This blog is part 1 of a 2 part series hosted by Austin wedding calligrapher, Jen Krause sharing how to make a seating chart for your wedding.
Hi friends! Jen of Jen Krause Paper Co here. I’m a calligrapher/designer/stationer here in Austin, Texas, and one of my absolute favorite parts of wedding day-of signage is the escort display, or seating chart! Lately, this seems to be the design element that couples get the most creative with. I’ve done all sorts of things from lettering on acrylic boards leaned up against the wall, to hand-lettered envelopes with personalized notes inside, to escort cards pinned to greenery walls, to multi-piece hanging displays, and everything in between. There are SO many options, so it’s very easy to feel overwhelmed. But, I’m here to help!
Creating Your Actual Seating Chart
Quick disclaimer for the actual organization part of your seating chart: I’ve never planned my own wedding, and while I used to be a wedding coordinator, I stayed away from this particular part. Because it’s personal, and can be tricky/complicated, especially with all those last-minute changes! But here are some tips.
Decide – seating chart or open seating?
This is one of your first decisions to make and this is entirely up to you! Most couples I work with do have seating charts made, because it keeps things extra organized.
And note: if you choose to do open seating, please keep in mind that you should have 1-2 extra tables for miscellaneous guests that don’t fit. For example, perhaps you have an 8-top table. Two couples sit there, then a three-person family joins, making the count for that table 7. Now, that leftover seat is going to be hard to fill, since most people have dates, friends, or families to sit with. If that happens at multiple tables, boom, extra tables are needed!
Assigned tables or assigned seats?
If you decide to go ahead with your seating chart, the next decision is – assigned tables or assigned seats? Unless you are having a plated dinner (with various entrée options that your guests have preselected on their response cards), OR you’re set on including individual place cards into your design aesthetic, assigned seats is not necessary. Assigned tables lets people figure out their own configuration within their set table. Easy peasy, everyone’s happy!
Sweetheart table or Head table?
Another hot debate – sweetheart table, head table, or none of the above? This will help determine what will happen with some of your VIP guests, like wedding party, parents, and close family. If you decide to do a sweetheart table or head table, just be sure to stick your parents and close family in the tables nearest to you!
Deciding who sits where
Now, onto creating the actual chart! There are totally easy digital solutions to plug each guest’s name into your virtual layout. Your wedding planner likely has given you access to some sort of site like this, which is great for configuring and playing. (And, bonus, when you’re done, you can export your seating chart nicely, either alphabetically or by table #, to give to your stationer or calligrapher!)
I’m a super duper visual person, so I also sometimes suggest doing the good-old fashioned sticky note method. Print blank table templates out at home, number them by table #, and arrange them on your dining room table or floor based on your overall layout. Then, write each guest’s name on a sticky note, and start sticking and moving around like a giant puzzle! But I know, I know, this is a LOT of work. Writing that many names by hand is a pain in the butt, trust me, I get it. So ya know, do whatever feels most comfortable to you and your boo.
When should I start working on this?
As for the timeline of having your chart complete, this varies. If you are doing a plated dinner, your caterer might have a different due date than your stationer. And, your stationer’s due date in general may vary based on the material of your seating chart. For example, things that are getting printed, especially large-scale/specialty printed materials, need to be set-in-stone earlier so that the printer has time to get it done. From my experience, a 2-week-out deadline is pretty normal. However, a handwritten seating chart may have a bit more wiggle room.
For me, personally, when doing a handwritten escort display, I am patient with those last-minute changes. I typically ask for the finalized names by the Monday of your wedding week. Because, I get it, there are always last-minute changes, and since I’m just hand-writing the names and numbers, I’m a bit more flexible. Just be sure to have open communication with your vendors about what is needed for them to do their jobs correctly!
Photo by Jona Christina Photo
Check back next week for Jen’s tips on “How to Design Your Seating Chart” complete with example pictures and options.
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Bianca Nichole Events is a wedding planner in Austin, TX, and will travel to Dripping Springs, San Antonio, Fredericksburg, and the surrounding Texas Hill Country area.