• Brandi Smalls

8 Tricks to Designing the Ultimate Seating Chart

Updated: Aug 18, 2020



While deciding which guest sits where can seem overwhelming at first, we're happy to share that once you get into the seating chart groove, it gets a lot more fun!

To help you both kick things into high gear, we've compiled a list of eight pro tips to help you understand the hierarchy and etiquette involved in designing your seating chart and floor plan. Using our insider tips, your guests will be happily arranged and ready to party in no time!

G E T A H E A D S T A R T

Your guest list affects 80% of your wedding budget! With the average cost of a wedding guest being $100 per person, the easiest way to maximize your budget is to trim your guest list. Eliminating one table of 10 at $100 per person can save you $1,000 — massively impacting your bottom line.

Once you've run the numbers and have a final count of who you'd like to celebrate with you, write a number on the back of each of your RSVP cards to help you out immensely in the long run. This small act guarantees that you will always know which guest sent which card, even if they forget to add their names to their RSVP cards or if they have terrible handwriting. Save yourself a headache and create a master list of your invitees before you get started. And use this to double-check your guest count and to ensure that no one has slipped through the cracks.

T A B L E S B E F O R E C H A I R S

Before you can decide who sits where, you first need to decide which table layout you would prefer and determine which works best for your venue. While most reception venues offer either round or rectangular tables, your choice is likely going to be affected by your budget, your guest count, the size of the space, and aesthetics.

Round tables will accommodate more guests and maximize space in your venue's floor plan, while rectangular tables will raise the elegance and promote conversation among guests.

G R O U P Y O U R G U E S T S

Once you know your preferred layout, it’s time to gather your confirmed RSVPs and begin grouping your guests into tables. Create categories for each table to help you assess where you think each guest would feel the most comfortable. It's also helpful to consider who they would know at each table. Dedicate tables for various groups such as the following:

  • Wedding Party/Head Table

  • Immediate Family

  • Extended Family

  • Various Friend Groups

  • Parent’s Friends

  • Kids Table

While you are more than welcome to use the above categories to build your seating chart, also consider your guests' interests, age, and already existing relationships when deciding where to place them. Reflecting on your guests’ individual personalities, similarities, and the point in your life that you met them makes grouping guests much more manageable!

Remember that you won’t be able to please all of your guests, but taking the extra steps to consider what would make them the most comfortable will go a long way.

V I S U A L I Z A T I O N I S K E Y

Create a seating arrangement to allow you to visualize how your table layout will work within your venue. You can use digital wedding seat chart makers such as WeddingWire, AllSeated, WeddingMapper, and more.

If you would prefer something more tangible, you can unleash your creativity and craft a physical layout. Assign names to sticky notes, legos, or various household objects to represent your wedding guests. Explore all potential layouts by trying to group similar tables of guests together and playing with the placement of guest tables and focal points until you find a layout that best works for your celebration.

K N O W T H E D I F F E R E N C E

When finalizing seating arrangements, it's crucial to understand the difference between the types of seating, as well as the differences between seating charts and escort cards! The 3 main types of seating are as follows:

  • Assigned Chair — Assigning each guest a specific seat for them to sit in at a specific table

  • Assigned Table — Assigning each guest a specific table but not a specific seat

  • Unassigned/Open Seating — Guests can sit wherever they'd like

Assigned chairs are most commonly used for a plated meal with a server and preordered meal while assigned tables and open seating are most commonly used for buffet or family-style meals. If you're considering open seating, our team recommends having an additional 10-20% of seating on hand, in case all of the groupings don't work out as planned.

There are 3 main ways to communicate where guests are to be seated:

  • Escort Cards — Communicate which seat each guest is assigned to

  • Seating Chart — Communicates which table each guest is assigned to

  • Seating Chart and Escort Cards — Guests find their name on the seating chart and locate their specific seat at the table once they're inside the Reception space

Escort cards are especially needed when guests have assigned seats and are served with plated meals by a server. This is also ideal when communicating food preferences and sensitivities. You can check Pinterest or Instagram for escort card display ideas or try to make a DIY Find your Seat display based on your preference!

C H O O S E W I S E L Y

When it comes to who you'd like to sit with on your big day, you have more than a few options! You can have a sweetheart table for just you and your partner, or you could opt for a head table that seats you, your partner, and your wedding party.

If you'd like to, you can also invite your wedding party's spouses and plus one's to sit with you, as well. Some couples also opt to include their parents alongside them at the head table. So, ask yourself if you'd rather have the alone time or if you'd rather celebrate with your closest family and friends.

P R I O R I T I Z E P A R E N T S

Selecting your parent’s seats will likely be the easiest to plot because you know them well, but be certain to choose seats that best suits everyone involved. Ideally, if your parents aren't seated at the head table with you, they would be seated at a separate table with your spouse's parents.

If your parents are divorced or struggle being civil in each other's presence, you may want to consider sitting them at separate tables along with their friends or family members. Some couples even opt to have four parent tables to make sure no feelings are hurt. If you are unsure where to seat them, don’t hesitate to ask both sets of parents for their preferences about their day-of seating!

B E C O N S I D E R A T E

When planning your seating chart, it can be tempting to play matchmaker and seat your single girlfriend next to your cousin in hopes of setting them up. While this may seem like a good idea, know that playing matchmaker may result in making those involved feel uncomfortable, potentially leading to awkwardness at the dinner table.


Save your friends the embarrassment and seat them with other guests who have similar interests or personalities. If you're unsure where to seat someone due to an issue with another guest, use your best judgment, and recruit a friend or family member for backup. Not only will this minimize potential arguments between guests, but they’ll thank you for being considerate of their needs and handling them carefully.