01 September 2011

wedding drama - i need your help!

OK ladies, I need your feedback.  With less than two months to go, the beau and I are in a bit of a panic about our reception seating.  Here's the scoop:

Since our reception isn't at a "mealtime" and since we're doing heavy hors d'oeuvres stations, as opposed to a plated three-course dinner, our caterer + wedding reception director suggested we only do seating for approx 50% of the final guest count + bistro tables on the perimeter so that people had a place to set drinks/food/purses/etc. They said this way people who want to sit have a place to sit, and it encourages mingling/moving around. Also, I think we're going to have bocce and cornhole on the lawn and there's additional seating on the covered porch. So at the time, we were like, "OK, sure, that sounds logical."

this is our actual reception site, tables, and chairs, just decorated for a different wedding. via

But then we went to a wedding on Friday night and the beau is now convinced that the first thing everyone is going to do when they get to the reception is find a table and sit down. The thing is, we really don't want people to do that, we want people mingling and moving around, but at the same time, he's got a good point. That IS the first thing everyone does when they get to a wedding reception, even if it's just finding a place to put your purse/jacket/shoes. Also, even though we're only doing heavy hors d'oeuvres, a couple of the food items require a fork or a spoon, which is hard to eat standing up.
a slightly different view via

So now we can't decide if we need to now rent a lot more tables, chairs, linens, and get more flowers and do a seating chart for everyone, or trust the caterer and wedding director and stick with what we've got. I went to a wedding last year that didn't do seating for everyone and there wasn't a seating chart, and I feel like that was A-OK with everyone, we all had a blast and just crowded around the same table {which we probably would've done anyways}. I've looked around online, and it looks like people are split pretty 50/50 on this topic. I asked my bridesmaids yesterday and THEY were split 50/50 on this topic. 

What do y'all think?  It's going to add cost quite a bit more, once you factor in additional chair/table/linen rentals + centerpieces, and we're already over budget, but if it means our guests are comfortable and aren't like, "Where the hell am I supposed to put my jacket?", then it would be worth it.  But then again, if the caterer + wedding reception director think 50% is fine, then who am I to question it?  They do this for a living.  Aaaaargh, I don't know what to do! HELP!

p.s. Fo reference, the wedding in the above pictures had the same number of guests that we're having and they had seating for everyone. 


Preppy Girl Meets World said...

First of all- that venue is absolutely beautiful! I can't wait to see pictures from your wedding.

Second of all- I have to agree with your fiance here. With guys it's not as big a deal but with girls you're talking about heels and purses. At cocktail hours, I always prefer to find a seat because it's not as enjoyable for me if I have to attempt to figure out how to balance my purse, a drink, a plate of food, and eat it all at the same time.

I understand wanting guests to mingle. Maybe rent some couches/lounge furniture? A wedding we attended in March had that and it was so nice and a lot of fun!

USCEmily said...

We're doing basically the same thing as you. Not a formal meal, but shrimp and grits, a mashed potato bar, etc. that require a fork. I am not having seating for all of the guests, simply because there isn't enough room, and I feel like a seating chart makes it too formal. I want people to eat at their leisure and get out on the dance floor to enjoy the evening. It's a lot more common here in South Carolina to do it this way, instead of having seating for everyone, so I am completely okay with it. There will be tables for the ladies to sit at, as well as the older crowd, and we'll also have the cocktail tables to stand around, but by no means enough for everyone. I think you should just save the money- people will work it out and they'll only remember how good your food was, not where they were sitting/standing while eating it.

Leslie said...

Split the difference and rent enough chairs/tables for 75%, not the full 100%. No seating chart. The lack of a seating chart suggests you want mingling, and if you have (as PGMW above suggests) some other seating opetions scattered around (perhaps out on the lawn near the games area) then that will help with flow and keeping it casual.

If you aren't serving a meal, there is no reason for a seating chart.

ms. mindless said...

I think you should stick with your original plan. You wedding reception will essentially be an extended cocktail party. At a cocktail party, you do not have an assigned seat or a place to stash your purse and everyone has fun and enjoys the event.

I have been to many receptions where the cocktail hour was in a separate room than the dinner and guests were not permitted to enter the dining room until the appointed time. So, everyone was "at a cocktail party" holding their purses until the dining room opened 90 minutes later and no one freaked.

Your guests will get the cocktail hour vibe right away, especially if your wedding party helps out and sets that tone.

I would be really wary of making major (and expensive!!) changes this late in the game.

If you have a number of older guests, you could also appoint some groomsmen to usher them to the available low tables and get settled and "reserve" the space for them.

Your caterer and reception site manager are not crazy. Cocktail style weddings work and are just as fun as sit down dinners!

Also, avoiding the nightmare of a seating chart by doing it your way is a major coup!

Sorry for writing a book :)

Jenna said...

I agree with Leslie-- 75%. Or just add a few more chairs to existing tables!

Mary Eliza said...

We did what you originally have planned for our wedding (heavy hors d'oeuvres, 50% seating with bistro tables) and it was PERFECT. No one really sat down for the whole time except for the older guests. With food stations, the times people ate varied enough so that not everyone was sitting at one time---and a lot of people just chose to eat standing up so the empty tables served as places for purses, jackets, etc. And the tables especially cleared out when people were dancing, which is the time when people really want to set their stuff down.

Either, way I'm sure it will all be wonderful! Enjoy these last few weeks of planning!!!

L said...

1- the place is gorgeous; it would be much more interesting as a guest to explore it on foot than to sit around at a table. there are other places for their jackets and purses...

2- you hired an expert, trust her!

3- it's not worth starting your marriage off with a financial boo-boo only to give your guests a choice on YOUR day. the money would be better spent/saved on you and the hubby ;)

Katie said...

For our wedding we did basically the same thing but went with about 75%. It made it so not everyone could park it and stay parked but it gave plenty of people seats. We had different kinds of seating too - couches in the bar area, patio tables out on the deck, a few benches, some booths and then some free standing tables (it was at a restaurant.) So maybe without increasing the actually number of tables/chairs you could find other seating options if you get too worried.

But for the most part, I bet you're fine :)

Day Old News said...

I have been to weddings that have done this and yes, you do immediately look for a seat, but if you don't get one, you just go with it. Putting some spare chairs around the perimeter just to sit and take a load off would be fantastic though!

MissBrightside said...

I like the idea of varied seating...groupings of chairs, stand-up tables and benches. I don't think you need formal seating for everyone. But pick what you like and what you can afford. People will have a good time and adapt to whatever the set up is :O)

Bestie said...

ok, we had the exact same set up at our wedding...we were in an urban sort of space with a few levels and out outdoor space and we did stations and had a combo of tables, high tables and some outdoor small tables. i think our total attendance was 110. and it all worked out great. the older people tend to sit at the tables, the younger mingle. my friends don't remember not sitting down to a formal dinner, they only remember the martini bar and dance floor anyway. it's nice to change it up...personally, sitting at a formal sit down gets a little boring. good luck!

katie lake said...

My rental company suggested 70% seating but I did 90 chairs (9 tables) for 150 people. People are going to do what you set before them. If you provide seating for all, then everyone of them is going to sit. If you want them to mingle then stick with what you have. If you want to encourage people to mingle then try asking one or two select family members to greet people as they arrive. We had a few close family friends greet guests as they arrived then they headed (through the house) outside and the bar was set up right outside the door. People grabbed drinks, put their stuff down, then headed for food. Music was already playing when people arrived. It worked well. You also have to think that people don't need a seat to be able to put their stuff on a table for a while.

Jane said...

Trust the caterer and wedding planner. Its their job. They see a lot of weddings. :)

Aspiring Kennedy said...

i did a mix of regular tables and tall cocktail tables around the perimeter in linens that went together. it was perfect. implied that not everyone would be seated, but didn't leave people stranded either for eating & resting their stuff... highly recommend!

Ms Fisher said...

Such a great post about table linen rentals kent. Keep on posting!