guest seat assignments

Take a Seat: A Wedding Planner’s Quick Guide to Guest Seat Assignments

Allie Hatz Etiquette, Make it Posh, Richmond Wedding Planner, Weddings Leave a Comment

There is nothing quite like the experience of taking two families, two sets of friends, and two sets of peers or coworkers, throwing them all into the same room, and requiring them all to get along (often with alcohol). It seems a little unfair that the task of sorting out the whole mess falls to the guests of honor, but the reality is generally just that. One of the most intense parts of planning your wedding could very well be guest seat assignments.

Let’s make things just a little more complicated and throw several technical terms at you. Will you use escort cards? Place cards? Seating lists or charts? Will you choose open seating, table assignments, or seat assignments? Are you offering a meal choice? Did you concoct a system so the servers will know what each guest is eating? What do you do about those guests who never returned their RSVP cards?

If you’re overwhelmed, I’m not surprised. To get you started, here are some terms you should understand when you’re trying to seat your wedding guests:

couple kissing with sitting guests

PC: Patrick Moyer Wedding Photography

Place Cards: Place cards tell your guests exactly where to sit, down to the precise seat. Usually guests are directed to the correct table first, then the place card waits at their place setting.

Escort Cards: Guests collect escort cards as they enter a reception room. They include table numbers and may be addressed to couples or to individuals. If seating is open, they can select their own seats once they find their table. If seating is assigned, they will find their assignments by locating their place cards.

seating chart

PC: Charlie Juliet


Seating Charts and Lists: A seating chart or list may be used in place of escort cards. These may be poster-sized, framed, or creatively etched on glass – the possibilities are endless.

Open Seating: At weddings with open seating, guests may choose to sit wherever and with whomever they wish. There are no charts, lists, or cards. Sometimes a couple will reserve tables for the wedding party and immediate family – if you do this, you’ll want to let the guests at reserved tables know ahead of time where to sit.

open seating sign

PC: Anne Nunn via Project Wedding

Key for Meal Choices: If you asked your guests to make a meal choice before the wedding, you need a way to efficiently communicate their choices to servers. With meal choices, it’s easiest to assign seats and make a diagram for your banquet manager to follow. Sometimes, in more flexible situations, you can assign tables, include your guests’ meal choices on their escort cards, and instruct guests to put their cards on their place setting so servers know what they ordered. This is more complicated and is not the preferred seating method in this scenario. Your best plan is to consult with your catering manager and to follow his or her advice.

If I can only offer you one more piece of advice, it is not to leave the process of assigning your guests their seats to the last minute. Too many couples have stayed up all night the night before the wedding in tears because they didn’t tackle the job earlier. Too many wedding planners have had to harass their couples on the wedding day to elicit the assignments – these are your friends and loved ones. It is one job that we genuinely cannot do for you on our own (although we can certainly help!). Do not procrastinate. Start discussing seating assignments as soon as your RSVPs begin to arrive.

This is just a quick overview of an event planning task that I know is complicated and sometimes heart wrenching. When you get stressed or confused, it’s a good time to turn to your professional wedding planner or wedding day coordinator for some advice and resources. Let your wedding planner help you successfully check this one off your list!

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