Best Practices for Wedding RSVPs & Seating Assignments
One of those wedding tasks that sparks instant dread in most couples is the topic of RSVPs and seating assignments. You’ve probably already realized, but these tasks can be tedious and frustrating. Whether you’re dealing with 30 guests or 300 guests, there will always be those pesky people that don’t RSVP by the time your deadline rolls around. There may also be guests that change their RSVP after the fact, causing a ripple effect when it comes to seating assignments.
Below are some of our best practices to get you through this process as quickly and painlessly as possible.
Set Yourself Up for Success
Before even sending out your invitations, get your information organized. We recommend using a program like Google Sheets or Excel so you can sort data and add in formulas in a fairly simple and straightforward way.
At this point, you likely have a final guest list prepared, along with each person’s address. There are a few other columns you’ll want to add in to make managing RSVPs a breeze:
Contact info (either a phone number or email address so that you can easily follow up with them if they do not RSVP on time)
Meal selection, if applicable
Do they have any allergies or dietary restrictions?
Do they have a +1?
Do they have any kids that are also invited?
Are they 21 years of age or older? (and will therefore count towards your bar count, if applicable)
Will they be attending any other wedding weekend activities like the rehearsal dinner or brunch?
Do they need any special accommodations, like wheelchair accessibility?
Are they traveling from out of town and will need accommodations like a hotel room or shuttle?
You can also add in a notes section for any of those miscellaneous points you want to keep in mind. After all your guests are entered, sort the guest rows by however makes the most sense to you: alphabetical order by last name or first name, grouped by relationship (i.e. wedding party, partner 1’s family, partner 2’s family, partner 1’s friends, etc.), etc.
Consider Your Planning Timeline
A question we get asked frequently is, “what should my RSVP date be?” The biggest factor that will help you to determine this is when your vendors need your final guest count by, primarily your venue, caterer, and whoever is providing your bar package. You should be able to easily find this information in your contracts, but they generally need your final count 10 to 14 days prior to your wedding date.
You’ll also want to buffer in some time to reach out to anyone that doesn’t respond by the RSVP date. Give yourself about 1 to 2 weeks for this, even if you think you don’t need it. You never know what’s going to pop up at work, in your personal life, etc. that will prevent you from not reaching out to people the day after RSVPs are due.
All things considered, a solid rule of thumb is to set your RSVP date about a month out from your wedding.
If you’ll be receiving your RSVPs cards back by mail, set aside a day each week to update those. It’s a simple but time-consuming task, so don’t bother cracking open your guest list every time you get an RSVP back. Now more than ever we don’t want you to get wedding planning burnout just a month or so before the wedding!
After your deadline has passed, follow up with any stragglers who haven’t RSVP’d yet. Although this can be slightly annoying to do, you hopefully have already gathered their contact info (see above) so this step goes as smoothly as possible.
Creating Your Seating Arrangement
So, you’ve gathered up all the RSVPs from your guests and are finally ready to tackle those seating arrangements! Before taking this task on, check with your venue and/or caterer on what size tables you’ll have. 60 inch round tables more comfortably seat 8 people if you’ll be doing family-style dining, but they can sit up to 10 people if needed. 72 inch round tables can seat 10 to 12 people. Chat with your florist as well to see how many can realistically fit at each table given your centerpieces and other table decor.
Also ask your venue for a layout of your reception space. If the tables are already numbered, great! If not, you’ll just need to number each table, starting with 1. Make sure to share your table numbering system with your venue and caterer, so they know which table number matches up to the seating chart when setting up and providing dinner service.
After your table numbers are all set, it’s time to actually assign your guests to a particular table and/or seat. For this, it’s really a matter of playing around with it and seeing how the numbers work themselves out. A few tips:
Keep VIPs at tables close to the head table (especially those that are giving speeches, a prayer, etc.).
Check with your DJ on where their speakers will be set up. Keep elderly guests further from the speakers.
Consider relationship dynamics. If you have individuals coming that don’t cooperate well, try to keep these people spread out from each other.
If guests were able to choose their meal, you’ll need to provide this information to your caterer, along with notes of any guest allergies or dietary restrictions. Even if you’ll have meal selections printed on a place or escort card, always give your caterer a back-of-house list of meal selections for easy reference.
Once you’ve submitted your final guest counts and meal selections to your venue and/or caterer, you may get some last-minute changes from guests. Track these as they come in, but wait until the day before your wedding to send these to your vendors. This will ensure information doesn’t get mixed up; too many updates can get confusing and create bigger problems.
Tracking RSVPs and seating assignments isn’t the most luxurious part of the wedding planning process, but it’s so necessary to keeping the day organized and running smoothly. Hopefully with these tips, this process will be a breeze for you, and you and your partner well on your way to your final wedding-day countdown!
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