Wedding Seating Etiquette

sweethearts table at wedding reception

A friend asked: Is there seating chart etiquette?

My response:

There used to be seating chart etiquette, but it’s a lot more free flowing these days. (Click through for tips for organizing your seating chart.) Here’s what’s traditional:

  • The wedding party table faces the room with no one sitting opposite them. The bride sits to the groom’s right, and the best man sits to her right, while the maid of honor sits on the groom’s left. Attendants are seated boy, girl, boy, etc., from each side.
  • Often the parents of the bride and the groom are seated at two different tables. You can seat both sets of parents together, but they likely will have extended family in attendance. If they do, then seat them each with family. If parents are divorced, even if they’re on good terms, traditionally you seat them at different tables with their family as well.
  • Anyone who requires watching over or assistance should be seated with a person who can offer it — for example, a young child with their parents or a disabled person with their caretaker.
  • Guests who are spouses are seated at the same table but not next to each other — it makes for a more open, congenial atmosphere at the table.

Like I said, that has been the standard for a long time, but it’s becoming less common these days.

Lately, sweetheart tables — where the bride and the groom sit together at a small table alone, like the one above — have grown in popularity. One professional wedding planner offered some advice on sweetheart tables worth considering: If the bride and groom are very social, don’t opt for a sweetheart table. You’ll probably prefer to chat with friends and family.

Another popular trend: escort cards, where you simply assign guests to a table, not a seat. Check out this video that describes the difference between escort and place cards with photos of each.

As for seating guests, use your best judgment. I’ve seen tables dedicated to the single folks, tables of only old friends, and tables where there were a mix of people who did and didn’t know each other. If you do mix things up, which can be fun when done well, make sure to do so in an even manner. You don’t want a table of seven people who know each other and one person who doesn’t know a soul there. They’ll likely feel like the odd man out. Consider grouping together people who don’t know each other but would get along.

If you have any tips on how you did your seating arrangements, please share them!

An important element of seating? Tables! This short video on reception tables will help you decide, then find a rental company that provides them.

Photo by Joe Photo

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  1. There are some great tips here!

    Be careful when seating your single friends – certainly don’t use your seating plan as an opportunity to matchmake. It’ll be really obvious and they probably won’t thank you for it!

    Sweetheart tables are certainly becoming more popular, as is having no top table at all. Instead, leave a couple of empty chairs at a few tables and have different courses with different people!

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