This is one that needs to be addressed because of how often I hear it.
“I have a 200 person guest list. Do I really have to make a seating chart for the reception? It’s going to be such a hassle. I just want my guests to sit where they want and with whom they want!”
I don’t know how to phrase this delicately so I’ll just come on out with it:
YES, YOU HAVE TO.
Yes, you are going to want to do a seating chart. It doesn’t matter if you have 10 people or 10,000 people. You’re going to want a seating chart. Let’s go over why.
Remember Gym Class?
I don’t want to paint a very ugly glass over it but remember when you would go into gym class and you had to pick teams? This is that same feeling but in grown-ups. There’s a lot of anxiety that goes into where you’re going to sit at a wedding. You don’t want to have guests wandering around the reception hall with a confused look, wondering where they’re going to sit. Also, you don’t want their feelings to be dinged up if another guests tells them that the seats are taken. It’s awful.
Oh, You have Allergies to Gluten, Lactose, and Avocado?
If you have guest(s) that have special requirements for their food, you’re going to want to know where they are or the evening could end real bad, real quick. You want to make sure the staff is aware of the guest(s) to ensure the guests’ safety and enjoyment. Don’t let cheese ruin your wedding.
Put that Guest List to Use
Did you think that you were done using your guest list? I have seen couples use the guest list just to plan out how many tables to rent. It doesn’t exactly work that way. Yes, you rented 12 tables, 96 chairs, and couldn’t figure out why some guests didn’t have seats. There were only 90 people invited! It’s not the most crazy thing, but guests often (unless you have a bouncer) bring extra guests to weddings. All kinds of reasons for that behavior but making sure that everyone has a seat is taken care of with the seating chart.
You don’t want your invited guest to sweat whether or not they have a seat while the crasher sits comfortably at a table. Assigned seating doesn’t just make sure your guests have seats, it allows the wedding planner to make adjustments when they know about the additional person(s) as early as possible. Your guests shouldn’t have to try to figure it out on their own.
Did You Invite Grown Ups or Just Kids?
As much as we would all like to think that the people we know are mature adults, it’s just not the case. Especially, when it comes to a wedding. Divided families, families with cultural differences, and people who just plain don’t like each other, all can have the potential to ruin your brilliant day. It’s easy to be in denial about that fact. “My friends and family love me and will do whatever it takes to make my day brilliant!” I’m sorry, but people are flawed and that means sometimes, their worst gets the better of them.
Use the theory of ‘Divide and Conquer’ by keeping conflicts separated. You can talk to them before the wedding all day, but what it comes down to is: When people get a little booze in them, and then they see someone they don’t get along with, it can ignite issues. As a wedding planner, it’s my job to stop issues. And a seating chart is one way to do that.
To take it just a little farther, I’ve had clients tell me that they have an alcoholic uncle who gets ridiculous at an open bar. Making it more difficult for that uncle to reach the bar is an easier way to help curb any issues. The wedding planner would take the queue from there to help dispense him into other areas.
Maybe You Don’t Like Your Guests
Seems a little counter-intuitive, I know. I mean, why would you invite people to your wedding that you don’t like? Oh, there are so many reasons. Here are a few:
- Grandma who is a racist abuser and just didn’t die before your wedding day
- The Friendemy from high school who always seems to rub in your face how great her and her cheating husband are
- Your fiance`s’ boss who is pretentious but your honey is up for a partnership and he thinks your wedding will put him over the top
- You can’t not invite his mother
- Your fiance` has invited his entire fraternity brothers. All 30 of them. And they already made arrangements for the beer bong contest
And the list can go on and on.
Whatever your reason is for not liking someone at your wedding, it happens. If weddings were only filled with people who act right and actually like you and you like, then there wouldn’t be nearly as many interesting wedding stories.
With a seating chart, you can arrange these people so that you limit your time with them. Yay, your new husband is going to table 30 all the way across the room to hang with his friends. Out of sight, out of mind.
Damage control. That’s what we’re talking about here.
Let’s Get this Party Started
This might be one of the more important reasons to have a seating chart: Quality of Party – or the QoP. I’ll give you an example.
My fiance`, fictitious Chris Evans, and I decided against a seating chart and just let people sit where they want. Since all my friends are book worm nerds, they are quiet and reserved, etc. Getting to sit where they want, they’re going to sit on the outskirts of the room, in quiet little huddled masses, and not participating. On the other side of the room, all of Chris’ friends are being brilliant and fun, considering they’re all Avengers and hot, and there’s a divide in guests.
You want everyone to enjoy your wedding. You want the up-tights to loosen up. We all have that shy friend who loves dancing but won’t do it without serious encouragement. It’s one of the reasons why alcohol is good at weddings. Put your partiers with your up-tights. Mix and match! Create interesting situations that spark conversation. The two dynamics will feed off each other, both will flourish, and end up pulling everyone onto the dance floor or in participating in activities, instead of hiding at their table with the people they came with.
Just to add to the pile of good reasons to have a seating chart: You can keep an eye on those guests you need to keep an eye on. Fictitious Chris Evans has a fictitious friend who he loves dearly but that the friend always leaves without saying goodbye. Fictitious Chris could keep a better eye on this friend so that he would have the chance to tell him goodbye before his friend got the hell out of there.
The same applies to special guests who you really want to keep close to you or you really want the photographer to focus on, whatever it may be. Knowing there’s a home base if you will, a place they would go back to again and again all night, will help you, your photographer, and your staff.
And That’s Not All
I could go on and on about the pros and cons of having a seating chart. I know it’s a lot of work. I know it can lead to arguments with your SO. But I also know, with my 19 years in the industry, that I have never heard a couple tell me later, “I am so glad we didn’t have a seating chart.” Never. However, I can tell you how many times I’ve heard a couple tell me how much they wished they had a seating chart: Every time a couple had decided they didn’t need one.