Assigned Seating vs Open Seating

Filed under: Blog

Posted by Holiday Inn Lakeville
8 years ago | April 6, 2016

As fun and exciting as most wedding planning tasks are, it is fair to say preparation for your big day also comes with some not-so-romantic checklist items. Cue budget discussions, generating the guest list and seating arrangement creation.

We’re going to dive deeper on the latter topic and save the other two doozies for another day.

Seating Arrangements: to assign or not to assign?

I had originally planned to create an unbiased pro/con list, however that was quickly scrapped when I realized it was too tricky for me not to pick a side on this topic.

I’ve watched a number of wedding guests scurry to find “good seats” like they were at a concert venue, I’ve created additional settings at tables so families could sit together, and I’ve reset far too many chairs tilted forward with their back legs dangerously out for everyone to trip on (really, who does this?!).

All that to say, I have witnessed the chaos that can result from opting out of creating a formal seating plan…

Although it may seem daunting, it’s worth it. Here’s why:

  • You can ensure families, couples and groups of friends are able to sit together. You may think if you provide enough tables, guests will be able to figure it out on their own…right? Not the case. When choosing tables for your guests, you are in a much better position than they are to strategically figure out how to fill a table with the perfect combination. Having assigned seating eliminates the worry that a family of 5 will be separated when all that’s left are the empty gaps at various tables the night of. It’s much easier to erase a name on a rough draft seating diagram than it is to ask someone to relocate themselves the night of. #awkward
  • It eases anxieties for your guests and allows them to begin the evening carefree. When they arrive at the reception and have a table assignment already chosen for them, pressure is eliminated. Especially for those who may not know many other guests. Don’t make them feel like the new kid at school searching for a table that will accept them.
  • The social is more likely to be lively when your guests are given table assignments as they won’t feel the need to camp out and reserve the spots they’ve chosen. Knowing where they’ll be seated allows them to mingle during the social and be comfortable moving throughout the room rather than spreading out articles of clothing on each chair to save a table.
  • If there’s some tension within families, strategically planning where certain members sit can reduce the risk of any unwanted drama. Pre-assigning these seats also avoids the issues and said tensions being addressed that evening.

If I’ve convinced you, here’s some pointers:

  • Wait until you’ve received all your RSVPs and your counts are finalized. Of course you’ll have last minute add-ons or drop-outs, but this way you have all your pieces of the puzzle to work with. Print your guest list, get a pencil and your diagram, pour yourself a glass of wine and crank it out in one sitting. Then move onto something more fun!
  • Put acquaintances together when you can. Meeting new people can be enjoyable, however your guests can initiate this on their owne during the social or later that evening at the dance. They came to celebrate and want to do so with the friends and family they’re comfortable with.
    If you’re choosing to have a buffet dinner and don’t need to indicate entrée selections, creating a cute seating chart is a fun alternative (and potentially easier and less hassle for you!). *See photo on the top right.
  • Guests who don’t know many (or any) people can be tricky to place. Try to seat them with guests that share interests, are similar in age or are in common seasons of life. I.E. don’t place your fiance’s college bachelor buddies with a family of five.
    If you have a group of friends that is too large to fit at one table, split them down the middle and fill in each table with other guests. Whatever you do, don’t leave one or two out.
  • A brief side note about the kiddos on your guest list: Whether you have 5 or 25 coming, I would recommend avoiding the desire to setup a “kid’s table”. Although this may work well at your family’s Thanksgiving, it usually doesn’t produce the same result at a wedding reception of 100+ people. Keeping these active young folk with their parents during dinner is my strong recommendation.
  • If you decide to forego pre-assigning your entire group and go the route of reserved tables for immediate family and close friends, be sure these people know they are seated at these tables. You don’t want empty reserve tables and Grandma sitting at a random table on the dance floor.
    Be prepared that you may not please everyone – so don’t set that as your goal. Instead, do the best you can and know it’s only 1 to 2 hours of the night …your guests will survive 🙂

When the times comes to decide whether to do assigned seating or open seating, keep in mind this is just my opinion and by no means a rule. This is your wedding and I want you to do it the way that suits you best!

Know that I’ll support you either way

[ Photos: Style Me Pretty, WeddingBells & The Knot ]

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