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Cocktail style reception seating follow-up

Some folks may recall the firestorm of criticism I got a couple weeks ago for mentioning that we were not providing seating for 100% of the guests. I wanted to follow up so that other brides considering this style for their own receptions could hear firsthand from someone other than the well-meaning, enthusiastic but in my case entirely incorrect harbingers of doom on this topic.

My wedding was two weeks ago. We had 125 guests, and a cocktail-style stations reception. 

I'm beyond happy to report that our reception was fantastic. We did not have a massive exodus of guests leaving because they had no assigned seat. Everyone had a wonderful time, people mingled and ate, talked and danced, nobody left early that wouldn't have been planning to leave early regardless of seating (there are always people who leave after the cake is cut), and we didn't have a sea of empty tables once the ceremonial stuff was over and the party began.

Not only did most of the older folks stay to the very end, but my four guests who are expectant mothers were also there until the end. :)

As my venue coordinator assured me it would, providing tables & chairs for about 65% of the guests, plus scattered elbow-height cocktail tables, upholstered chairs and other seating worked out perfectly.

Because it isn't the norm, we did take great care to explain the reception style in the invitation insert, on our wedding website, and in the program, and there was no confusion or jockeying for table space. It all just went smoothly.

To the folks who were not horribly rude to me -- thanks again! And good luck to everyone still planning!

Re: Cocktail style reception seating follow-up

  • I love it! I think it's great when a bride bucks the accepted trends.
  • lyndausvilyndausvi Western Slope, Colorado mod
    Moderator Knottie Warrior 10000 Comments 500 Love Its
    edited March 2010
    Actually I'm one who does not believe you need 100% seating for a cocktail reception.  I have worked enough of those events to know that not everyone sits at the same time.

     I think part of the problem is we are mostly all woman.   In general woman want to sit.  Mostly because we like to wear high uncomfortable shoes and we normally have a purse and other stuff that we like to put down.  Woman tend to like longer more in depth conversations that sitting at a table can encourage.

    Men on the other hand in general like to stand.  I know my DH and his friends very rare sits in party/social situations. Men like the small talk that goes with standing.

    Of course there are not hard fast rules on the subject.  I just know from working a lot of cocktail parties you will more than often see guys standing and woman sitting.

    What differentiates an average host and a great host is anticipating unexpressed needs and wants of their guests.  Just because the want/need is not expressed, doesn't mean it wouldn't be appreciated. 
  • Thanks Lynda. I think you're probably right about women often preferring to sit rather than stand. At weddings, there's usually a pretty decent balance between genders, which probably helps with a reception style like mine. 
  • So glad to hear it went well!! We will be doing the same thing :)
  • tracy_ktracy_k member
    Seventh Anniversary 500 Comments
    edited March 2010
    Awesome! Happy to answer any questions if you have 'em.

    Totally unrelated... Are you using black and white damask for your wedding? I may have some items for sale (ring bearer pillows, damask print treat bags) if you're interested... I just have to find them, LOL.
  • I'm glad to hear that it worked out well. I am having a similar style wedding and wasn't sure how much seating I needed. Some people say double, some say less. I have a question. You mentioned that you explained the seating/reception style on an insert and on the website; what exactly did you say? Thanks for reporting back and congrats!
  • I have a question....
    This is how I wanted to do my reception, and I was wondering if you did assigned seats for the older crowd, to make sure that they get a seat?  Or was it just obvious who needed to sit and it just happened?  Did you have different food stations to encourage mingling?  My space isn't very large, how did they move around?  How was it worded on the invitation?  I'm sorry for so many questions!!

    Daisypath Wedding tickers in progess... Planning bio
  • Thank you posting this!!! We are planning on doing the same thing for our reception and are only planning on having seating for ~70% of our guests. I feel much more comfortable knowing first-hand from someone that everything worked out and everyone had a great time! Thanks again :-)
  • tracy_ktracy_k member
    Seventh Anniversary 500 Comments
    edited March 2010
    I'm so glad some folks are finding this helpful. :) I was a little concerned about seating when we first started planning, but my venue does a lot of stations parties, and my husband sees a lot of them in his work (he's in the wedding business), and they all assured me it works beautifully if people know what's going on.

    We didn't assign seating for the older folks/expectant moms, we just had 4 tables we marked "reserved" and told guests who we knew would want dedicated seating to sit there. We had my parents (the oldest age group there, as all our grandparents have passed away) spread the word as well -- it seemed to work just fine.

    We had food stations in two different rooms... the main ballroom (where we had our ceremony) and another room off the bar area. To be honest, I never even saw the food stations in the ballroom, I ate a slice of roast beef and three meatballs the whole night. Our venue was a historic mansion, so not vast by any means, I am happy to share our floor plan with anyone interested (PM me with your email address and I'll send it along).

    Here's what we said on our wedding website... whenever I talked to people about the wedding I would mention it as well.:

    A Note About the Reception
    Y'all know us -- we are social creatures! So rather than spend The Best Party of Our Lives with all our friends and loved ones in one place but assigned to seats at tables, we're opting for a cocktail-style "stations party" so we can maximize the mingling, noshing, drinking and dancing, and spend more time hanging out with the people we care about.

    What does that mean? Instead of assigned seats and a plated meal, there will be LOTS of food served at stations all around the ballroom and adjoining rooms. When the time comes, grab a plate, grab some food, and spend time hanging with old friends and meeting new ones!

    And here's what we said on the programs (sorry, I can't figure out how to change the font!):


    About the reception:
    Dinner will be served “cocktail-party style” (no assigned tables) at various stations throughout the mansion.  Guests are encouraged to mingle, spend time with the bride & groom, visit with old friends and make new ones!


  • I am sorry to hear people were rude to you on here...Trust me, Ive had that backleash as well and it really boggles my mond how nasty people can be.

    That said, we have guests coming for just drinks, desert and dancing the last half of our reception (a big no no according to all the people on here but hey, you do what works) and rather then fill the room with tables and chairs and be cramped, we decided to do some high cocktail tables around the room.  I have to say, I was a bit worried about people not having a place to sit and after the backlash from the two guest lists I was not about to ask the people on here.  Thanks so much for posting this.  Saved me a lot of rude comments I'm sure :)
  • Thanks for posting this. I did a search because I was wondering how to do this type of reception with regards to seating!

    It amazes me how rude people can be, we come on these boards for support and advice and even if you don't agree we could be adults and disagree politely! Tradition for traditions/etiquettes sake (sp?) is silly to me. You should do something that fits your lifestyle and the people you want to share your day with, whether that is a traditional item of the wedding or not!

    I'm glad your day was great!
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