There has been a lot of back and forth, especially since COVID, about a seating chart or no seating chart. I have a strict rule about this. As one of the rare planners that are ok without you having a seating chart, it has to be under one condition. You have at least 15% MORE seats than humans on your final count. For example, if your final guest count is 100, you must have 115 seats total on your table layout. Now depending on your catering selection or décor setup, it will cost you more money to have these extra place settings/chairs.
Why the extra 15% seating? It never fails that one or two groups wait too long at the bar for cocktail hour. When they go to find a seat, they come up to me and say there aren’t enough seats or, heaven forbid, they start moving chairs to make their own table somewhere else. It’s like when you are on a Southwest flight, and the flight attendant says it is a full flight. If you are the last group on the plane, you know that only the middle seats are left, and everyone in your group will have to split up. Would you move all the middle seats together if you could? Yes. That is why we do this. Creating extra seating allows groups to stay together and spread out if needed, without having to take the middle seat at the table they don’t know anyone.
The second topic that has come up for the more casual weddings is “Do we all have to sit and eat at the same time?” This one is a little more interesting. This happens when the venue is not a conventional space with a formal seating option. For example, you are having your reception at a venue and want to have your favorite food truck for dinner. There is no way a food truck will be able to serve everyone at the same time or even a buffet-style line. In these scenarios, we use the combined cocktail/dinner method.
This means that the guests have gotten a drink and are mingling after the ceremony; as the coordinator, I begin nudging a couple of guests to head over to the food truck to order their meal. This process lasts 1.5-2 hours, depending on the guest count. Once everyone has eaten, THEN you ask everyone to gather around, for the the bridal party entrance, their first dance and all the reception activities begin. It is the same amount of time for cocktail hour and dinner combined. This also gives the couple and the bridal party more time for photos; I’ve found they feel less rushed. My favorite part is the couples that need more time to relax and recharge before the reception usually eat privately in a separate space in the venue. This is great because the couple is also more likely to eat without guest interruption!
Honestly, I’m a rare coordinator that is super into this vibe. Keep in mind, if this is what you want, it takes so many more moving parts to make the flow not chaotic, so having a coordinator and their crew is a MUST! You will also have a lot of extra clean-up because usually, food truck staff will not bus tables, which will fall on you as the couple to divvy out that task.