Your RSVP's for your event are all in! The table and room layout have been drawn up! Now is the decision of whether to have a seating chart or not!
This blog topic came to mind because recently we were invited to an event where no consideration was given to guest seating. There were seating assignments, but we had friends scattered everywhere with people they did not know. The event was an entirely sit-down banquet with absolutely no moving around (no mingle time, no dancing); therefore, conversation at the table was very important. We were cordial...because we love to talk...but it made for a very long evening in which guests appeared ready to leave early.
So...seating chart or not? There are several reasons on each side of the equation that make your decision pretty easy! If you are not having a sit-down meal, your guests will be mingling and walking around the majority of the time...no need to assign seats. Also, the number of people dictate seating assignments...having less people does not require a seating chart. The magic number is less than 50 people. In this case, you only have a small number of tables so people will settle in comfortably by themselves!
At particular events, seating charts help everyone attending! A seating chart can help to avoid confusion...it gets your guests seated quickly. It can be a way of honoring your special guests...parents, godparents, grandparents, siblings, etc. Seat people together that know AND LIKE each other...no further explanation is needed there... Seating charts are mainly to assist your guests during their conversations at mealtime. It can assist in controlling drama by separating guests from awkward situations. Sometimes you have to invite your friends who no longer get along, but you don't have to seat them on the same side of the room!
Special situations require a seating chart...divorced families come to mind in this situation. A little distance may be required to keep your event successful. Also, with a large event, assigned seats can help guests who wander around know that their seat will be there when they get back (from the buffet line, for example).
Seat children with their parents...we do not recommend a children's table unless you know the children are extremely well behaved.
You also may not need seating assignments for the entire room. That would have worked best in the event that we recently attended and mentioned earlier in this blog. Have a few reserved tables up front and let the remaining guests sit where they choose. This requires hosts/hostesses that know the special guests to get them to their places. These guests are usually told beforehand that they will be sitting in reserved spaces. In this situation, you are only assigning seats to your immediate family and special guests. However, make sure that everyone who 'thinks' they are special to you gets a seat. This can get tricky. Be aware that you will probably miss someone. Ensure that your older guests have a place to sit.
To help your guests that may not know anyone at their table enjoy themselves, place items on the centerpieces or conversation pieces at each table that will spark conversation...such as icebreaker cards, table numbers with a theme or pictures... Try to make your reception so eventful that guests will be moving around to look at your slide show, look at your photos, taking pics in your photo booth, dancing on the dance floor, working on your icebreaker games, etc.
With a seating chart, you also help your guests not have to worry about getting there early to pick out a great seat, or those who linger too long talking after the wedding or cocktail hour.
Be considerate of your guests by trying to sit them near people they 'know and like' in order to help them have a memorable night with stimulating conversation. If you do not allow plus-one's for your single guests, then at the least seat them near people whom you think they would enjoy talking...but avoid setting up 'singles' tables. If you have a lot of guests who don't know each other, consider setting up groups of people with 'like interests', such as business owners, friends who love travelling, academic types, music lovers, etc. You know them well enough...so take a little time to make your guests feel comfortable.
If you decide on the route of not using a seating chart with a large event, set up more seating than the number of guests expected. That allows people to sit wherever they desire, with ease.
Be aware that you may receive lots of input on this from family...some helpful...some not.Make life easy for yourself if you have 'one of those families' and get that knowledgeable mom or aunt to help out with this. If you don't know your parents' friends, ask them to help you in seating them together. Seek advice, as needed, but remember it is your final decision! ...Now, where is MY seat?!!!