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Reception Ideas

Seating Charts are Hard

So, how does everyone group their tables and decide placement?
Each table can have 10 people and I'm trying to group by family a bit. I just don't want to repeat my cousin's mistake of setting her only cousins (me and my siblings) at a table with the photographer. It sucked.

"I am disinclined to acquiesce to your request.... It means no." -Alistair, Dragon Age Origins

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Re: Seating Charts are Hard

  • ILoveBeachMusicILoveBeachMusic Indiana member
    2500 Comments 500 Love Its Fourth Anniversary 5 Answers
    For DD's wedding we grouped family, her college friends, her high school friends, her grad school friends, her work friends our friends, SIL's family, his friends by phase of life, his family friends. It worked out. Our venue had the option for a larger table which we took advantage of in one case but our tables sat 8 and we needed on to seat 10. 
    ahoyweddingcharlotte989875
  • I did not have seating charts at my wedding and as a matter of fact I’ve never been to a wedding with seating charts.  I am not comfortable around people I don’t know, so being able to sit in a corner amongst people I know is less stressful.  Also at my wedding, everyone walked around and socialized more than sat.  So I don’t know how your guest are; as in what type of people they are, but do you feel a seating chart is necessary? 
  • For DD's wedding we grouped family, her college friends, her high school friends, her grad school friends, her work friends our friends, SIL's family, his friends by phase of life, his family friends. It worked out. Our venue had the option for a larger table which we took advantage of in one case but our tables sat 8 and we needed on to seat 10. 
    This is exactly what we did. I highlighted our guest list and color coded groups of people who could sit together, and as RSVPs came in it helped us develop the seating chart. We just had to fit those blocks of people together into groups of 8.
    charlotte989875
  • I color coded all guests by group (my family, DH's family, my friends, his friends, vendors (so they could sit at a table and eat the food we provided them)). I'm super visual, so I made a giant mock layout, and stuck little bits of color-coded paper to each of the tables in the mock layout.  It really didn't take much time at all. 
    short+sassymrsjapanSTARMOON44
  • Do you actually need 10 people per table, or do you have some leeway there with the number of tables and number of guests? Hopefully you're not at total max capacity for your venue, and you can either add another table, or not fill your tables all the way. 

    A lot of times a table that CAN fit 10 is really more comfortable with 8 people, so when grouping your guests you can group them in groups of 7-10 people, instead of forcing exactly 10 per table. I found this to be much easier.
    short+sassy
  • thisismynickname2thisismynickname2 City By The Lake member
    5000 Comments Sixth Anniversary 500 Love Its First Answer
    Aside from the circumstances of OP's situation, this is a common and valid concern so I'll chime in too.

    I used an Excel spreadsheet with each table as a column. Then I started adding guests to each table/column in non-negotiable small groups. People don't fall into neat little groups of 10 in real life, so then I looked at potential combinations-- like, DH's friends have some that are really outgoing and some less so, so I put the most outgoing with the odd-couples-out knowing that they'd be inclusive. I sat other friends with other odd-couples-out that could potentially mesh well but put the tables next to each other so at least all the friends were close.  Nothing's worse than a full table of odd-couples-out (hello, Table 19), so at least I had two small groups together that might be okay mingling. 

    Once I had the tables with names assigned, I organized the order in the general order of the layout so you could see how people were adjacent to each other and features of the room. I also made sure to put the college friends closest to the dance floor and bar, and seated the quieter family members on the side of the room furthest away from the dance floor and bar. 

    It's ok if you don't have exactly 10 people at each table either- 9 here, 8 there still looks good!

    ________________________________


    mrsjapanshort+sassy
  • My daughter and her fiance are not doing seating charts because they don't want to be responsible for the burden of other people's social interactions. They just assume that people will find one another without artificial interventions. 

    If you do proceed, the main thing to think about is how well you know your guests. For example, your friend from work might be ultra-conservative and if you don't know this, you could seat her with your gay friend from college. Or there may be some drunkle on your list, and he gets seated with a recovering alcoholic. Or you do your best to make sure everyone feels important, but one of your friends somehow perceives you assigned her to a "lesser" table.

    This is why I don't love the idea of seating charts.
  • My daughter and her fiance are not doing seating charts because they don't want to be responsible for the burden of other people's social interactions. They just assume that people will find one another without artificial interventions. 

    If you do proceed, the main thing to think about is how well you know your guests. For example, your friend from work might be ultra-conservative and if you don't know this, you could seat her with your gay friend from college. Or there may be some drunkle on your list, and he gets seated with a recovering alcoholic. Or you do your best to make sure everyone feels important, but one of your friends somehow perceives you assigned her to a "lesser" table.

    This is why I don't love the idea of seating charts.
    The few weddings I've attended that had no seating plans were kind of a disaster, and there was scrambling for tables. Some tables were half empty, while others were too full (yes, people grabbed extra chairs to add in to tables). My brother ended up not being able to sit with us, and instead was stuck at a table where he knew no one. 

    It's really not that hard to do a seating chart. Group tables by how people know each other. My H and I completed ours pretty quickly. 
    Exactly, it kind of seems like a lame excuse for laziness more than anything. It's way more complicated for your guests and you're left needing more chairs and tables since people aren't going to break themselves off into nice neat little 8 or 10 person groups. It's really not that difficult for the hosts and it's exponentially easier for guests when there's a seating chart/table assignment. 

    There's no "burden of social interaction", the only thing they're doing is swapping the "burden" of taking an hour and setting up a table chart onto their guests and making it more difficult to sit with people they'd prefer to sit with.
    ei34ahoyweddingclimbingwifecharlotte989875
  • My daughter and her fiance are not doing seating charts because they don't want to be responsible for the burden of other people's social interactions. They just assume that people will find one another without artificial interventions. 

    If you do proceed, the main thing to think about is how well you know your guests. For example, your friend from work might be ultra-conservative and if you don't know this, you could seat her with your gay friend from college. Or there may be some drunkle on your list, and he gets seated with a recovering alcoholic. Or you do your best to make sure everyone feels important, but one of your friends somehow perceives you assigned her to a "lesser" table.

    This is why I don't love the idea of seating charts.
    The few weddings I've attended that had no seating plans were kind of a disaster, and there was scrambling for tables. Some tables were half empty, while others were too full (yes, people grabbed extra chairs to add in to tables). My brother ended up not being able to sit with us, and instead was stuck at a table where he knew no one. 

    It's really not that hard to do a seating chart. Group tables by how people know each other. My H and I completed ours pretty quickly. 
    Second this. Went to a wedding without any seating plans and ended up sitting with an entire table of people I didn't know because there wasn't any seats left with our friends and we were delayed due to being in the wedding party. I had to try to make small talk with aunt sue and her 10 year old instead of getting to catch up with my old college friends I hadn't seen in years. We were all part of the same social circle. 
    image
    ahoywedding
  • Jen4948Jen4948 Houston member
    10000 Comments Sixth Anniversary 500 Love Its 25 Answers
    When I've attended events without assigned tables, what's usually happened is that people quickly save all the vacant seats at the tables for their family members and friends, leaving everyone else walking around looking for "unsaved" seats.

    It's not a pleasant experience, especially if the provisions are not plated meals. Guests should not have to carry heavy trays from table to table looking for "unsaved" seats. 
    InLoveInQueensahoyweddingSTARMOON44charlotte989875
  • I know this is an old thread, but seriously, making a seating chart took next to no effort. When you're creating your guest list, you kind of think in groups anyway, right? Your family, FI's family, college friends, childhood friends, coworkers, etc. And even if you have that random couple you're friends with who don't know anyone else, is it THAT hard to think of 6 other people they could converse with? You're not like randomizing the guest list, picking 8 names out of a hat for each table. And my god, they have to eat a meal next to each other. They're not being bonded together for eternity. Any adult should be able to handle themselves properly for the length of a meal.
    thisismynickname2ShesSoColdSTARMOON44charlotte989875
  • I really hate attending weddings with no seating chart.  It's always a clusterf**k because people save seats and move chairs and someone always ends up annoyed or disappointed.  Definitely not the end of the world, but if you can stop that from happening with maybe 30 minutes of thought/work why wouldn't you do that?
    InLoveInQueens
  • Shockingly enough, it went perfectly well without a seating chart. Everyone found a place to sit with friends, family and new friends. Really, it is okay not to tell adults where to sit!

    If you want to do one, do one, but you don't have to. It will be okay!
    MesmrEwe
  • Jen4948Jen4948 Houston member
    10000 Comments Sixth Anniversary 500 Love Its 25 Answers
    Shockingly enough, it went perfectly well without a seating chart. Everyone found a place to sit with friends, family and new friends. Really, it is okay not to tell adults where to sit!

    If you want to do one, do one, but you don't have to. It will be okay!
    It will not necessarily "be okay" not to have assigned tables. This forces everyone to walk around looking for "unsaved" seats at tables, and it's especially annoying in situations where you have mobility issues, you don't know anyone else at the reception and/or have to carry trays of food and drinks from buffet tables or stations to a seat. It is thoughtful of hosts to not make their guests hunt for unsaved seats by walking from table to table like in a school cafeteria.
  • There really is no right or wrong here. My point was that if you don't want to do a chart, don't do one. Your guests will have fun, and they'll still get to sit with their friends. If you choose not to assign seats, make sure you have extra tables (we had about one and a half). The people who wanted to sit together managed it (I saw clusters of D's high school friends, college friends, parents, etc. sitting together).

    My personal experience with seating assignments has been negative, but I know they can work. You have to do what you think will be best for your guests.
  • Jen4948Jen4948 Houston member
    10000 Comments Sixth Anniversary 500 Love Its 25 Answers
    There really is no right or wrong here. My point was that if you don't want to do a chart, don't do one. Your guests will have fun, and they'll still get to sit with their friends. If you choose not to assign seats, make sure you have extra tables (we had about one and a half). The people who wanted to sit together managed it (I saw clusters of D's high school friends, college friends, parents, etc. sitting together).

    My personal experience with seating assignments has been negative, but I know they can work. You have to do what you think will be best for your guests.
    Nope. While you don't have to actually make a chart, deciding that it's "best" to leave guests to fend for themselves because you don't want to take the time to assign seating really isn't "doing what's best for your guests." It's being defensive about a hosting decision made out of a personal desire not to assign seating -- not about your guests' needs.
    ahoyweddingInLoveInQueensSTARMOON44ei34
  • I don't really understand how an experience with a seating chart could be negative...I personally have been burned before by the lack of a seating chart  however. 
    InLoveInQueens
  • MyNameIsNotMyNameIsNot Atlanta member
    Ninth Anniversary 5000 Comments 500 Love Its First Answer
    MRDCle said:
    I don't really understand how an experience with a seating chart could be negative...I personally have been burned before by the lack of a seating chart  however. 
    I've actually had a bad experience with a seating chart, where the host is lazy and doesn't take the time to figure it out. I was 22 and came alone, so got stuck at a table with the other single guests instead of with my friends. Not an inherent problem with seating charts, but rather stupid hosts. 

    We didn't do a seating chart. My mother was adamant that they are stuffy, and I decided not to die on that hill. We had plenty of extra seating so it wasn't a disaster, but it would have gone better if we'd just done the seating plan. We had a lot of smaller groups that I could have paired with other small groups that would have enjoyed meeting each other. e.g. My college friends would have enjoyed my co-workers, as we're all in the same industry and know some of the same people, or my cousins would have enjoyed sitting with DH's cousins. A seating chart would have also helped me to isolate my racist aunt from, well, everyone. (Luckily she was on her best behavior and kept her mouth shut.) 

    I don't think skipping the seating chart is a recipe for disaster, but if I could do it over again I would have done one. It would have made the experience that much better for the guests. That ship has sailed for OP, but for anyone else who may be on the fence, I would recommend doing one. 
    thisismynickname2charlotte989875ei34
  • I feel like this *can* work but you need to as people suggested and have extra tables, etc.  

    The only weddings I've attended without seating charts were super casual family events where you found a group of cousins and it was NBD and they were in someone's backyard.   
    ahoyweddingInLoveInQueenscharlotte989875ei34
  • MRDCle said:
    I don't really understand how an experience with a seating chart could be negative...I personally have been burned before by the lack of a seating chart  however. 
    Social engineering is not every host's strong-point. 

    I'm NAF of seating charts in most cases because I get burned more when couples have them than when I'm left on my own to find a place to sit.  Especially family events the times that they've had them I usually end up seated next to my IL's who I see all the time instead of all of us getting a chance to talk with people we rarely get to see but love to connect with.  OR, when my kids were small would get put in the middle of a huge room with a lack of room and try to take the kid in training who suddenly has to go NOW, or decides that moment during the toasts is a great time to melt down because they can't use their chair as a rocker or get mad because you won't let them put their finger into the candle right next to their seat, instead of being able to choose to sit near the exit to make a "quick escape"..  

    Professionally when I'm working the "Rubber Chicken Circuit" I'm not even a fan of them there as well because I've seen too many cases of I'd have loved to sit with (someone who I'd love to just have a relaxed conversation with) and get assigned to the table with people I have no interest in spending the next hour with while the other person's table is half-filled.  Extra tables are not a hardship and arguably are a normal part of good planning for events (Just attended an event Saturday night that the room was set up for three people fewer than attended though the venue was given the correct numbers plus two extra "just in case")..  
    Baby Birthday Ticker Ticker Baby Birthday Ticker Ticker
  • Yes, I think people's views of seating charts really depends on their own experience, rather than on some actual research on their effectiveness. I'm surprised, though, at how several of you think that not using them is a sign of not caring, rather than a carefully thought out, considerate choice. 

    It really is possible that some people believe that doing what's best for their guests means not making seating charts. It's also possible that they know their friends and what will best meet their needs.
    MesmrEwe
  • Jen4948Jen4948 Houston member
    10000 Comments Sixth Anniversary 500 Love Its 25 Answers
    MesmrEwe said:
    MRDCle said:
    I don't really understand how an experience with a seating chart could be negative...I personally have been burned before by the lack of a seating chart  however. 
    Social engineering is not every host's strong-point. 

    I'm NAF of seating charts in most cases because I get burned more when couples have them than when I'm left on my own to find a place to sit.  Especially family events the times that they've had them I usually end up seated next to my IL's who I see all the time instead of all of us getting a chance to talk with people we rarely get to see but love to connect with.  OR, when my kids were small would get put in the middle of a huge room with a lack of room and try to take the kid in training who suddenly has to go NOW, or decides that moment during the toasts is a great time to melt down because they can't use their chair as a rocker or get mad because you won't let them put their finger into the candle right next to their seat, instead of being able to choose to sit near the exit to make a "quick escape"..  

    Professionally when I'm working the "Rubber Chicken Circuit" I'm not even a fan of them there as well because I've seen too many cases of I'd have loved to sit with (someone who I'd love to just have a relaxed conversation with) and get assigned to the table with people I have no interest in spending the next hour with while the other person's table is half-filled.  Extra tables are not a hardship and arguably are a normal part of good planning for events (Just attended an event Saturday night that the room was set up for three people fewer than attended though the venue was given the correct numbers plus two extra "just in case")..  
    But nothing is preventing you from walking over to other people to talk to them. A seating assignment merely ensures that everyone has a place to sit and eat. It doesn't imprison you in that spot for the entirety of the event.
    STARMOON44
  • Sigh, it worked out well in spite of our "uncouth" choice. We just trusted that our guests were socially adept or courteous enough to figure this stuff out on their own.

    My D and her husband didn't think it was their place to tell people where to sit. They felt it honored their friends more to let them choose. (That is what they meant by "not wanting to assume the burden of others' social interaction. "Assume" in this case is more in the sense of "usurp." It's out of respect, not laziness.)

    And everyone did have a place to sit because we intentionally had extra tables. That's how this works. If you're not able to do that, then by all means, assign seats. 

    If you are afraid of not assigning seats, do it. I only reported our experience because it seems contrary to what so many fear, and to offer an alternative to those who may not think seating charts are right for their event.
     
    In either case, the seating chart or lack thereof won't be the thing you remember years from now.


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