Years ago when my best friend got married I helped her with her seating chart. Until then, I’d never really understood why everyone said it was such a stressful part of wedding planning. But two hours, and one pretty substantial breakdown later, I got it. Her parents were divorced and were not on good terms, her fiance’s family was all coming from Poland and spoke very little English, and their best couple friends had broken up a week prior. As if divorced parents, language barriers, and breakups weren’t enough, their venue wasn’t responding to questions about table arrangement. This was two weeks before their wedding.
Now that I work in the world of weddings, I’ve learned that my friend wasn’t alone—making the seating chart is a triggering task for most brides. Luckily, I’ve learned a few simple ways to make the process of creating a seating chart a lot easier. Let’s look at some common seating chart mistakes and strategies for keeping things as stress-free as possible so that you can stay in a positive, relaxed state of mind leading up to your big day.
Seat “Problem” People First
The biggest mistake that my friend and I made when organizing her seating chart was not seating the difficult people first (ie. her parents and her newly split friends). Since it was unpleasant for her to think about, she just avoided it to the end. We ended up having to rearrange a good chunk of the tables when we had nearly finished to accommodate them and ensure they were far enough apart. As tough and as unfair as it may seem, you’ve got to give priority to the people who can’t be seated next to one another. The best way to do this is to make a list of all of these people and plot them on the chart first, making sure there is plenty of space between them so no unwanted conflicts arise.
In the case of divorced parents, having a designated family table may not be the best idea. Don’t be afraid to break tradition and mix things up so that everyone is comfortable. My friend ended up having one long table and scattering all of the family members rather than seating one of her parents at a family table and leaving out the other. At the end of the day, you want everyone to focus on the celebration of your love and not the discomfort they feel from being seated next to someone they dislike. While you can’t please everyone, you can do your part to make sure you’ve taken everyone’s needs into careful consideration.
Employ the Help of a Neutral Third Party
Another mistake I often see brides make is working on their seating plan alone. This is not something that anyone should do! At the very least, this should be a task you and your fiance do together. Be aware that this can sometimes create stress in the relationship, depending on how many guests you have at your wedding and how many “problem” people you have.
What I often recommend is getting a neutral third party—such as your wedding coordinator—to help you and your fiance with the task. It may seem like overkill, but it will streamline the process immensely. Having a professional there who isn’t caught up in any of your family drama and who can offer a clear, objective perspective can really help to diffuse any tension or anxiety you may be feeling. Your coordinator will also be aware of the possible seating layouts for your venue, and will be able to advise what configuration would work best for your particular group—they’ll even advise you on what food to serve.
While it is true that you want to do your best to make sure that everyone is happy and comfortable at your wedding, remember that there are some things that you simply can’t control—like other people. I see so many brides agonizing over whether their parents are far enough apart or if their friends will be happy with who they are seated with when really they should be focusing on keeping stress levels low. Instead, they take on the anxieties and discomforts of others and it drains them of the joy they should be feeling on their big day.
Whenever you get stressed about your seating plan, remember that the dinner is only one part of the big day. It’s not as though people have to stay in their seats until the end of the evening—they’ll be up dancing, mingling, and having a wonderful time as soon as the eating ends. And speaking from experience, people typically set aside their differences on a wedding day and are at the best to support the bride and groom.
Stress doesn’t have to be a given when it comes arranging your seating chart—or any other part of the wedding planning process. Our beautiful, all-inclusive venue provides on-site coordinators who are there to take care of all the details for you. Contact Kennolyn to find out more about how we can make your planning process as stress-free as possible and ensure that everyone—including you—will be content and comfortable on your big day.
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