Seating Charts – Do you need them or not?
Some think they’re so incredibly complicated (your loved ones don’t fit into perfect little packets of eight or ten) and given this complexity, you may be inclined to skip them. However having them helps others feel comfortable knowing where they are supposed to be. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons…Why you might not need a seating chart:
• Your reception does not include a sit-down meal. If you are having a cocktail reception, tea, cake and punch, dessert, picnic-style or other party format, then there is no reason to have a seating chart. These formats are flexible enough that people can more freely move around.
• You can ensure that everyone’s dinner companions share common interests. It is simply good event planning to arrange for guests in this situation to sit with people they either already know and like, or are likely to get along with, so they’ll be more likely to sustain engaging dinner conversation. It is true that people will get up and mingle before and after the meal; what you are planning here is mealtime socializing.
If you don’t create a seating chart:
• Provide more seating than is necessary. Exact person-to-chair ratios can make it hard for couples to find seats together. Extra seats can alleviate that issue.
• Try to vary your seating options and table sizes if possible.
• Consider a reception that doesn’t include a full meal. This is not mandatory, simply advised. It opens up mingling and reduces the time when people need to stay in one place.
• Try to introduce people who don’t know other guests around before the wedding. This way, they will be able to seek out familiar faces later, or consider a cocktail hour that will allow them to meet and chat with potential table mates.
• Consider allowing single guests to bring +1′s.
If you do create a seating chart:
• Avoid the dreaded ‘Singles Table.’ Varying it a bit helps the social experience.
• Create “Interest Groups” to keep people together. For example: “older family and friends who like guns,” “travelers and expats,” “young hippies,” “old hippies and academics,” “overachieving young professionals,” “raunchy friends and relatives.” It works beautifully.
• Create “Groups of Tables.” It’s okay if people who are friends don’t get to sit together — the best way to encourage mingling before and after dinner is to seat them at tables near each other.
• Don’t assign exact seats, just assign tables. This gives people flexibility even within the structure you create. Of course, this assumes round tables. For family-style events, having a seating chart means assigned seats.
• Be prepared to make last-minute changes. Even if nobody crashes the party, someone will get sick or have a sudden emergency and be unable to attend. Have some back-up seating cards and be ready for some last-minute re-arranging.
• Listen to suggestions, but don’t let anyone try to dictate seating to you. Go ahead and hear your Mom or Grandma out on her seating chart ideas, but make the final decision yourself and own it. If necessary, don’t share the final chart with them and do not engage in discussions about it after it’s finished.