In my opinion, getting the guests seated and the reception started is the stickiest part of the wedding day. Seating charts look perfect on paper, but factor in human error, extra guests, or missing escort cards, and we have situations that can quickly get out of control. An alphabetical list (preferably in Excel) of all of your guests and what table they are at is crucial to get this transition done smoothly. This is one of the items on my checklist that I request from my clients, and trust me when I say that my assistants and I USE this list. When the ballroom doors open, we are stationed next to the escort card table to assist the elderly that cannot read the cards, pick up the cards that fall on the floor, and troubleshoot the problems that arise. We have seen everything–guests that do not have an escort card, couples that are assigned to separate tables (in error), guests who pick up the wrong card, guests who go to the table and find that it is already full, and guests whose cards are blank because the table number was not written in. If we have an alpha list, we can fix this in one minute and the guests can find their seat and the party can begin. If we don’t have a list, it is difficult and embarrassing for all. I have had a few weddings in the past where the brides did not have time to get me this list, and in each situation we started the reception late because we could not get guests properly seated. It’s bad enough when the guest who can’t find their seat is a college friend or coworker, but it’s worse when it is a grandparent, godparent, etc. A few years ago I had a couple leave because the bride had forgotten to assign them a table and they were embarrassed and angry. They refused to wait while the staff created place settings for them. Not a pretty situation.
If you do not have a wedding coordinator, there are a few things I recommend to help assist this transition time:
1. Make sure you not only triple check your seating chart, you have someone else check it with fresh eyes. At this point in the game, you are tired and overwhelmed and mistakes are easy to make in this area.
2. Create 2 empty seats at a table at the perimeter of the room that you can use as a backup if there are any errors.
3. Ask an aunt or a friend to take time during the cocktail hour to check the tables to make sure they are set correctly, as in, if the floorplan says that Table One is set for eight, make sure that there are eight chairs, plates, silverware, etc. Banquet staff make mistakes and set tables incorrectly all of the time.
4. Ask an aunt or a friend to be the escort card table host and use this alpha list to help guests find their seats.
5. Reconsider your decision of not hiring a wedding coordinator 🙂