Seating guests for weddings, events

Give everyone great dinner partners!

I am wary of making recommendations about any of the decisions we all make about weddings or large parties. Most of it comes down to style – and that is very personal. I do have advice about the surprisingly complicated mechanics of making a seating plan for a lot of guests.

Here’s the process:

  1. Start early

    – it will take longer than you think. Seats need to be assigned by people who know the guests. If it is a wedding, get the bride and groom involved.

  1. Finalize the guest list.
  1. Consider your event from your guests’ perspectives. Do you want to meet new people or reconnect with old friends? Would you like to sit at a ‘singles’ table or mix it up with couples? One of our daughters got married in South Africa and we seated our American and international friends at tables where there was someone they knew and some South Africans who they were pleased to meet. It worked. There is no right answer, go with your personal style.
  1. Assign a color code to each guest so that you will be able scan your table plan to balance singles, couples, men and women. Add codes if you are looking to mix bride’s guests with groom’s guests, guests of different ages or any other criteria. Here are my basic codes:
    1. Bright yellow = Couple
    2. Pink = Single female
    3. Blue = Single male
  1. Put one single guest’s name on each blue or pink Post-it and put a couple’s names together on a yellow Post-it (assuming you are seating couples at the same table).
  1. Decide how much social engineering do you want to do. Assign guests to tables, but not seats? Specific seat assignments are time consuming and can be easily turned upside down by ‘no-shows’. Follow your instincts – your own style. If you assign seats, you will need to print escort cards.
  2. Determine the number of tables you’ll need. Establish the shape and size of the tables you can use – and the number of seats available at each table. Some tables seat 8-10 guests, so you will have flexibility. By dividing the number of guests by the average seats at each table, you will know how many tables you need to seat. For example, to seat 160 guests at eight person tables, you will need 20 tables.
    Guest seating
  1. Lay out a model of your party space. On your dining room table (or some other workspace upon which this project can be left for a few days) lay out one paper plate for each round table and a piece of printer paper for each rectangular table. Cut the paper into squares if you have square tables. Lay the tables out as they will be placed at your event. Consider which tables are near the band and dance floor. If it is a wedding, where do you want to place the bride and groom?
    seating guests for weddings
  2. Mark each plate with a number (Table 1, Table 2). Then, write down the capacity of each table on the plate or paper (for instance, 8 seats).
  1. Now you are ready to put guests’ names on your ‘tables’. Begin with the first Post-it note and place it on a ‘table’. Do this for every guest (Post-it). At a glance you will be able to see how guests are at each table and which tables need to be changed. You can lift Post-its and move them around until you are satisfied.
  1. If you choose to assign specific seats, you have one more step. If a table has 8 seats, write the number 1-8 around the edge of the paper plate or paper which represents the table. Arrange the Post-it notes at places on the table. Write the seat numbers on the Post-its near the name of the gest.
  1. The MOST IMPORTANT STEP. When you have the party laid out to your satisfaction, use your phone to take a photo of each table and at least one of your overall layout. This will give you a record of your plan even if a dog/wind/toddler sweeps through your workspace.

Good luck and have fun!

Martha Stewart offers lots of ideas about where to seat the bride and groom and their wedding parties.

These free online sites offer tools to lay out your party room. You need to sign in to use them.

Wedding Mapper


Wedding Wire

seating guests for weddings


DoDo Seating guests

Do you have a great strategy? Let us know in the comments.