When guests arrive at the reception dinner, this is their process: they glance at a seating chart or grab an escort card, then make their way to a table.
Your process is significantly more complex.
You can start planning the second your RSVPS are in. One of the first decisions should be specific seats vs. table numbers. If your meal is a buffet, then a large seating chart (a board showing people's names and table numbers) should do the trick. However, for a formal multi-course meal with individualized meal selections, assigned seating may be the only way to fight back chaos. In this case, escort cards (cards with someone's name, table number, and seat number) can be helpful.
When planning, keep table size in mind. For 60” round tables, the ideal is 6-8 people seated, while for a 6’ by 30” rectangular table, the ideal is 6-8 (depending on whether you seats people at the endcaps – the head and foot of the table). It’s also important to make sure you have the right amount of tables in the room, and that people have enough space to move between them comfortably. The ideal is at least 60” away from each other, and at least 30" from the wall.
Once that's figured out, it becomes a matter of matching personalities. You know the character of your family and friends, so there’s nobody better suited to pairing people up at tables. However, it’s not a bad idea to ask for suggestions - you might be surprised at your friend's seating preference!
As the lucky couple, you may choose to sit at a sweetheart table – a table isolated from the rest, where you can have your first meal as a wedded couple. You can also sit with the bridesmaids and groomsmen, you can sit with parents, with direct family, or you could sit with coworkers if you like. Traditionally, your parent’s sit with your sweetheart’s parents, but here's the most important thing to remember: it’s your wedding, and your decision.
As for the aesthetics of your escort cards of seating chart - that you can leave to a friendly stationery business!