos! Having a seating chart also organizes your guests and takes the stress off them for finding a place. Guests are usually expecting a seating chart so don’t feel like you are being “extra”, they usually appreciate you thinking of them and making sure they will have a good time during dinner! If you don’t have a seating chart, add an extra 10% of seating to even out when people leave open spots for friends/family who don’t each other. Example; You have 150 guests who have RSVP’d. You need to tell your venue to seat for 165. (15 seats extra). So, if you are tight on space in your venue, a seating chart may be the way to go. All the same, if you’re having a smaller guest count, micro wedding, have a huge venue, or don’t have the time- don’t sweat it! You can build a timeline just as easily regardless of what you choose. At the end of the day, it's your wedding and the day should be about you and your significant other!
If you have chosen a seating chart, there are different ways to go about it! You can have a large display by the entrance of the reception area of the table area, or you could also have an escort card table, or both!. The choice is dependent on your time and budget!
Escort cards themselves inherently cost more money because of more items, and personalizing each card for each guest you have. So if you have 200 guests, that is 200 cards. But if you have a plated meal, escort cards are extremely encouraged because you can mark who has which meal, which is helpful for servers at your event. If you are not having a plated meal, escort cards aren’t as necessary. They are fun items you can personalize and have another extra touch for decor! When choosing whether to have escort cards, consider if you are having a plated meal vs buffet. If you are wanting to choose specific seats at each table, escort cards are really required to make that happen!
The other option or addition to escort cards is having a seating map. A seating map is what you more than likely picture when you think of a seating chart. A long list somewhere broken down by tables. If you just want an idea of where people should go, seating maps/charts are perfect. There are a million and three ways to display your seating chart and an amazing touch to your entry to your reception.
I hope this article helps anyone who is needing help deciding guest seating. Thanks so much!