Do you need a seating chart? #Reception Advice#Wedding 101#reception#seating chart February 17 2011 | Guest post by Channamasala Wild About You Photography To me, having a seating chart just seems like an exercise in futility/stupidity. Won't guest get up and mingle with who they want to anyway? Why would I want to tell my guests where to sit if I'm not planning a sit-down dinner reception? Wouldn't it be nicer just to provide enough tables and seats and let people chose their own places? Am I missing something? -Heather L. Do you need them or not? 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 'em. 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. Your reception is very small and not in a typical reception hall. If you're having your reception at a restaurant with ten or twenty people, there is no need to assign seats. You have various tables and seating options of different sizes. If your venue has a mix of large tables, small four-seaters, couches with coffee tables, bartops and other more lounge-like options, you can safely skip the seat assignments. If your wedding is on the small side and everyone genuinely knows each other (and their relationships are mostly drama-free). The benefits of a seating chart: 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. You can make single guests, or guests who don't know others, more comfortable. This also somewhat alleviates the need for +1s: we had a few single guests who knew only one or two other people at the wedding. By seating them at tables with the few guests they knew as well as others they didn't know, but with whom we felt they shared common interests, we could safely invite them without +1s. You can work around the "standard table size" problem to guarantee that people who will want to sit together can do so. Imagine you and your significant other mingled a little too long at cocktail hour while others were sitting. You enter the dinner area, realize that there is no seating chart, look for a table and don't find one. Every available seat is a single, and nobody seems inclined to move. Finding people to move for you requires complicated cross-table negotiation. It's like a blind date for your loved ones! I love "setting up" my friends with my other friends (not in the romantic way, although that has also happened). It manages drama. Usually. Do you really want your Socialist-leaning lesbian academic friend who just got back from Peace Corps and volunteers for the "Rent is Too Damn High" party to end up sitting with your Libertarian uncle who likes hunting and tells kids to get off his lawn? Probably not. If, however, that's the only open seat your friend can find –- well, that'll just be a box of giggles, won't it? Photo by The Observatory Regardless of what you decide is right for you, here is some advice for managing your wedding seating. If you don't create a seating chart: Provide more seating than is necessary. Exact ass-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 +1s. 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 worked 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. This may seem like a lot to consider. Just remember: all you need to do is reflect on what kind of party you are having, what the venue is like, who your guests are and apply these general guidelines to determine of a seating chart is, for you, a useful tool or an exercise in futility. Reporter Name * Reporter Email * Original text Enter the original text here. Edited text* Enter your suggested copyedit here. Notes You can add a note for the editor here. * Required information. Fix Typo Channamasala Channamasala was born in some little town you've never heard of, attended a huge university full of what you'd call "turtle heads" in Chinese (you can work that one out for yourself), decided she didn't want the life they were all aspiring to and moved abroad to pimp herself as a corporate trainer. She and her husband have been best friends since meeting as students at Turtle Head U. And she loves travel, reading, photography, things that taste like wasabi and making inappropriate jokes. PREVIOUS We're dying over this eclectic, art nouveau, old-timey nautical wedding NEXT Monty Python-inspired cake topper Show/Hide comments [ 66 ] Fabulous article to sum up what us party planners know – there is a time and place for a seating chart. And if you have a seating chart, it's another fun feature to personalize your wedding with! 6 agree Reply To me a seating chart is another task I am made to feel that I "have" to do in order to have a successful wedding. I feel that it is unnecessary stress to figure out which guests are going to seat together. At every other type of party (BBQ, Graduation Parties, Birthdays) people are able to socialize and then find a place to sit down together – this honestly shouldn't be any different. 8 agree Reply Also, if you're having a seated meal with the guests having to choose between options, it's sort of vital that you have a seating chart so the servers know who gets what meal. 9 agree Reply This really helps me out a bit. I am stressing out over the seating chart. The problem is my family is separated and having those members sit together who strongly dislike each other kinda scares me. Is any one else having issues with divorced families??? 12 agree Reply I'm dealing with that with my fiance's family. His mom and dad had a messy divorce. So we're doing this: Seating his mom and dad (and their families)separately, and a few tables away from each other. 3 agree Reply Both my husband and I have divorced and remarried families who basically have nothing to do with eachother these days, except for us. We had a top table of bridesmaids, bestman, their partners and few of our other close friends. We gave people a table to sit at but did not assign seats – this way we could make sure we avoided any problems. It all worked really well. Looking back, however, I would say that our having a relaxed and easy going attitude to the whole day was really reflected in everything we do. Eventhough our parents and step-parents will never be friends, they were celebrating, cheering and dancing together on the day. Love conquers…at least for a little while. 2 agree Reply i went to a wedding a little while back that had, i thought, a nice setup. it was in a restaurant with multiple smallish rooms, and there were assigned seats for family, the bridal party and a few other folks, and then two "open seating" rooms. simple, formalish, not too awkward for me, there by myself. Reply Do you remember how these people dealt with only partial seating assignments? Did they have sign on the table (might be weird) or did they still have escort cards for all? I prefer not to have seat assignments, because we are doing more of a cocktail party thing, but I think for family they would appreciate. Reply I'm looking at a similar set-up for our reception, and something's had me stumped – for toasts, cake cutting, etc, what do the people in the other rooms do? Just move to the main one temporarily? I don't want to leave grandma stuck in the back, missing the important bits. 2 agree Reply Did you ever figure out what to do with people placed in other rooms? My reception venue is split into a main room and then outside that 2 small areas. I have no idea how to handle those guest who cant be in the main space. help! 1 agrees Reply We've got almost exactly as many guests as our venue will accommodate, so we're doing assigned tables but not seats, and strategically organizing blended tables of both our families and friends, blind date-style. We've got a "getting to know you" game that will be on every table, so there will be built-in conversation starters, and given that the meal will be served family-style, if anyone is miserable, they can just move! 3 agree Reply I want to do a get to know you game…what are you doing? I am still a little unsure of how my "game" will work. 3 agree Reply Can you explain why under 'don't assign exact seats' you say 'For family-style events, having a seating chart means assigned seats.' I don't understand why, I feel like I'm missing something! 1 agrees Reply I think that they are referring to a type of seating where everyone sits at one large (usually very long) table together. This means that everyone is already at the same table, so if you assign anything, it would be the seats. Folks in the know, correct me if I'm wrong. 1 agrees Reply ThisLittleRedCat is correct: at family-style events there is one (or maybe two or three, but not many) long tables rather than lots of round tables…so you can't assign a "table" – there is only one! Therefore if you assign anything at all it has to be the seats. 1 agrees Reply When you go to weddings, you are assigned a TABLE. And when you get to the table, you choose your own seat at that table. However, sometimes, you go to weddings, and you are not only assigned a table, but you are assigned a seat as well. Guests don't usually like this because it's very rigid, and you can't choose who you sit next to. But for a family-style event, it's best to assign seats, because there's just family style-seating (think of the big long table you sit at during Thanksgiving). So you would be assigned a seat, because there is no specific table to be assigned (usually only 1-3 tables). Reply I think it's just a terminology issue — "family-style" for a fancy dinner to me means food will served in large plates to each table, but the tables can be any shape, including 8-10 person rounds. 3 agree Reply Yeah…"family style" generally means one long table (think like a dining room table at home) or maybe two or three tables depending on size, but of course people will choose to define things differently. Reply We aren't having a seating chart! Woo-hoo! We are planning to have a "game night" type reception (plus either pizza or potluck), so one of the first things we decided was that we could let people sit where they wanted and ask some of our "Wedding Ninjas" to help make sure people circulated and got to know other people. (It helps that we're having a 50-person wedding, of whom 10-15 are family members, and all of whom are relatively sane and polite and know who we are and are okay that we are the liberal-hippie-Christian-improvisers-who-like-guns type!) 2 agree Reply We're having a seating chart for pretty much every reason given there. We're having a large wedding (looking like 150 people) so it'd be a bit chaotic if everyone was trying to find a seat and we're tight on space so it's very, very likely the last people in to the room would find only single seats. We've also got a lot of strong and differing opinions we'd like to keep tactfully seperated, but at the same time strangers we're just dying to get talking. But I think we are going to keep it to just assigning tables and let people seat themselves within that. I think it's a good compromise between planning and choice. 3 agree Reply Another thing to deal with: RANK! We had over 120 guests, about half military or police, so we had to make sure the new privates weren't sitting with the RSM, so we had junior ranks tables, sergeants, and officers tables. We even had a navy table, and put them closest to the bar! The other consideration is if you have divorced families. In case they're not on the best of terms, you can put them at different tables and put some "buffer tables" in between them. My hubby was initially against the seating chart, but when I mentioned that some conservative family members might end up sitting with some raucous army friends, he relented and eventually agreed that it was a really good idea. 3 agree Reply This is why we went with assigned tables, but not seats. We wanted to sit some people together 'cause we were fairly certain they'd have a great time, and there were others that we *knew* shouldn't sit anywhere near each other. Of course, once the dancing started, people got up and wandered around anyway – but the basic need for civility while there was cutlery (read: potential weaponry) around had been met. Plus, we were able to sit single (some newly, painfully so) friends with people that they knew or had at least met once or twice already, instead of them ending up crammed in amongst schmoopy couples. And assigning people to tables doesn't have to be boring: besides all of the fabulous examples on OBB, there are tonnes of alternatives to differentiating the tables. As well, just because you put people at specific tables doesn't mean you have to tell them where to sit; they'll figure that out all on their own. The only actual assignments we made for seating were in regard to my cousin & uncle, both of whom are in wheelchairs. We gave them spaces near the end of the tables, closer to the doors and washrooms so that they could easily access whatever area they needed to – and we made sure that people knew that those areas would be occupied and to not put chairs in those spots. In the case of guests with mobility issues or other requirements, sometimes assigned seating can come in handy. 2 agree Reply Thank you so much for this. We have been trying to decide whether to have a chart or not and this more or less clarifies the whole thing. Great article! 1 agrees Reply I went to a wedding with no seating chart and the bride's parents had to sit in the back with some weird friends of the groom. Basically the outcasts table. No one thought to save them a seat while they were helping with the pictures and so they were left out. It was very awkward. 3 agree Reply The same thing happened at my brother's wedding. After the ceremony my family (8 siblings plus numerous children) took wedding photos. By the time we got to the reception with unassigned seating there were only random seats left scattered around. Parents were separated from their children and almost none of the siblings could sit together. Many of us had traveled pretty far and had been looking forward to sitting hanging out at dinner. 2 agree Reply I think this is the #1 reason why people do seating charts: there was a little vignette in the original (too long, I agree) article about what happens when Great Aunt Crappadocia plops down next to the bride, and the sister of the bride has to go sit in the back because nobody dares ask Auntie Crappie to move. 7 agree Reply If there is a seating chart/table assignment, there really needs to be an area that says where people are supposed to go. I was recently at a wedding where my significant other was in the bridal party, and I was shoved at the singles table, after wandering around the entire hall looking for a tiny note at a place setting with my name on it. 1 agrees Reply Ah, the singles table. There's a reason why it's a cliche. That's why I strongly encourage people NOT to have one: tables with three couples and four singles, or two couples and six singles etc. come out to the *exact same number of people* at the table if you'd done all couples at one and all singles at another. 1 agrees Reply We'll be doing one. We went to a wedding once with no seating chart and nobody ended up mixing at all. It was a shame because we know a bunch of guys who are really lovely and great conversationalists when you meet them alone but when you get them together in a bunch they're totally unapproachable – which is what happened. They turned into a massive clique which made many other guests feel uneasy. 🙁 1 agrees Reply We are planning not to have a seating chart. Our wedding will be a backyard thing, and food will be buffet-style. We are trying to cut out most of the 'formality' of weddings, because we are not very formal people. We just want everyone to get together and have a good time. Plus, we trust our guests enough that even if two different people disagree about things, they're all grown-ups, and don't need to have a fist-fight over it. 6 agree Reply I'm not all that into formality either, to be honest: we had a buffet, got rid of all the 'scheduled events' of the reception besides toasts, encouraged smart casual clothing etc. (though it was not in a backyard – that would have been awesome but we couldn't have fit all of our guests, didn't have enough bathroom options, you know). We did a seating chart not to be formal, but because we wanted to not only make sure couples got to sit together, but that friends got to sit near each other and people who hadn't met but should would get to meet. 3 agree Reply I think it's also important not to necessarily 'force' mingling. We didn't have a seating chart (it was a tapas afternoon thingy), and had put different board games on each table with the hope that people would mill about and join in for a game where they didn't necessarily know someone. Joke was on us, though, because a lot of our friends picked a table and the BOARD GAMES moved around. Part of me should have expected it when I first invited an old high school friend; he said "that's the best thing about weddings. You get a chance to see people you haven't seen in ages and spend as much time as you want with them". I saw his point in the end and tried not to feel bad that they didn't want to mingle. 2 agree Reply Very true! I like to think of it as "encouraging" mingling – you can't force it but you can create conditions where it's more likely to happen! 1 agrees Reply My husband and I had been to too many weddings where we were assigned a table but not a seat, and since not every gets to the table at the same time, we always ended up sitting across the table (and behind a centerpiece) from whomever we knew best at that table. People put down purses and drinks, but you don't know who is where. It's haphazard and frustrating, since the people we ended up next to were shouting over us to the people they actually wanted to talk to. At our wedding (this past October), we placed people in exact seats (though we did family style at one giant E shaped table, so it made sense to do this). Not only was it INSANELY EASY, but people made great friends with new folks. Almost none of these people knew each other before our wedding, and now they want to have a reunion celebration next year so we can all see each other again (a lot of them live dispersed throughout the USA). Anyway, it was very easy, everyone loved it, no one complained. Even my family from Arkansas made friends with some crazy New Englanders. 2 agree Reply Re: the first part of your post with the centerpiece and the shouting: that's the perfect situation in which to say "Why don't we switch seats? You seem to really want to talk to X and Y, and it will be easier if you sit here!" 4 agree Reply Personally, I lean more towards the seating charts when you have a sit down dinner/meal. Last summer, my husband and I went to 2 weddings where there was no seating chart. The first time we ended up at a table by ourselves, because we didn't really know any of the other guests there. The second time another couple ended up at a table by themselves. It can be kind of awkward when a situation like that happens. Although, I completely understand if you aren't having a sit down meal, then there isn't a real need for it. 3 agree Reply Seating charts are overrated and cause too much stress for the bride prior to the wedding. I had long rows of tables with just a few extra seats, didn't do seating charts, and there was no problem. I've hated having assigned seats at other weddings I've been to. 3 agree Reply They are overrated and cause stress **for some people**. The experience of some is not universal. For others, they're life savers. They're not one-size-fits-all suitable or unsuitable. Having one was a good idea for us, but might not fit for someone else. It might be overrated for you, but it's no good to assume that it is therefore overrated for everyone. 14 agree Reply My husband did our whole seating chart in twenty minutes while I was on the phone with my mom. We put people from both sides of our family at each table, and there were quite a few new friendships formed. We were lucky, in that we have drama-free families, but that's what worked for us. I hate having no seating chart – I'm too shy when there are lots of people I don't know! 3 agree Reply Yeah, there's also the fact that it's just as much the groom's issue as the brides: if the seating chart is causing stress, it's not just the bride's problem. 4 agree Reply we're having a picnic style buffet supper, and instead of a seating chart, we're going to assemble baskets with a blanket or tablecloth, plates, silverware, napkins, s&p etc. Each basket will have a label on it listing the people who are to share it and on the other side it'll let them know if they should choose a patch of grass or a card table, or a couple of tv trays… This lets us do a little "coordinating" for maximum social compatibility, but still gives people a bit of choice in where they sit. Reply Food for thought. I thought I had my mind made up but now I'm more confused than ever! We were planning on definitely NOT having a seating chart. FH is very against the idea. We have 3 super long tables for 120 people. But I hate the thought of my parents being shoved in a corner somewhere. Or my conservative granny being seated with my hippy friends. Oh dear! 1 agrees Reply You can do a special reserved section and leave the rest unassigned – so you can pick out where you want your and your parents/wedding party/special whoever to sit, including your grandmother (seating her near you as a part of the 'special' section effectively keeps her away from your hippie friends). Then leave the other 100 or so seats unassigned. 10 agree Reply this is what we are doing for our wedding in a few months Reply WEdding is in 2+ weeks and we originally planned on having open seating except for immediate family, bridal party and bridal party, grandparents. We have 3 head tables (also helps cause Fh's parents are divorced and haven't spoken in 17 years) Mom is on one – dad is on another. The rest of the guests are welcome to pick their table based on their moods/degree of party-vibe. We had a blast coming up with out table names but I have no idea if anyone else would get it :). "Habitual Line Steppers", Band of Misfits etc. plus some softer, nicer ones for the more mellow guests. I'm guessing/Hoping that the table names will draw certain types/groups of people who would get along. Will just have to get back to you ladies and let you know how it pans out. 1 agrees Reply There's some great seating chart advice here. Yes, definitely don't try and matchmake singles! It will be painfully obvious and they really won't thank you for it. Certainly be prepared for the inevitable last minute changes, but don't leave sorting out the whole seating chart until the last minute as it'll take longer than you think! 4 agree Reply I so agree. I was seated at the "singles" table at a friend's wedding and all my friends (the only people I knew) were seated at a different table because they were couples. I moved to sit with them and the bride hasn't spoken to me since. 3 agree Reply Yes yes! Down with the Singles Table! It is sooo easy to substitute two or four singles for one or two couples – there is no reason to trot out a tired cliche. If you instead plot tables around "interest groups" rather than coupled status, you'll get people who simply like each other more and will have a better time. 2 agree Reply We are going to have a seating chart (assigned tables) to discourage the whole "high school lunch room" thing of people only sitting with whom they know, and to encourage mingling throughout our different sets of friends and family with 1000 miles between them who may otherwise only get to chat during cocktail hour. We know everyone will try to meet everyone, but having that downtime while they're waiting for their turn to hit the buffet is a great time for them to chat even more. Reply We are having a venue that holds 90 people. I wasn't planning on having a strict seating plan, however the manager of the venue insisted, as they serve a modern Asian menu, it will make it easier for them to identify anyone with food allergies etc. They suggested at least giving each table a name and letting our guests figuring out where they're sitting for themselves. It's my experience that people tend to move tables during a wedding anyway. Reply I always feel compelled to tell my horror story when the topic of seating comes up. Derrik was in a wedding last year and thus was at the wedding party table. The table I ended up at was on the other end of this huge ball room. Being stressed by other forces I started crying. Derrik did help me get settled with friends which helped a lot, but the whole 'scene' was really embarrassing. So I'd encourage using a seating chart if you have a lot of people that might not know each other. Reply Nice one 🙂 I think the seating plan was the first thing to go when we started planning our wedding. None of your 'pros' seem to really apply to us, so I feel we've made the right decision. Our wedding is small (about 40 people), so the guests will only have four tables to choose from. I figure that any combination we chose for them, they'd choose for themselves anyway. Having said that, the tip about introducing people with common interests is a good one, as well as introducing people before the event. I think we'll organise a small drinks night for those in town a couple nights beforehand. 1 agrees Reply I can definitely see the need to have a seating chart, as well as not having one. But I agree: down with the singles table! I ended up at one at a wedding my hubby was in. I didn't really know anyone at the table (I'm not a very social creature out of my element), and the corner we were in was rather dark, crowded, and quite far away from the head table. Made dinner with a squirmy toddler interesting. My two cents: I definitely agree with the earlier post about making sure people's needs are met (more space for individuals in wheelchairs, etc.), I would only add to that, if applicable, highchairs! Things would have been 10x easier for me if someone had pointed out that the venue had highchairs (albeit hidden away by the bar :P) that I could have used. 1 agrees Reply "Create â€œInterest Groupsâ€ to keep people together. For example: â€œolder family and friends who like guns,â€ â€œtravelers and expats,â€ â€œyoung hippies,â€ â€œold hippies and academics,â€ â€œoverachieving young professionals,â€ â€œraunchy friends and relatives.â€ It worked beautifully." Last wedding I went to did this, which would have been awesome, but I got put in the "graduated from the same high school" table. That in itself would have been fine but I didn't know the other people AT ALL, we had nothing in common, and it ended up be awkward. At least it was a buffet reception which gave me an excuse to walk the room and mingle with people I did know lol. 3 agree Reply I agree with almost all of this, however, i would love to seat my "libertarian" (meaning only when it agrees with his points issue to issue) uncle with my loudest liberal activist friend. If you are going to have strong opinions you better be prepared to defend them at any and all times. Reply this article was perfect! i never understood why i need to have a seating chart, these arent kindergarteners, they're adults. but this perfectly explains why and how. THANKS!!! 3 agree Reply Good information. Thank you Anna Reply Ugh. My cousin didn't do a seating chart, and my family had never been to a wedding without one. It got awkward since we were the last ones in (my sister's kids were running around outside and we were helping my disabled grandfather). There were 8 of us (Mom, Dad, Brother, Halfsister (from the other side of the family), her husband, 2 kids (under 5), and Me). A complete table. Well, there were only scattered seats left and we had to get another table because there was no room for 4 people to sit together. I'm all for not having a seating chart, but I'm planning on having reserved tables for large immediate families or groups of people (school friends, coworkers, or such). 1 agrees Reply We're having a very laid-back backyard buffet wedding, but we're expecting somewhere between 130-150 guests. At first, a seating chart didn't even cross my mind, but the more I think about it, the more it seems to make sense, if only to keep the elderly comfortable, the VIPs where they should be, and the 'I only know the bride'-ers safe from no man's land. I'm curious if anyone has tried 'de-formalizing' the organized seating process. Aside from assigning tables as opposed to seats, I'd like to make it clear that the seating is 'suggested' as opposed to mandatory. Maybe just adding, as some of you have said, extra seating or picnic blankets on the ground with clear 'anyone can sit here' notes will work. I guess I could add a very clear and simple note on the seating table headquarters (whatever that's called) or even by the table number saying something to the effect of "Your table is the best one, but if you'd like to try out the others, feel free to mingle or move." Am I OVERcomplicating by trying to UNDERcomplicate? 3 agree Reply Assigned tables can be very helpful, but they come with some disadvantages too. I felt that given my newly divorced parents assigned tables was a necessity to make certain the parental units were comfortably seated in drama free separation. We had a fairly small wedding and unfortunately we had 4 people no-show, and they were all at the same table. We then had one person from that table defect to another table leaving 2 couples alone at a large table, and one couple left early. It was very awkward for that last couple. If I had it to do over again I would just reserve a few tables "for the bride's mother", "for the bride's father" , " for the Groom's family" that sort of thing and let everyone else sit where they want to. Reply GRUMBLE GRUMBLE GRUMBLE I was hoping to avoid this whole thing by having a buffet dinner, but while I was eating lunch, it occurred to me that there would likely be a mad bumrush for the food table(s) when it's time. And also that our awesome ice breaking/conversation starter ideas (mad libs, ispy, activity sheets) will be kind of pointless if people can seat themselves and just end up sitting with their own family units. I emailed our venue coordinator for some guidance and she said I basically have two options: some type of assigned seating system (which would be expected), or open seating and hope for the best. Neither of these options sounds ideal, because the last thing I want is all of my family at one table and all of his family at another table and nobody talking to each other. Assigned tables seems like it might be a good compromise, but my fiance's parents have a super awkward thing going on: they've been divorced for many years, dad is single but his mom has a long time boyfriend. Can I seat them together??? I know his mom and dad will get along for the day (they have coexisted at other equally important events) but I am not sure if there's anything between dad and boyfriend. I suppose we might be able to do open seating with "reserved for parents" etc, but that seems like it has its downfalls, too. JFC, I was trying to avoid this whole dilemma! 2 agree Reply I'm with you….I was trying to avoid assigned seating altogether, because I want a cocktail party vibe (with heavy appetizers and a couple of food stations- taco bar, pulled chicken sliders, etc), and the LAST thing I want is everyone to plant their butts at a table and stay there all night. I want people to graze, mingle, and dance. We're not even having a head table, because I don't plan to be sitting much anyway. That said, I'm leaning toward the idea of a couple of reserved tables for family (specifically older family – my dad is 82 and in a wheelchair, and will definitely need to be at a regular table) but I'm also incorporating smaller high tables into the floor plan, where people can set their drink and appetizer plate and hang out for a few minutes before moving on. This mix of table heights worked REALLY well at my sister's wedding celebration – I didn't sit down all night, talked to a lot of people I didn't know (and I'm not the most outgoing person in the world) and had an absolute blast. My sister's party was in the neighborhood of 150 people (mine will be slightly smaller) and I don't recall anyone having an issue with seating or lack thereof. My FH is also very much against a seating chart for the particular style of party we want. If it were a sit-down dinner, I suspect we'd have one. 4 agree Reply Ditto exactly what clevelandkat says. Please let me know how this turned out. My wedding is in 2 weeks…eek! Reply We did our wedding cocktail-style in an old Civil-War era carriage house-turned-art gallery/studio. At first, when we visited the venue and she said we couldn't seat our number of guests with full seating, we were hesitant. But we ended up with cocktail style and a buffet (and some passed hors d'oeuvres the first hour): there were tables and chairs but intersperse throughout the space. It was so much fun and people got to *mingle* which we were excited about; it added to the laid-back atmosphere of the day (and the groom). Nobody was stuck to their seat and people from all different parts of our life got to meet each other. In short, 10/10 would recommend 🙂 Reply My husband and I just attended a wedding at a country club that did not have a seating chart. We only knew one other person, who we hung out with all night. No one would allow us to sit by them, so the three of us ended up sitting in another room at a coffee table. We made the best of it and the servers seemed to enjoy our predicament and were very accommodating. This has been the only unfortunate experience that I had at a wedding without a seating chart, though. Reply My first wedding had 200ish people on the RSVPed list and was catered with round tables and linens and the whole bit. I worked for months on the seating chart. I made a very carefully curated sociological science project out of the whole thing and I was VERY proud of my work. But then some jerk wanted to bring their kid, someone broke up with their girlfriend, someone was having emergency dental surgery, a bunch of assholes just didn't bother to show up, etc, and my dreams got fucked. My best friend at the time was left at an 8 top table alone, and my ex-husband's boss and family were seated with a family we invited two days before, who made their last minute invite very known so that boss and family felt like they were after thoughts too, even though I had very thoughtfully crafted a table of very interesting folks who didn't end up coming. I am a month away from my second wedding and we are doing a laid back but rather large potluck BBQ (125-150 guests). Our tables are varied – rounds, maybe squares, and 4-5 picnic tables – and we have decided to let people figure it out. We might have a sweetheart table for just us, but we might not. Kind of playing it all by ear and elbow – and it feels really great. Reply Join the conversation Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *Comment Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Sign me up for your offbeat awesomeness newsletter! 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