Reception Seating

Escort cards, table numbers, seating arrangements and the seating chart are all connected. Let’s figure out if you need all of these or just a few. 

The escort cards are the cute little cards that are placed at every place setting. They have a few different purposes, first they let your guests know where they are to sit and it’s a nice keepsake for them to take home. They can have two other pieces of information that is helpful, the plated dinner type and the table number. These could also be left off. These cards have evolved into many creative ideas, they could be engraved wine glasses or hand painted items. For more ideas click here.

Will your guests pick up their own escort card from an entry table and set it at their seats on their own? This would be considered open seating. The entire room can be open seating or you can assign tables and the guest will only pick their seat at the assigned table. If the latter is the case the table number is very important to be on the card. Even if you have a seating chart sign. Your guests will forget their table number the minute they walk away from the sign and if it’s on the card it’s easy to remember. If the cards are pre-placed for the guests at each seat, then you can leave off the table number.

The food choice is important to add if you are having a plated dinner or there are any dietary restrictions. The catering company will need to know who is eating which meal choice. These can still look cute and accomplish directional items. For a buffet you could leave off the meal choice and potentially the table number. Etsy can always help you create something amazing see them here.

I highly recommend assigning all the seats in the room. The largest family fight I had to break up was because of table seating arrangements. They decided to take the open seating to a whole new level of craziness. All of your guests are used to following the rules and doing anything the bride and groom ask of them. The minute you give a group of guests a choice you will have chaos. Think about family tension mixed with a few drinks. Giving them a seat to find is hard enough, they will be happy just to find where they are going. Plus, when you assign seats it gives you a chance to match up like-minded guests that may or may not have met before.

I’ll break it all down. How do we even begin this task?

First: Take all of the guests that have replied yes and start a spreadsheet. Create a line for each guest’s full name. Do not use nicknames unless you plan to have their nicknames on the final escort cards. Putting their names in alphabetical order by: Last Name, First Name. This will help you easily find them and keep everything orderly when there are changes. There WILL be changes. On your spreadsheet create four columns from the left: Name, Table number, meal choice and dietary restriction. If you don’t know the table numbers yet, just leave that blank, we will work on that below. If you are having a buffet and someone gives you their dietary restriction write it in the meal choice column anyways. It’s important to know what your guests are eating or not eating. If you realize you have a handful of vegetarians, you will want to include them in the appetizers. Believe me it’s just good to remember. The most common dietary restrictions are gluten free, vegetarian, pescatarian, vegan and dairy free. We can’t forget about the kid meals. Will there be children at your reception? If so, they might be going through the buffet or getting their own special kid meal. Just write Kid Meal under their name. Lastly, don’t forget to add yourself: Bride & Groom. I made a funny mistake on my card, which no one noticed but me. I wrote my maiden name as my last name instead of my new last name. Technically, my name had not legally changed, but still you know what I’m talking about!

Second: Let’s put the entire table seating together. Do you have covid table seating guidelines to pay attention to? Find out what those are first. If there are no restraints you still need to find out how many people can sit at one table. This is usually around 8 to 10 guests, unless you are doing long farm tables or a U-shape. There are many table seating options, ask your wedding planner what they have seen work well for your space. Start with table #1 this will have you (the bride and groom) on a sweetheart table for two. Or it could be the head table with up to 20 guests. Decide what is better for your group first. I went with a sweetheart table because it was one of the few moments I got to be alone with my husband. I rented the rad looking farm table in the picture below, for us to sit at and I loved tablescaping it. If you go with a head table then you need to look at your wedding party and figure out if you want the wedding party to have their date with them or not. If their dates don’t come, they will need their own table. You can get really creative with the head table and have the wedding party sit on the same side as the couple and across from them is their date, then leave the two seats open in front of the newly married duo. Next, we move to table number two and three. These can be set-aside for the parents and special aunts and uncles. Keep filling the room until you have an idea of where everyone will sit. The more RSVP’s you get the more the tables will change. Once you are set add the table numbers to the meal spreadsheet. To organize, you can get a huge cork board, cut out your table sizes and add numbers. Then use sticky notes to add names to each table until they are full. Here's a helpful site to help you visually organize your tables.

A new trend instead of table numbers are table names. This is a creative way to incorporate city names, favorite bands, or anything else that goes with your theme. The knot has a lot of amazing ones to choose from here

Lastly, you can create your seating chart sign for the entrance. This will help your guests find their seats once they have arrived for dinner. If they are picking up their escort card make sure the sign is in the same area. Use a regular Word Doc to do a simple list of each table. It’s best to make it alphabetical or by some type of order. This could be something you print and frame individually or it could be one large frame. If you have a calligrapher or printer doing your signs, this document could be turned into them easily. This will be one of the very last things you do the week of the wedding or once all of your RSVP’s have been returned. There always seems to be one guest that wants to change plans the week of the wedding. There are endless ideas on Pinterest, see here.

Photo credit: Marina Koslow Photography at