Chiavari Challenges • Table & Seating Assignment Options

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There are a LOT of options for everything you have at your wedding! Sometimes you may feel overwhelmed. Just when you finalize your guest list, you have to organize it for reception arrangements. If you are having trouble deciding which type of seating assignments you want at your reception, our comprehensive benefit list for reception seating will help. Included is a brief note differentiating escort and place cards. As you read through the descriptions, remember your planning priorities, budget, and make a decision that aligns with your vision. There is no wrong answer, but there is always a best answer, especially for you and your wedding! 

Escort cards and place cards

While often used interchangeably, place cards and escort cards are used for different things…

A place card’s purpose is to designate the guest's place setting at a given table. Because their nature is seat specific, place cards are typically used at receptions with assigned seating. If the reception has a plated meal, place cards may include meal choices and dietary needs (gluten, vegetarian, etc.) to help the catering staff provide the correct meal.

Escort cards escort the guest to their table and are appropriate for any type of seating a reception may have. However, the purpose of escort cards varies depending on the type of seating. For receptions with assigned seating, escort cards lead the guest to their table, where a place card designates their setting. In receptions where only tables are assigned, escort cards lead guests to their table to choose a seat. When only tables are assigned, the escort card may include their entree choice and dietary preferences for receptions with a plated meal. For receptions with unassigned seating, an escort card may list name, meal choice, and dietary restrictions for the catering staff to provide the correct plated meal choice.

Flowers: Morrison's Flowers | Photograph: Lindsey Lyons Photography

Flowers: Morrison's Flowers | Photograph: Lindsey Lyons Photography

Escort cards: Kalos Designs | Photographer: Gaudium Photography

Escort cards: Kalos Designs | Photographer: Gaudium Photography

Assigned Seating

each guest receives an assigned table and seat

Assigned seating requires more time and attention to detail than other arrangements, but you won't be disappointed with the results! First, your guests do not have to worry about finding a place to sit or who they will sit with. Too many options can overwhelm some guests, and showing that you put thought into their seating needs eases any anxiety or last minute chaos. Additionally, having control over the seating chart enables you to evenly distribute people. This prevents overflowing tables near the dance floor and thinning tables around the perimeter. Finally, you know better than anyone else that some family members might prefer to be separated. Using assigned seating to sort out family members helps prevent drama, chaos, or hurt feelings from materializing between parties.

We highly recommend having both escort cards and place cards for assigned seating, but escort cards are not required if you provide a table chart. Assigned seating flows well with a buffet or plated meal.

Photograph: Sarah Street Photography

Photograph: Sarah Street Photography

Assigned Tables

each person is given a table and chooses their seat

Assigning tables is a popular option for receptions because it combines the best of both worlds: control found in assigning seats, and a more relaxed, hands off feel found in unassigned seating. Guests enjoy this choice because they want to know where they are going, but still have choice over who they sit next to. Assigning tables frees up time for you and your wedding planner because you only have to organize people into groups of 6-12, rather than assign a seat for 100+ people. Additionally, assigning tables can help you save money on stationary because you don't need both escort and place cards.

Assigning tables works well with both buffet style and plated meals. We recommend including escort cards with meal choices and dietary needs for plated meals. 

Unassigned Seating

guests choose anywhere to sit

Unassigned seating is a wonderful option for brides that are on a tight schedule or think that your families would like to mix and mingle on their own! Leaving seats unassigned saves time used for creating groups, seating charts, or seating maps. Friends and family naturally find each other, and letting your guests choose who they sit near creates the seating arrangements organically!

Unassigned seating works best with buffet or family-style meal. Escort cards that include meal choices and dietary needs are recommended for plated meals.


Guests at Korey and Graham's reception look on as they share their first dance as husband and wife. | Photograph: Paige Ryan Photography

Guests at Korey and Graham's reception look on as they share their first dance as husband and wife.
| Photograph: Paige Ryan Photography

Other Seating Tips

  • Be sure to account for plus ones in the seating arrangements.

  • For buffet style receptions, we recommend “Seating before Eating”. Have your guests settle into their seats before they get their food. If food is readily available when guests arrive, make sure people find their seats first so that they aren’t searching for their seat with hands full of food and beverage.

  • For buffet style, collaborate with your reception entertainment (DJ or band) to release tables one or two at a time to get food. This helps control the line and reduces the number of people that are moving around at a time.

  • Regardless of seating choices, if you’re having a plated meal, we recommend having escort/place cards that include meal choices or dietary restrictions to ensure your guests are happy and healthy.

For more seating insights and escort/place card ideas be sure to
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