Take a Seat: We're Talking Guest List, Wedding Party, and Seating Charts
Updated: Aug 2, 2020
Are you ready for a some HUGE wedding planning tasks that you can conquer while on quarantine? Stay tuned to this post, because I am going to help you out tremendously with something that couples usually put off until the last minute to complete. With all of the time you have on your hands now, these tasks will be perfect to complete so that you aren’t stuck with them later. Today we’re talking guest list and seating chart. So get comfy and get ready to take notes, as this blog post will be a little longer than my other ones because I will be giving you some great tips and resources to help you out!
The guest list is probably one of the first items you should prepare as you start your wedding planning, and it’s a prerequisite for some of the other important tasks you will need to do such as: creating a budget (food and drinks are one of the biggest costs associated with a wedding and they are usually priced per person), ordering save-the-dates and invitations, planning out the reception layout, table/chair rentals and decor, and creating the seating chart (which we are going over today!). Because a lot of factors depend on the guest list, it is something that you should probably put a lot of thought into. If you are lost on where to start the process of making a guest list or cutting people from the list, here are 4 different methods for you to try. Everyone’s brain works differently, so pick the one that works for you!
Method 1: 4- Tiered Cut
I’ll tell you what my fiancé and I did to put together our guest list that was super helpful. We compiled a joint list of everyone in our lives- starting with all of our family, then our friends, and then our family friends and gave everyone who qualified a plus one (because we knew that it was important to us that people were able to bring plus ones). We put the guest list on an excel sheet so each person had their own row. We had 300 rows and counting, and we knew that our budget was more for 150 people so we had to make some cuts. The first round of cuts were all of the people who we hadn’t talked to in a long time or who we didn’t feel that close to anymore. The second round of cuts were plus ones for people who weren’t in relationships at the time. We decided that although we love being able to extend plus ones, we also wanted to be able to celebrate with people that we know and feel comfortable with. Thus, all of our friends who had been in long term relationships with people would be getting plus ones, because we had already established friendships with their significant other. If you are conflicted about who to give plus-ones to, check out this article by The Knot about Who Absolutely Needs a Plus-One, and Who Doesn’t. The third round of cuts were some of the family friends and extended family that we weren’t that close to. Keep in mind, the etiquette is that if your parents are helping you pay for the wedding, they get a say in the guest list and may want you to keep a lot of the family friends and extended family on the list. My fiancé and I are paying for our own wedding, so we were able to make a lot of cuts here while still letting our families consult us on who we should consider keeping on the list. When that still wasn’t quite enough, we made a final and increasingly difficult round of cuts- immediate family that would bring drama to our wedding, or haven’t really been there for us/our relationship since the beginning. This method will surely get you to have to justify all of your guests to each other and make cuts of guests who you both decide aren’t as necessary. It is more thoughtful and methodical, and it’s an activity that you and your partner can complete together.
Method 2: A/B list
This method is simple, and you and your partner can prepare these lists as a team or individually. For this method, you will prepare an A-list of guests who are absolute necessities at your wedding. Really think about this one and how many of the people on your list you really want at your wedding. Then prepare a B list of everyone else on the list who isn’t as essential. If it isn’t looking like a lot of people from your A list will be able to make it (which will be a problem if you have a guaranteed amount for food/venue) or if you haven’t reached the amount of guests you budgeted for, start adding people from your B list.
Method 3: Intimate Wedding
If you are feeling too overwhelmed with creating a guest list and have a smaller budget and/or are worried about hurting the feelings of those you don’t invite, maybe a smaller and more intimate wedding is for you! It can be really meaningful to some to just have their bff bridesmaids and groomsmen and their immediate families present. No drama, no seating charts, and no lavish expenses for food/space for tens or hundreds of people.
Method 4: Excluded Groups
For some people, it may be easier to just exclude people by group. Usually this means excluding plus-ones or kids. Whichever you choose, it’s up to you. Just remember it’s YOUR day. If you do choose to exclude kids or plus ones, there are some great articles on the Knot (some of which I have shared on my Facebook page) that detail the best ways to go about it.
No matter which method you use for creating your guest list, it is important to ask yourself these questions during the process: Does the thought of inviting this person invoke excitement or happiness? Is this someone who has really been there for me/him/her and us? Do I want to share this milestone with him/her? If you answered “no” to any of these questions, you might want to re-think some of your guests. The guests set the tone for the whole wedding. If you have people that are excited to celebrate with you, the wedding will be amazing. If you invite people that might spark drama, then the day could be spoiled for you as soon as someone shows their bad attitude. Inviting people because they invited you to their wedding also should not be the case. I’m definitely not telling you who not to invite, I’m just trying to provoke some thought on the subject and make sure that you are taking this task seriously in ensuring that your wedding will be as wonderful as it can be. Another thing to keep in mind is that typically about 15% of people are not able to attend your wedding. The number of people that you invite typically will not be the number that end up RSVPing. And if you’re hosting an out-of-town or destination wedding, the number of people who can make it will most likely be a lot smaller. So have peace of mind knowing that if you budgeted for 150 people and have 175 remaining on your guest list and can’t make any more cuts, you’re probably going to be just fine.
Before you start your guest list, I highly encourage you to start a binder or a folder in google drive so that you can keep track of everything in one place. Google has a great wedding planning template on Google Sheets that you can use not only for your guest list, but almost all other aspects of your planning as well! The Google Sheets wedding planning template has tabs for budget, expenses, to-do lists, vendor information and much more. Click HERE for a preview of the document. If you do not know how to access this template on google sheets, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll walk you through it. It’s one of the easiest and best tools that I have found for couples to use on their own.
Once you have your guest list, you can also use this time in solitude to start reaching out to people and collecting mailing addresses. Saves you from a headache later!
Once you have your guest list solidified (or maybe you even want to complete this before to help you know who to keep on the guest lists), it’s time to start picking out your wedding party! You can keep it traditional with groomsmen and bridesmaids, a flower girl and a ring bearer, or you can do something fun and different. You can have one of your funnier groomsmen be a “flower girl” for laughs, or you could even have your two grandmas be flower girls walking down the aisle for a cuter, more sentimental effect. Then there’s always the option of having a beloved pet jump in as the ring bearer. If you want to plan a bridesmaid proposal, now would be a great time to start putting it together! Keep reading for some tips on choosing your wedding party.
You have so many amazing women in your life- how do you choose just a few bridesmaids for your big day? How many bridesmaids should you have? Will you hurt any feelings if you don’t ask certain friends to be part of your bride tribe? Keep reading for my advice on everything bridesmaids! (This works for groomsmen, too!)
It is almost inevitable that someone might get their feelings a tad hurt if they don’t get chosen as a bridesmaid. Whether the reason for the cut is budget, aesthetics, matching bridal party with your significant other’s, or just that you’re not that good of friends with that one person, all I can suggest there is that you handle it with grace. It might even help to explain that you don’t have the budget for that many bridesmaids or whatever the reasoning is. I would personally suggest not having more than about 10 bridesmaids. After that number, it gets really hard to keep track of everyone on the wedding day, find enough room for everyone to stand during the ceremony, it takes a long time to get everyone down the aisle, and it gets expensive buying all of those gifts and bouquets. You want your bridesmaids to be your most intimate friends- girls that you don’t mind getting ready with and ones that will help calm your wedding day stresses. The more bridesmaids you have, the less special that position becomes. When picking out bridesmaids, make sure that the ones you pick:
1) All get along with each other. This is important for the bachelorette party and the wedding. You don’t want things to be awkward between your girls when the day is supposed to be about you.
2) Are truly important people in your life and will make the day about you not themselves
3) All make you feel excited and happy to pick them instead of just obligated. THIS IS SO IMPORTANT. It’s YOUR day, so make sure that all of your decisions about it make you 100% happy
When thinking about creating a seating chart, you first need to decide if you would like to use escort cards
or an actual seating chart at your wedding. Escort cards will guide each guest to a particular table, while a seating chart will guide each guest to a specific seat at a table. When I refer to a “seating chart” in this blog post, I am referring to a chart that you create internally where you can assign each guest to a certain table. If you wish to assign guests to a specific seat, that is probably best accomplished from the seating chart after you have already assigned guests to tables. The wedding planning template on Google Sheets includes a tab for the seating chart, which is super helpful because it is pretty customizable and will tell you the total number of guests that you have placed in the chart already. This way you know how many people you have yet to place in the chart. And it’s in the same document as your guest list so you can cross-reference! If you are more like me and are more of a visual person, Allseated might be your new best friend. This website allows you to upload your guest list and sync it with a floorplan (which you can upload/create based on the venue you choose). You can then place tables on the floorplan with the number of seats at each table that you choose. And you can drag and drop people from your guest list into the tables you have placed on your floorplan. You can adjust the floorplan to show which tables are full, how many seats are available at the table, and which guests are at which table. This was extremely helpful to visualize where I was placing all of my guests, and which guests I had left to place (the guest name gets checked off on the list when they are assigned a table). When filling out your seating chart, make sure that you take into account who gets along well together and who doesn’t, and whether or not your two families will want to sit with their family or if they’re okay sitting with people from your partner’s family. You’ll also want to make sure that you seat your parents and bridal party near the front of the room by you. For more tips on how to seat people, check out this article from The Knot on 7 Tips on How to Seat Your Guests at the Wedding Reception.
That’s all I have for today on guest lists and seating charts! I hope this helped you on your wedding planning this month, and I hope it helps you feel an extreme sense of accomplishment having figured this out so early on.