To Assign or Not to Assign, That is the Question

Many times, I have asked my clients the question, “Will you assign seating?”  And, sometimes I get an answer of “No.”  I am the first to tell you, this is your wedding day and you should do what you want. However, I know this may appear the path of simplicity, it is anything but simple.  In fact, the decision to not assign seating can open a large can of worms. 

First things first…this is very important…sort of a little pet peeve of mine.  Let’s get educated on the difference between an escort card (wall) and a place card.  Believe it or not there is a BIG difference. 

An escort card (or wall, frame, mirror, etc.) is a card that is available at the cocktail reception or at the entrance of the dining room.  The card displays the guest name and their table number.  The guest then goes into the dining room, finds their table number and chooses their seat at the assigned table. 

A place card is a card that rests at the actual place-setting of a dining table.  The guests find their name and table number on a board, go to the assigned table and look for the chair and place-setting that has their card.  Then they sit at that spot. 

Sounds awfully fussy right?  I disagree.  Have you ever been the kid in the high school cafeteria, with their lunch tray walking table to table with no place to sit?  Each table has a group of kids that know each other well and you perhaps don’t fit with any of the groups.  So, you choose the table that is empty or full of the misfits that no one else wanted at their table.  The feelings of anxiety, distance, fear and loneliness set in.  If you’re lucky enough to not have experienced this, please rent any teen movie ever made and this scene will play itself out time and time again.  Usually with the poor person spilling their tray of food on their clothes.   

While my description may sound dramatic, I promise you it isn’t.  I have been that person both at high school and at a wedding reception.  It is the most awkward, horrible feeling in the world.  And, I pray that my children or any wedding guests don’t have to feel this.  Don’t think it will happen at your reception?  Think again.  As the planner who walks the reception and listens to your guests, I hear them.  They say things like “Geez, there’s nowhere to sit, I don’t know anyone.”  Or, “Ha-ha, we have a table to ourselves, we look like total losers.”  It is uncomfortable.  I attended a wedding in which we were step-siblings.  Did that make us family?  I didn’t know.  My husband and I sat down at a table of eight chairs. Everyone walked by us.  One couple didn’t have anywhere else to sit.  They started to sit down with us as we invited them to share our table, but found some friends and literally got up so fast, I thought the table was going to fall over.  They bolted from us like we had Ebola.  So….wait for it….the two of us ate dinner by ourselves…completely.  In a room full of tables with laughter and joy…we sat alone.  I was mortified.  We felt so out of place and uncomfortable, we quietly made our exit hoping no one noticed. Given no one sat with us, I am certain no one noticed our absence.  Worst feeling ever. 

Hosting a wedding is just that.  Hosting.  This means you should do your absolute best to make sure your guests feel comfortable and wanted.  Every couple I work with says the same thing, “We want our guests to feel welcome, loved and taken care of.”  Assigned seating does just that.  Do you need to get as formal as telling them the exact seat they must reside?  No, but you can.  At a minimum, give them “their spot” at the reception.  A place where they will feel welcome and perhaps make new friends.  It can be fun, when you look at your guest list and start making table matches.  Paring a very social couple with a couple that perhaps is shy.  Or, partnering some work colleagues from your place of business with colleagues from your partner’s business.  It is amazing to watch the friendships that transpire through the night.  Suddenly you may see friends, who didn’t know each other prior, dancing the night away together.  And, you’ll realize that “of course” they would get along…they have a common love of football, Abba, Ed Sheeran…fill in the blanks. 

Be a good host.  Assign seats, don’t let your guests float around aimlessly or sit at a table alone.  That’s my soap box for this week, I’ll step down.  But, thanks for considering this simple gesture of kindness. 



You're Engaged. First Step: Hire a Planner? Nope.

Congratulations, you’re engaged!!!  It is such an exciting time full of love, joy, happiness, family and sometimes stress. Stress?!  Wait, can a wedding planner admit to you that this can be a stressful time?! Well, I like to be honest…and yes it can be stressful.  Balancing your desires as a couple with the desires of both your families can become the biggest lesson in diplomacy and tact you will ever have.   

So, now that you have the love of your life, what should you do first?  Get a venue?  Lock in a date?  Hire a planner?  I bet you think I am going to tell you to hire a planner first.  And, I probably should, but that “honesty thing” keeps winning out.  Here’s my little tip that will help set you up for success over the next 12 months, 5 months, 30 days or however much time you have to plan your special day:  Get your GUEST LIST done ASAP! 

I know what you’re thinking-there is absolutely no way a wedding planner is telling you to not seek me out first, and instead write down a tedious list of people you’d like present on your special day.  Yes, the guest list.  And, I don’t mean random sheets of paper and colored sticky notes with names of you and your parents’ friends.  I mean a legit spreadsheet or ten-page, handwritten list incorporating EVERY PERSON you can think of who would come.  Sounds easy, right?  NOT!  I promise you will likely find one person (ahem, or parents) who don’t comply with this urgent request and you will need to “shake the rug”, “light a fire” or basically force everyone to comply.  

Why is this guest list so important?  I mean, it’s just a group of everyone you know…but this can be extremely difficult. Simple answer:  every guest invited can possibly add anywhere from $50-$125 per guest to your budget.  Does that get your attention?  If not, I promise as you start to look at costs for photographers, videographers, venues, and everything else…that suddenly, this amount will matter to you.  It will really matter to you.  The guest list comprises the biggest expenditure of a wedding.  All your decisions should be made after your guest list is figured out. 

The blanket rule of thumb for me is 80% of your guests will attend.  For the past 20 years, that 80% has proved true for most of my clients.  But, to double check this percentage, add a column for a “Yes, No or Maybe” and the number of people per family that could come.  Then, tally up the “yeses” to get a decent idea of your base and then add 80% of the “maybes” to this total. 

Questions to help determine if someone should be on your guest list: 

  • Have you spoken to them more than twice this past year? 

  • Do you reach out to this person(s) more than twice a year? 

  • Have you met with this person(s) more than twice in the past year? 

  • Do you have a close, personal family connection with this person(s)? 

  • What kind of value are they going to add to your day? (Sentimental, added fun, rekindled friendships, new relationships, etc.) 


Once you have this list worked over at least twice, then you can move forward and YES, hire a planner. Your planner will be able to make amazing recommendations based on your anticipated count and help you plan a realistic budget.  And, trust me, a realistic budget is a blog post for another day. 

At the end of the day remember, this is about the joining of your families and the love the two of you celebrate for each other.  Don’t lose sight of that during this process.  Love makes the world go ‘round, celebrate, enjoy it and have fun!  Let me know if you need any help!