By Carol Riordan
11:40 AM EDT, September 26, 2013
Seating can be one of the more challenging aspects of wedding planning. Where to put that outspoken relative? How about your shy, single friend? Will your boss who listens to NPR get along with your neighbor who supports the NRA? The seating plan for the reception can seem like a chess game with no end in sight.
"When you're inviting a large group of people there are bound to be those who don't get along and who don't know each other," says Joe Howard, owner of Ann Howard at The Bond in Hartford. "Keep this in mind when you start and don't get frustrated."
The event coordinator at your reception site will want to know approximately how many tables you'll need before giving you a seating chart, but you can start planning where to seat your family well before your receive all your RSVPs, says Darren McKenty, executive director of Marquee Events and Catering featuring the Gershon Fox Ballroom in Hartford. Next, you can seat your bridal party and start dispersing everyone else around them, McKenty says.
Howard advises people not to worry about exact seating positions until the end of the process. "Group your people together using common interests, personalities, who can and can't sit with whom," he says. "Then figure out where to place the groups."
Head tables are no longer in vogue, and this changes some seating dynamics. "Right now, people are choosing sweetheart tables over head tables, which is a wonderful improvement," says McKenty. Howard agrees and attributes this to the fact that people are getting married later in life when many of their friends are married or have significant others. Sweetheart tables take some of the angst out of seating, Howard says. "If your friend sits up at the head table, the date knows no one. The date is miserable and so is your friend worrying about the date," he says.
The bride and groom will also enjoy being seated at a table by themselves. "It's a little oasis in the middle of the reception," says Howard. "They can get away and have a few minutes to talk to their new spouse."
As for friends attending solo, Howard advises against seating them at singles tables. "If I'm a single person, I'd rather sit with some people I know rather than a group of single people," he says. McKenty agrees and advises grouping some singles together and then adding couples with similar interests.
Many wedding guests may be friends and co-workers of the bride and groom's parents. The respective parents should help choose seating for their own friends to make sure the arrangements are comfortable for everyone.
Seating children can be tricky. If children are grouped together at their own table, McKenty advises putting parents nearby. "Have that table near a group of parents who belong to those kids," he says. Howard recommends having a children's table with a babysitter. With some venues, you can choose to have children in another room. "If you're in a hotel, you can have food delivered to another room and have the babysitter with the kids in there," he says.
When arranging seating, you also want to consider individuals with special needs. You might want to seat them near doors and restrooms so it's easier for them to get around once the reception is in full swing. Try to accommodate special requests such as not seating the elderly too close to music speakers.
When assigning final seat numbers, some people choose to write guests' names on small pieces of paper and move them around the seating chart. McKenty says that technology is now a bride's best friend. "The Knot and The Wedding Channel have pre-built excel sheets. As your responses come in, they will ask you where you want to put the person and will show you a visual," he says.
Howard and McKenty agree that it's really important to talk to the event coordinator at your venue. "They're going to know the venue better than anyone," says McKenty. "And get several copies of the seating chart because your first draft is never going to work."
Material from Metro Creative Connection was included in this story.
Copyright © 2014, WTXX-TV