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How to Coordinate Wedding Reception Seating. Wedding Planning Advice, How To Guide.Once your cocktail hour has concluded, you’ve been announced into the room and the buffet line is open or guests take their seats for a plated dinner, there needs to be some sort of method to the seating plan. This is what we call Reception Seating.

How to Coordinate Reception Seating

There are several levels of involvement and complexity to consider, each with their own benefits and difficulties. I’ll outline them here for you from most simple to most complex and you can then decide. There are also a few logistics that every seating plan needs to address which we’ll wrap up with at the end.

Open Seating

There are literally a bunch of beautiful tables out with no indication of how many people per table. Guest bring their chair from the reception and place it wherever they want to claim their plot for the night.
Benefit: Little planning for the couple to micro-manage, and no responsibility for the venue to facilitate
Escort Cards displayed on the
P17 Homage Ladders
Difficulty: You will get tables with only 5 to 6 chairs because people overcrowd their one table or take up a lot of room. There is no reserved place for the couple or family. Your floor plan which you intended to eat 100 only has room for 60 and you have 40 awkward guests holding their chairs like kids in a middle school cafeteria. Elderly guests will have to fend for themselves to grab a spot in the shade, by the fan or near the restroom.
Sometimes nobody ever sits down because they don’t want to choose the “wrong space”
or everyone crowds onto the one table closest to the couple for their proximity win.

Transitioned Seating

An identified crew of helpers move chairs from the ceremony to the reception while guests are enjoying cocktails. They place designated numbers of chairs per table. There is a Head Table reserved for the wedding party and the couple. The 4 to 6 closest tables are reserved for family members.
Benefit: You can calculate the seating and place the proper number of chairs per table. You and your wedding party will have a designated place to stay and manage socializing from a home base. Family seating is accounted for.
Difficulty: Even though you have placed a prominent “Reserved for Family” sign on the table you have to be careful on this one… I always meet a distant Step-Aunt-In Law whom I have to move even though she’s adamant that “well I AM family!” and refuses to move. You’ll have to articulate exactly WHO that family is… I’ve even had a neighbor of the bride plop down right in the closest physical location of the bride’s seat and ask me, “they’re sitting right here right?” pointing at the sweetheart table. I say, “yes but these spots are reserved for family” and her response was, “well she grew up next door to me,
and I’ve been closer to her than any of these people so I should sit the closest” Yikes….

Escorted Seating

This is my favorite but takes quite a bit of work, not the most, but some. Guests are presented with a table number that they are assigned to by a displayed ‘ESCORT CARD’ at the entry to the reception. Guests can then choose any of the seats at the table to sit at. But there is no free choice where they are located within the floor plan.

Benefit: You can position people together whom you think will enjoy each other’s company. You can plan your tables of 8 to 10 to be friends, couples/singles, etc and facilitate a better social dinner. You can also plan the proximity that guests have to your table!  Your close friends and family can be in the under 10 table number and the you-know-who guests can be in the high 20’s {*wink *wink}

Difficulty: You do need table numbers, which can be easy, but extra expense. You then need to print/write escort cards. Sometimes guests RSVP and don’t come while others didn’t RSVP and show up. Guess what? No escort card!
One of my favorite weddings:
We themed the tables with Journey Songs
and selected guests that fit the song title!

Place Card Seating

This is the next step above Escort cards. It is essentially the same system as above, but them when guests arrive at their designated table there is an addition PLACE CARD waiting for them to tell them which actual seat is theirs. So who do you want with their back to you? Putting singles next to each other? You get it.
Benefit: You can totally micromanage your reception and have complete control of where people are. You are also able to run a plated dinner with multiple menu options so that your wait staff can serve proper selections and avoid food allergies or limitations of guests.
Difficulty: You must not only produce escort cards and table numbers but then you must produce and arrange the place cards. This can turn into a big conundrum for your wait staff if people move and or don’t arrive.

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