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Etiquette

afternoon reception seating etiquette

Hi all, my fiancee and I are trying to keep our wedding small and affordable but would like to have some sort of reception after the ceremony to thank our guests. We were thinking something more substantial than just tea and cake reception but not a full sit-down lunch. We are unsure of what to call this, perhaps a "tea reception with light refreshments to follow"?

 

Most receptions I have been to are of the full dinner-banquet variety save for two small weddings in people backyards, so we are a bit unsure of protocol and peoples expectations (getting married is easy, the reception is proving to be the stressful part of planning!). We have rented a small historic hall for the ceremony and think it easiest to have the reception there afterwards aswell, and are thinking of putting on our invites 1pm ceremony and 2 or 2:30pm reception to allow set-up.

 

My main question with this post (although I appreciate any suggestions or comments on above ideas) is, should we have many tables so all guests can sit down at the reception, or it is sufficient to have a few tables for people who might want to sit? It is a small hall and we will not be serving a full meal, and we are hoping that it will be more informal, more mingling about like at a house party - not everyone sitting in formal, designated chairs.

 

Any thoughts or suggestions?

Re: afternoon reception seating etiquette

  • It's still best to have a chair for every guest.
  • I think "tea with light refreshments to follow" sounds good and an adequate description of what you're offering.  And that's a good time of day to do that sort of reception, imo.

    I'd have a seat for every butt, but I don't think you need to assign seats for this kind of reception.

  • Agree with PPs - have a seat for everyone if at all possible.  But I was also wondering what your guests would have to do during the gap.  Especially since the ceremony and reception are at the same venue, I think you need to host something while you're doing the setup.  Better yet, set up the reception before the guests arrive so you can transition right from ceremony to reception.
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  • Ditto PPs, seat for every butt.

    I'd suggest not having the gap.  If the reception is in the same spot as the ceremony, guests will expect to go directly to the reception.  If it is at a different space, set-up must be completed by the time guests arrive, having just left the ceremony.
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  • " it is sufficient to have a few tables for people who might want to sit?" There is no "might." Every guest is going to definitely want to sit at some point and no one wants to stand around hoping someone else gets up. And those sitting aren't going to want to get up in fear they'll lose their coveted seat. With enough seating for everyone, people will feel more free to roam around, knowing they'll have a seat to return to if they want it.
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  • I'd serve some apps so there is some kind of variety of food for your guests.

    And FWIW, I left the last wedding I went to that didn't have a chair for me early. My feet were starting to hurt and I was kicked out of a chair by the MOH so I decided I'd had quite enough of that.

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  • I second the PP who said if you don't have enough seats, people will hog the seats and not mingle at all, because they'll be afraid to lose their seats. I also think you actually need more seats than guests, so you don't risk breaking up groups. Anytime I've been to a wedding without assigned seating (and I agree this is too informal for assigned seating) it's been a bit of a pain to find seats with people I knew/wanted to talk to. It's always nice to have options as a guest  (I hate walking in with my H and sister, for example, and not be able to find 3 seats together).

    You also MUST set up before the ceremony. What would guests do during that time? Also, it always takes longer than you'd think. Who is doing the set-up?  A friend had a very low budget wedding and we (the bridesmaids) helped her set up the reception in the morning, before we got dressed. At mine, the venue included set up, and even so, everything was set up before the ceremony started.
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  • edited January 2012
    If you're having the ceremony/reception in the same place, you should be able to just use the chairs your guests sat in for the ceremony at the reception.

    H and I recently attended a sort of backyard wedding where the seats were set up in front of the family barn for the ceremony.  I think they had one or two tables at the "reception area," but not enough chairs, so we just took our chairs with us and sat there.

    I can't suggest asking your guests to carry their own chairs, but that's what I'd do if I saw there wasn't a place for me to sit down.

    ETA: I just reread your post.  If you're wanting to transition to a less-casual reception, you really should have those tables and chairs already set up and avoid the gap.  I've seen weddings where the tables are all set up and the ushers bring the ceremony chairs in, but it takes a while, so the guests end up just awkwardly standing (or it rains through the whole outdoor ceremony and everyone grabs a chair to scramble inside with).
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  • Hi Thanks all for the suggestions, I appreciate the courtesy as I have never planned a wedding before. We are still early in the planning process so open to switching things around to make it work better for the guests.

    We plan to have about 60 guests (hall capacity 75) and only good friends and close family, so hopefully guests understand this is not meant to impress them but rather to visit together.

    We have already paid for the hall for the day and as mentioned above its a very small one-main-room historical hall that would not allow for reception set-up prior to the ceremony as it will take place in the same space, and it does not have green space adjacent that we can use as it is in a central location. My first thought was that guests might enjoy popping into the farmers market next door for an hour, or go for a walk down the street (the hall is in a super bohemian pedestrian shopping area of town). One option we have is performing the ceremony in a public park (a 5 minute drive, no fee,but a bit iffy for weather and strangers) and then having the reception hall already done up :)

    I should have been more specific about the seating; what I meant was it it necessary to have a table spot for everyone, as yes someone suggested that guests will have their own chairs left over from the ceremony. I also like the idea of having a few extra chairs for mingling thanks LuluP82
  • A spot at a table with their chair would be preferential, since people usually like to put their stuff down.
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  • "I should have been more specific about the seating; what I meant was it it necessary to have a table spot for everyone, as yes someone suggested that guests will have their own chairs left over from the ceremony. I also like the idea of having a few extra chairs for mingling thanks LuluP82" As I said in the other thread you made, people prefer not to eat off their laps while balancing everything.
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  • I posted the other thread first...no one replied to it. this etiquette one is much busier!
  • In Response to Re: afternoon reception seating etiquette:
    [QUOTE]"I should have been more specific about the seating; what I meant was it it necessary to have a table spot for everyone, as yes someone suggested that guests will have their own chairs left over from the ceremony. I also like the idea of having a few extra chairs for mingling thanks LuluP82" As I said in the other thread you made, people prefer not to eat off their laps while balancing everything.
    Posted by Simply Fated[/QUOTE]

    I didn't mean chairs with no tables, to clarify. I just mean that if you have 60 guests, and no assigned seating, and exactly 60 chairs at the tables, it can make things awkward for groups/couples since they could get broken up. If you have 60 guests, I'd have seating for more than 60 (say, 70) so people have options of where to sit and the last couple entering doesn't end up split up or something.

    What about having the tables set up and jus thaving the guests sit at the tables for the ceremony?
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  • I'd say just have the tables and chairs already set up, and give yourself  a central aisle to walk down. As people arrive, they may rearrange their seats A BIT for viewing the ceremony.  I feel like this may be your safest bet because A) rain isn't an issue B) your guests aren't wandering around town (What if it's raining?).  My entire ceremony and reception is outside, but our rainplan is to have use an indoor space and we will have to set up tables/chairs before the ceremony and have it that way.  I know there's some name that's given to this style of seating arrangement, but I can't remember
  • As someone who went to a wedding 8months pregnant with only a handful of seat. You need a seat for everyone. We ended up leaving after 20 minutes because I was tired of standing.
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  • CABARET STYLE!!! thanks, this may solve all of our questions...i will now proceed to the rest of the internet for research :)
  • In Response to Re: afternoon reception seating etiquette:
    [QUOTE]CABARET STYLE!!! thanks, this may solve all of our questions...i will now proceed to the rest of the internet for research :)
    Posted by cscheela[/QUOTE]


    Yes that's it! For some reason I was thinking California style...no...that's not it
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