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One of the best pieces of wedding advice I ever heard was "don't separate the bar from the band." If you make your guests choose between booze and dancing, booze will always win and your wedding reception won't be quite the party you planned. Depending on the people involved, deciding on seating assignments for a wedding can be stressful, but like the placement of the wedding band or DJ, where people sit can have a big impact on your party.
A quick Internet search will show you that there are all sorts of ways to arrange your tables. You should talk to your venue manager and/or wedding planner as well as your band leader or DJ to find out what works well in your space. Most tables seat either 8 or 10 people. If you're trying to keep an eye on your wedding budget, ask if 10 person tables will work in your space. The fewer tables, the fewer centerpieces you need to buy.
The wedding couple can sit either at a "sweetheart" table for two, a long head table, or a regular table at the front of the room. Keep in mind that a sweetheart table will mean an extra centerpiece, and will put you on complete display while you're eating. If you have a large family or bridal party you may wish to go for a "head table." If not, simply sitting at a table with your bridal party or parents may do the trick.
If your parents are divorced you'll want to have an honest and open discussion about whether or not they wish to sit together. If not, you'll want to talk to your wedding planner or venue manager about how to make sure that all tables with parents are seen as "special." For example, if you have four sets of parents between the two of you, you may wish to have the first five tables in the room for your family.
If you are having a buffet, you may wish not to assign seats. If so, it's best to have extra chairs at each table so that groups of friends feel free to sit together and no one feels left out. If you are not having assigned seats and have one or two friends who do not know others at the wedding, make sure to introduce them to each other before the wedding so they don't feel uncomfortable. You may wish to have Reserved tables for elderly guests, or family members.
If you have elderly guests, and are having assigned tables, make sure to seat them away from the band or DJ, so that hearing is not a problem. For other guests, you may wish to sit people with those they already know, or mix it up and put a few friends from different groups together. Whatever you decide, try and do so fairly. Do not sit all your college friends together, but then leave one friend at a table with no one she knows.
Finally, keep in mind that if anyone is really unhappy with their seat, they can always move around after the meal.
Need more help with seating? Check out this great article on Reception Seating How-To's.
What are your biggest seating dilemmas for your wedding?
Image of escort card display via Wedding Bee Boards