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Reception Ideas

Open seating vs Seating Arrangement

This seems to be a hot, hot topic.  I was going to have a seating arrangement for my estimated 120 guests at our buffet style reception, thinking it would be easier on everyone.  My coordinator, personal attendants and nearly ALL friends I've asked say to have an open seating arrangment, as there is not a plated meal.
Other articles, blogs etc I've read say that this can be a disaster, as families/couples get split up, or people move chairs from one table to cram over on another in order to sit with their desired group. 
Most of my guests I've asked so far prefer open seating.  I am from a small town and we are all VERY close, so I think that everyone on my side will be fine.  My fiance has a large family, who are all very social.  I think they will be fine as well.  I suppose I keep second guessing myself because I can't seem to get the vision of the "lonely kid in the cafeteria, looking for a spot to sit".  Opinions?  Pros and Cons?

Re: Open seating vs Seating Arrangement

  • I'm in the minority, preferring open seating. My main reason for this preference is I was totally that lonely kid in the cafeteria. I totally still am at professional conferences, etc. I totally need to get over myself and learn to network and meet strangers.

    Others say your wedding is not the time to force your friends to get over their adolescent hang-ups. Personally, I'm glad of the weddings I've attended, dateless, not really knowing anyone else, and forced myself to make friends and have a good time. It's made those weddings special to me.

    Also, the one time there was assigned seating, it totally didn't work for me as a guest. I was placed with a couple and their 3 kids under 5. I knew the couple, but one was always up with one of the kids. Since I was the only other adult, I couldn't abandon whichever parent was seated, even after cake was served, even after dancing started.
  • rsannarsanna member
    500 Comments 5 Love Its First Anniversary
    My FI and I are in the same situation.  Open seating is norm for my family and the style of events they go to.  But my FI and I both really feel like assigned tables will be necessary even with our number of guests (almost exactly the same as yours).  Our friends are totally the kind of people to cram 15 people in a 8-10 person table.  This also tends to get people left out.  Personal experience from going to dining halls that don't accompany a large group like we would be, there was always a table or two of like 3-6 people left out of the main group and it was never a pleasant situation.  I would just feel more comfortable assigning tables because then I wouldn't have to worry about some of my guests being left out/alone/awkward situation, etc. 

    Think about in another way.  Are you paying to rent tables, chairs, tableclothes?  What about centerpieces are you paying for centerpieces?  Well if you have open seating you need to have access of all of these things because of the scenarios you described.  However, my sister did open seating for her wedding and it workd out really well.  But it was very casual and they had big long tables with benches, in comparison to round tables.  I think this worked really well for her.  It also helped that her reception was casual so people came, congradulated her, dropped off their card, got some food, talked some more and left.  People were always coming and going, so as people would filter in other people would filter out.  Hopefully that makes sense.


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  • Just the term "open seating" gives me anxiety.  I hate rushing into the reception, draping coats, organizing friends and telling others there isn't enough room.  It's so much more calm to pick up your name card, walk in, drop your coat/purse and go off to get a drink.  I like calm as a guest.

    People will get up and mingle as the night goes on - it's not like you are chained to your table, but at least it provides guests with a solid home base and some peace of mind. 
  • The receptions that I had gone to that had arranged seating, I didn't care for the assigned. If I were going, I wanted to be with certain family members and would surely end up with people I didn't know very well, or family that I still didn't really know very well, so it was hard for me to converse; knowing that my other family are all bunched up at another spot.

    FI's sister had an open seating and it went well. There was a little bit of the dragging the chair to this table or that table, but it wasn't so much that it left out groups of people.

    FI and I had discussed this for ours and agreed on the open seating. We will know how many guests; we will tell the venue how mnay guests, and the appropriate seating will be arranged - 8 per table (which will give us the number of tables/centerpieces). I'd rather people sit with those that they are comfortable with rather than potentially splitting up people and causing discomfort. While it may still happen, between both of our families, I feel that will be very few if at all.

    But it's really up to you what you are most comfortable with.
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  • TD is a hot topic. I was going to do open seating, but then did assigned tables. I love open seating. But is up to you and your FI.
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  • edited May 2012
    I think a lot of it depends on the size of the guest list. The larger the crowd, the more important I feel assigned seating is. The last wedding we went to had just over 100 guests and trying to find a seat was really hard. You wouldn't think it would be - but it was! We ended up way in the back with people we didn't know....wasn't the best.

    We are doing assigned tables.
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  • Especially with a buffet, I like having assigned seating. I don't want to sit down, "claim" my seat, get up to get my food and come back to see that my seat is taken. 

    It's annoying to make a seating chart, sure. But I think it's helpful to guests. And if anyone is unhappy with where they're seated - dinner only lasts about an hour, ya know? I'd rather be unhappy sitting at an assigned seat than wandering around looking for somewhere to sit - especially if I didn't know a lot of people. 

    I vote assigning tables.
  • I'm having the same problem. I want to do assigned tables but FI doesn't think it is necessary and neither does my mom(my dad told me he didn't care)...I know we will do assigned tables for sure for family but now it is to just decide if we should for all of our guests.
  • I think the main thing to consider is how much space you have. If you have 120 guests, and a 120 seats, then assign tables so that parties don't get split up, and you don't end up with one seat here, one seat there. And a family with no where to sit together. But if you have 120 guests and 200 chairs, then you'll probably be ok with open seating because all the seats won't be occupied.

    There bottom line is it has to do with the space you have, not the formality of plated vs buffet.

  • I have seen so many disasterous weddings using open seating. Familes get separated and it makes the "loners" at the wedding feel very out of place. Have you seen the website www.socialtables.com? It's an easy way to make assigned seating online so that it won't be as much of a headache as you might think. Worked like a charm for me! 
  • We are doing assigned tables. My parents are divorced and I need to make sure that certain family members are together or kept apart. Also I grew up in WA, lived in NY for ten years, and then moved back to a different town in WA.I am also much more inolved with church now than I have been in the past.  We have a very wide variety of people from many different areas and stages of our lives. Taking the time to do assigned tables so that people are seated with people they will be comfortable with is important to us. Plus my FI has only his parents coming as far as family so figuring out parent tables so his are not alone takes some figuring out.

    The only time I have bee to a wedding where open seating worked was when there were way more tables/chairs than guests.
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