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I often see brides and grooms asking if they really even need a seating chart for their wedding. After planning an entire wedding, collecting RSVPs, paying for countless deposits, and creating a whole suite of stationery, picking out everyone’s seating and figuring out how to display that information feels like a chore. Maybe an expensive chore when you find out printing a nice sign for it will set you back $50 or more. But a seating chart is extremely valuable for a number of reasons.
Are seating charts necessary?
I did my own research to see just how many weddings have a seating chart. After polling over 500 brides and grooms and thinking through the benefits and drawbacks, I concluded that seating charts are a good idea much of the time.
Seating charts are necessary for most weddings that have a sit down dinner and over 50 guests. It’s important to tell people which table to sit at in order to get people to their seats quickly without any drama over who should sit where or awkward, uneven tables. 77% of couples have a seating chart for their wedding.
You don’t need a seating chart if you’re having a micro wedding where everyone knows each other. You can read more about micro weddings, or weddings with less than 50 people, here. Or if there’s no formal seated dinner at your reception. For example, if you’re only have a Cake and Punch reception then you probably don’t need a seating chart. What’s a Cake and Punch reception? Read more about this fun wedding tradition here.
Seating charts can tell people which tables to sit at, or they can also tell people exactly where they should sit at a given table. Most couples don’t assign specific seats. Of the couples we polled who were planning on a seating chart, only 31% of them planned to assign seats. The other 69% only assigned tables.
If you’re still not sure if your wedding would benefit from a seating chart, keep reading for a full list of pros and cons.
What are the pros and cons of wedding seating charts?
There are a lot of reasons why having a plan of where your guests are sitting will benefit both you and your guests. It will also benefit any catering staff you have. And a few drawbacks that you might want to consider.
Here are the pros and cons of having a seating chart at your wedding:
Pro – Everyone will know where to sit
Giving guests a clear indication of where to sit, either by table or actual seat assigned, allows people to quickly make their way from cocktail hour or the ceremony to the reception. You won’t have people milling about, unsure of where to go. And it avoids people having to figure out who they should sit next to or fighting for the table closest to the bride and groom.
Pro – No awkward scramble figuring out where to sit
Speaking of milling about, you’ll eliminate any awkwardness by telling people which table to sit at. It will get people to their seats faster. And it will remove any delays associated with people deciding how to choose a table or accidentally getting left out of a table full of people they know. If there’s drama between family members, they might accidentally end up at the same table or fighting over where to sit. Instead, you can seat them conveniently apart from each other with a seating chart.
Pro – No empty or overly full tables
And where guests have a choice, you’ll have personal preference taking precedence over what works best for the room. A group of aunts and uncles who all want to sit together might turn a table for 10 into a table of fifteen or twenty by pulling chairs over. While the table next to them only has two seats left for the couple who don’t know as many people in the wedding or simply didn’t find a table fast enough that had room for them.
Pro – It’s easier for the caterers to serve food
Not only is it uncomfortable for guests and an awkward look to have uneven tables, it can make it harder to serve food and drinks when the table settings need to be rearranged. Or food for fifteen people doesn’t fit on a table meant for ten.
This is even more problematic if you’re having a formal dinner where meal choices were selected in advance. Your servers will have a hard time figuring out who ordered salmon and who ordered steak if the tables are uneven, or changing by the minute from people who want to swap seats.
Pro – Guests will know someone at their table
You can sit all of your college friends together at one table where they’ll have something in common. Grandma and grandpa can sit at the same table as your mom and dad, aunts or uncles. With a seating chart you can group people together who have something in common or who know each other. This makes it easier for a large party of over 100 people to feel like an intimate gathering.
Pro – You can sit guests who don’t know anyone next to each other
If you have guests that don’t have as many connections at your wedding, a couple who doesn’t know anyone besides the bride and groom, or people without dates, you can loosely group them by other factors. Maybe you have a singles table? Or a table full of people who live in the same city? This makes it easier for them to strike up a conversation and have a fun time getting to know each other.
Pro – You can visit every table and know who to expect
If you want to make sure you say hello and thank you to every one of your guests at least once during the night, during dinner is a good time to do it. You’ll have a captive audience of people staying put, and you can make your way around the room table by table.
If you know your cousins are at one table, your coworkers at another, your college buddies next, it makes it a little easier to transition from one conversation to another. You can talk to a whole table of people who are connected by a trait in your mind quickly without leaving out half the table who doesn’t relate.
Con – Guests might not like who they are seated next to
Now to get into some cons. Despite your best efforts, you may accidentally seat people you can’t stand each other at the same table. If you don’t know your guests well (and we’re not quite sure why that would be but maybe your mom invited most of them) then you might not feel prepared to choose the best seating for them.
Con – It’s a bit of extra work for the bride and groom
After planning an entire weekend of bliss for months, you may not feel up to sitting down and plotting out a seating chart for over 100 people, figuring out how to get a seating chart printed or ordering place cards. I get it. If this seems like just too much to figure out in the final weeks of your wedding and the pros above don’t sound worth it.
Con – It can be expensive to create a seating chart
A seating chart printed on 18 x 24″ foam board with an easel will cost you at least $50 from a company like Zazzle. Here’s an example seating chart printed on foam board.
You can also find one on Etsy for a few hundred dollars if you’re looking for a more vintage look. Here’s an example on a vintage mirror.
You can cut costs by attempting to make one yourself. You can write it out by hand on a chalkboard or vintage mirror that you already own or can thrift inexpensively. If you have a Cricut or are thinking of purchasing one, you can also cut and apply adhesive vinyl to your board. My favorite Cricut for a project like this is the Maker 3 since it lets you print out larger sheets of vinyl, perfect for a large 18 x 24″ board.
Another cheaper option that’s half DIY, half commercially made is to get it printed on poster paper at a place like Staples and simply attach it to a foam board or piece of wood or cardboard yourself with some spray adhesive. Or you can frame the poster with a poster-sized frame you already own. This will be less expensive to print than printing on foam board itself and take less time to DIY.
Con – Place cards can be expensive too
Just add another $100-200 to your list of expenses at the last minute why don’t you… There are some options to cut down costs here too if you’re willing to DIY. The cheapest and fastest option would be to grab a template from Etsy and print your own.
Cons – You think your guests will ignore the seating chart
After all that work and money and time, if you think your guests will throw your hard work out the window and ignore your seating “suggestions” then I can understand why you’re hesitant to bother. Ultimately, it’s your day and your guests so you know what is best. I have found in my own experience though that a lot of guests expect a seating chart of some kind. And they are willing to try to adhere to it. If they really don’t like who they are seated with, they can always discreetly swap with someone else or pull up an extra chair. It will be a less common occurrence and not total chaos trying to find a seat if you at least offer up suggestions in the form of a seating chart.
Now that you know the pros and cons, will you be designing a seating chart?