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Carolyn Hax: For weddings, a guest-friendly seating chart

(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)
3 min

Adapted from an online discussion.

Hi Carolyn: At a wedding, would people prefer to sit with their nuclear families or with their age cohort (cousins’ table, aunts and uncles at their own table, etc.)? Fiance and I are disagreeing about this! He thinks people will have plenty of time to move around and visit during non-eating parts of the wedding. I think people want to party with their own age cohort, whom they might not see as frequently.

By the way, years ago, you told me to ditch the college boyfriend who didn’t want me studying abroad. I did, and it was definitely the right choice.

— Disagreeing

Disagreeing: Aww, I feel like I’m invested here. Thank you.

I always, always want to party with my cohort — age, yes, but also fellow alums, old colleagues, onetime neighbors. It’s not always about age. Your guests are there for you, but they also want to have fun. What’s his argument for making people wait for something he seems to agree they’ll want?

One more thing, for what it’s worth: Just about every wedding I’ve attended has a different amount of table time. Some put you there to feed off your buffet plate and go; some do multiple served courses, toasts, first dances, etc., all while in their assigned seats. So: 1. Here is my unsolicited plea not to trap people at their tables for your programming. 2. But if you insist on pinning them there for any length of time, work hard to seat them as conversationally as possible.

Re: Seating: Unless you are having a formal sit-down dinner, you do not need seating charts! Unless you want them. Have a mix of tables — eight-tops, four-tops, cocktail height — and let people mingle! It has been my favorite kind of reception to attend. I talked with everyone I wanted to, I met cool new people and I could avoid the people I wanted to avoid!

— Anonymous

Anonymous: Agreed, except this can be tough on solo guests who don’t know anyone else there except the couple, and older guests.

Other readers’ thoughts:

· As a veteran of several weddings who sees them only at weddings and funerals, PLEASE PUT ME WITH MY AGE COHORT. I can check in with my parents any time. Thanks.

· I once attended a wedding where the hosts seated all the solos/extras/etc. at one table. We labeled ourselves “the island of misfit toys,” and it was the most fun I’ve ever had at a wedding.

· We went to a wedding where we were seated at the “oddball” table, full of people who weren’t part of any other cohort. We were friends with the bride but didn’t share any other friends with her. It was actually nice, because once we chatted a little bit and realized what we had in common, we all relaxed. I think being at a table where everyone else knows each other and you’re the odd one out would have been very uncomfortable.

· I’ve been there before: attended a wedding where I only knew the bride and groom, who were thoughtful about the seating arrangement. I sat at a table with a few couples my age, and they were all so welcoming.