3 Ways a Seating Chart Will Help the Mood and Flow of Your Reception

Weddings. Wonderful, magical, love-filled moments. I get to see my childhood friend walk down the aisle to the man of her dreams. Ah, so blissful. It was such a beautiful ceremony. I'm certain her gown would not have looked more perfect on Heidi Klum herself.

Time for the reception. Uh...I don't know a lot of people here. Where will I sit? What if I don't end up with a seat. What if I have to sit at the weird uncles table? Maybe I'll just go hang out in my car until dinner is over. Or I can sit in the bathroom like Lindsay Lohan on Mean Girls. Yeah, that's what I'll do.

So, that probably hasn't happened to you before, but let's face it, for some people, dinner is the most awkward part of the evening. Someone comes without a plus one or they take too long getting a drink at the end of cocktail hour, and BAM, the "good seats" are all taken. I've had multiple friends tell me they face great anxiety during this moment of any wedding day.

Instead of letting your guests wander around, looking for a place to rest their rump, perhaps you might consider doing a seating chart. To some, this is a stressful task that seems impossible when looking at a guest list of 208 people. But TRUST ME, you will be glad you did it in the end.

Three ways a seating chart will help the mood and flow of your wedding reception:

  1. Your guests will know what to expect. At least, if they don't know many people (or anyone else) at your party, they will know a seat was saved just for them. People like to know what comes next. We are creatures of habit and like safe things. A seating chart will allay fears for the one guest who doesn't quite have the most outgoing personality. I've been the loner at a wedding before, but I had an assigned table at that wedding. The bride had placed me with people in my general stage of life and I found I could relate to them. Was it perfect? No. But it was a lot better than some other alternatives.
  2. Uncle Bob and Aunt Jill don't need to make your first dance a time for their post-split bickering. I hate to say it, but I've seen this before. Parted couples who can't get along may not be on their best behavior. Perhaps your aunt and uncle need to be placed at different tables...across the room from one another. Adults don't always act like adults. A little precaution can go a long way!
  3. Your high priority guests will feel valued. Okay, I don't like to rank guests in order of importance, but for real, it is the way of the world. Obviously, immediate families are given preferential treatment, especially when mom and dad foot the bill. Also, when you place grandparents and special great aunts closer to the head table, it will validate them as part of your life. I'm a person who does not care how far away I sit from the VIP tables, but it does matter to some. I'm not saying it's bad for it to matter. You have to put yourself in their shoes. Did they change your diaper when you were little? Might want to consider their feelings when making your seating chart. At the same time, don't get too wrapped up in this or you'll be working FOREVER on that seating chart. It's a balance!

Is it completely necessary to have a seating chart? No! Some couples want a more relaxed, free-flowing feel to their reception. That is totally fine and dandy. But keep these things in the back of your mind when planning your wedding. Weddings can be dramatic and can get out of control, if you let them. Just think of a seating chart as one way to avoid the high drama and control the crowd. ;)

Wedding Guest Diaries | The Seating Chart

When I thought to talk about this, I literally laughed out loud...by myself. If this isn't funny to you, just humor me. Most everyone has been to a wedding where they didn't know many people, or anyone. As if it's not enough of a socially awkward situation, you get to the reception to find you're sitting with people you've never met, which makes sense because we've already determined you didn't know anyone else. There are 3 types of scenarios (and my inner monologue) I'd like to highlight today.

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  1.  The Single Sally: I've been to weddings as a single girl. (Before I was married to Cal.) It's TOUGH. You walk in to the reception hall to find your seat, only to discover you've been paired with the other singles in the room. Single Sally immediately scopes the crowd to see if there are any Single Stevens hanging around. "Oh, he's cute. I wonder if he's a good dancer." "Dang, he has a wedding band on. All the good ones are taken." "I wonder if this dress was the right choice, I keep getting wedgies." "Maybe I'll sneak out before the dancing starts so people don't notice I have no one to dance with." "I'll just go to the bathroom during the slow songs. Or I'll find more cake." "I don't want to eat this kind of food in front of people I don't know." I could go on. And yes, I have thought all of that...and more.
  2. The Nosy Neighbor: You don't always go alone, but even when you have a date, that doesn't exclude you from being uncomfortable. You've been seated with the bride's great aunt or the groom's mother's cousin. She can't help herself. She has to know everything about you. You think, "Please don't ask me what I do." "She's going to ask why we don't have kids - or WHEN we plan on having kids." "Oh no, she's going to cough again and my plate is not at a safe distance." "I'll never be able to hit the dance floor because I'm trying to be overly nice to this very talkative (yet kind) lady."
  3. The Complaining Carl: One thing (and the only thing, really) I HATE the most about weddings is hearing guests complain about the bride and groom's choices. Getting stuck at a table with someone who can't seem to keep their thoughts to themselves, it's the worst! My inner hulk-guard-dog comes alive. "If he talks about how lame the dinner options are one more time..." "I know his daughter's wedding was more upscale than this one, but forrrreal..."

So what we have here happens at every wedding. No matter how much time the bride and groom spend on the seating chart, it's bound to make at least one person uncomfortable. The only thing you should do about it, as a wedding guest, is smile through it. We can't make everyone happy all of the time. And trust me, there is definite stress placed on the couple when they are planning who is sitting where.

Aside from attempting to organize the chaos, the seating chart actually serves many great purposes. Some families are blended, and not everyone will always get along. Step mom and granddad might have had a falling out years ago. By seating them at different tables, the bride and groom know they are preventing potential drama. In your case, perhaps the bride decided you would be a good fit for your table because you would liven things up a bit. Seating charts also help the kitchen. Plated catering requires predetermined order. When you send your RSVP and select the chicken, the caterer needs to know where to find you.

So next time you're at a wedding and you find your seating assignment is less than satisfactory, just remember, you'll only be there for a brief time. Instead of making a big deal of it, keep your thoughts to yourself. No one has to know what you're thinking. ;)

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Photos by my girl, Daytona May Photography