Do You Need a Rehearsal Dinner Seating Chart?
You've mapped out your wedding reception seating chart, designed pretty escort cards (and maybe even place cards, too!) and made sure your caterers know how many guests want chicken and how many want fish. But should you do the same for your rehearsal dinner? Well, it depends. Here's everything you should consider before making a rehearsal dinner seating chart, and how to create your rehearsal dinner table assignments if you choose to have them.
Do You Need Assigned Seating at Your Rehearsal Dinner?
Creating a rehearsal dinner seating plan is totally optional, but it may be a good idea in some situations. If you're considering going this route, there are a few things to consider to help you make a final decision.
Consider Your Rehearsal Dinner Venue
Having a casual backyard barbecue with picnic tables? Assigned seating might make things awkward and inconvenient.
But if your rehearsal dinner is taking place in a formal setting, a seating chart is your best bet for smooth sailing and happy guests. It'll also help if you're tight on space. Here's why: Guests will naturally tend to spread out a little more and won't fill up the tables to capacity when they seat themselves. Assigned seating (or even just assigned tables) will ensure you won't run out of room or have to split up couples to make do.
Consider Your Guest List
If you're having a wedding with more than 75 guests, we almost always recommend providing your guests with a seating assignment. The truth is, guests like to be told where to sit so they can avoid the high school cafeteria "where do I sit?" awkwardness, and it makes you look especially thoughtful for seating your guests with people you know they'll enjoy sitting with.
The same goes for your rehearsal dinner. If you have a substantial guest list, then a seating chart is the way to go. You can seat your guests similarly to how they'll be seated at your reception: Immediate family members and wedding party members near you, and then the rest of the guests seated with people they know. (Odds are, a lot of your guests will already be acquainted, since your rehearsal dinner will likely be more intimate than your reception.)
Simply having a tight-knit dinner party instead? You can probably skip the seating chart.
Consider the Type of Dinner
Again, think of your guest list when you consider this. If you're having a small, casual rehearsal dinner with a buffet-style meal, you'll probably be fine without one. But in the case that your rehearsal dinner is taking place in a formal setting (along with plated dinner service and waitstaff), you might want to steer toward telling your guests exactly where to sit. It makes everyone's lives easier—and again, your guests will enjoy being told where to sit, and the waitstaff will be aware of who has food allergies or restrictions. Win-win.
Consider Your Budget and Time
It turns out that having assigned seats at your rehearsal dinner will increase your budget somewhat, as you'll need table numbers, escort cards, place cards and/or signage to share the seating assignments with your guests. Whether you DIY these paper goods, buy printables on Etsy or go with hand-calligraphy by a professional, you'll be spending additional funds, so if your rehearsal dinner budget is tight, opting for open seating might be a more affordable option. Remember too that creating a seating chart adds an extra step to your wedding planning checklist, so if you're feeling overwhelmed, you might skip it or delegate to your partner or a loved one.
How to Create a Rehearsal Dinner Seating Chart
If you're going the assigned seating route for your rehearsal dinner, you'll want to take some time to figure out where everyone is sitting. Your venue or wedding planner may be able to provide a layout of the space where your event will be held, so you'll know how many tables they'll be and how many guests can sit at each table.
Start your seating chart by placing the soon-to-be weds in prime spots. If loved ones will be giving toasts during the event, the soon-to-be weds should be given the best seats to see and hear these speeches. Typically, the couple will sit with their immediate family members—parents and siblings—but they may also sit with their wedding party (and their plus-ones) and give each set of parents their own table to sit with loved ones.
In terms of placing the other guests, you could go one of two routes: Seat them in similar groups to the wedding reception, or mix it up. The easiest option is to seat guests based on how you know them or how they know each other—family members, college friends, hometown pals, etc. If you're inviting a lot of guests who are meeting for the first time, you could group them by common interests (sports, music, etc.) or just people you think might get along. Some couples place a wedding party member at each table to help foster conversation. And of course, any invited children should be seated with their parents.
You'll want to have your rehearsal dinner seating arrangements completed at least a week or two before the big day so you'll have enough time to create the escort cards or any signage.