Reception etiquette: Where to seat your guests

Assigned seating is standard at most receptions because it gets guests to mix and mingle and makes it easier for friends who don’t know many other guests to socialize and not feel left out. But brides- and grooms-to-be have been known to get a bit stressed about planning the reception seating chart. The best thing to know about seating is that there really are no rules! But here are some tips to help you consider all of your options:

  • Decide who will sit at the head table or if you will even have one. The head table is where the bride and groom sit, either alone or more typically accompanied by their wedding party. It’s often positioned at the front of the room, and sometimes even elevated.¬†If this seems like too much attention for you, you can forego the head table or make it less conspicuous. It’s your wedding, after all!
  • Decide where your parents will sit. If your parents get along swimmingly, you can place them at the same table with grandparents, aunts and uncles, or other close friends or relations. If your parents do not get along well or don’t know each other too well, it’s OK to place them at separate but nearby tables.
  • Use your own knowledge. If you have friends from different groups that have never met, or cousins from each side that are around the same age and seem to have much in common, seat them together. Couples generally seat people in similar age ranges together, but it’s up to you. You know your friends and family members so use this information to make the best choices. You’d probably realize, for example, that it isn’t a good idea to place a hunting enthusiast cousin next to a friend who is strictly vegan and an animal rights activist.
  • Ask around. Sometimes, especially if you’re having a very large wedding, you won’t know everyone very well – or at all, even. If distant relatives or your parents’ friends you’ve never met are attending, make sure to ask your parents or grandparents about any potential conflicts so you can be sure to pay attention to these in your seating chart.

In the end, it’s really only your job to order the customized table numbers and personalized place cards to get your guests to their seats. After that, it’s up to them to act with decorum and kindness, even if they’re seated near someone they don’t particularly care for.

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