Open Seating vs. Assigned Seating at a Wedding
Couples often ask us whether or not they should have open seating or assigned seating at their reception. We love to lay out the pros and cons to both options, so that our couples can make the best, most informed decision. Here are the pros and cons for open seating and assigned seating.
Pros for Open Seating
- RSVPs aren’t as important – These days, getting RSVPs from guests can be a challenge. With assigned seating, it is more important to have accurate RSVPs. With open seating, RSVPs are simply for a headcount to have a general idea of how many seats you will need and how many you will be feeding.
- No Surprises – Speaking of RSVPs… Every now and then, we will get a guest or two that shows up by surprise or brings an uninvited plus one. Having open seating makes this less of a hassle come reception time.
- Guests have the control – Guests get to decide how close to the speaker they want to be, or better yet, how close to the bar they want to be. Some guests like to be in the driver’s seat and open seating is a plus for them.
Cons for Open Seating
- Guests can be uncomfortable – If one of your guests doesn’t know many other guests, it can be uncomfortable for them to walk around and try to find a seat. Assigned seating avoids this and makes for a more comfortable environment for those that want to be introduced informally.
- Unforeseen conflict or confrontation – The last thing we want to happen at anyone’s wedding is for Cousin Sal to have it out with Uncle Ben over last year’s Thanksgiving prank gone wrong… Having assigned seating ensures that they are sitting on opposite sides of the room, while open seating leaves it up to chance that they end up at the same table forced to make small talk.
- Guests may leave earlier than anticipated – If a guest finds themselves in an uncomfortable situation, they are more than likely not going to make it to the sparkler exit. By having assigned seating, you can make sure your only coworker that is coming, gets to be seated at the table with all of your college friends, ensuring a good time is had by all! With open seating, your coworker could end up at a table alone, and I don’t think that would be as fun for them.
Pros of Assigned Seating
From years of experiencing both, we love a good seating chart! It seems to mitigate any chaos or confusion that might occur as guests enter the reception and find their seat for the night. Plus, there are so many creative ways to display a seating chart these days!
- Lowers the chances of chaos – countless times we have seen mass chaos set in when we open the doors to the reception, it is open seating, and guests just pause right in the doorway to try and look around and figure out where they need to sit. Even worse, if there is a group that wants to sit together, we’ve seen guests grab chairs from other tables and pull them up so that everyone in the group will fit, leaving the other table half empty and awkward looking. To make sure this is avoided, having (at minimum) a general seating chart that tells guests what table they are sitting at, helps tremendously! If you want to take it a step further, you can have name cards at the table with each individual assigned to a specific seat. It really depends on your guest count and the array of guests you will be hosting, but you can’t go wrong either way.
**Bonus Tip: There are a variety of unique ways to do “Table Numbers.” We have seen the couple’s favorite TV shows or songs in place of numbers. For example, Cousin Betty is assigned to the “Friends” table. We have also seen table numbers that have pictures of the couple at that age. For example, Table 3 had a picture of the Bride and Groom at the age of 3 for guests to look at. So cute!
- Ensures seats for important parties, such as family and bridal parties – The worst thing that could happen is not having a designated table for your bridal party or family members to sit at. We try to eliminate this possibility by telling our couples to at least have reserved signs for these tables, but having a seating chart, as well, is a sure way of making sure the most important people, besides yourselves, are taken care of and closest to you during the reception.
- Additional Design Element – Seating charts have quickly become one of the most extravagant design pieces at receptions, and we are here for it! They add a focal point that accents the overall design and feel of the wedding. From acrylic signs, to large wooden displays, to champagne walls with each guest’s assignment tied to the stem, possibilities are endless! Play into your theme and let your imagination run wild – guests will love it!
- Makes guests feel loved – Speaking of guests loving it… Having assigned seating makes your guests feel special. Why? It means you took time to think of them and what they would like while at your wedding. It reminds them that you considered them in the planning process, and that you are thankful for their attendance.
Cons of Assigned Seating
- Time Consuming – No matter your guest count, the task of sitting down with your partner and planning out the seating chart can be a time-consuming headache! But trust us, it is worth it! Make it fun by having a delicious snack and drink while doing it. Make it a game and see which of you can organize your tables fastest! Wedding planning can be fun!
- Additional Cost – Depending on how you decide to display the seating chart and whether or not you have each seat assigned and need name cards, that can add a cost that you weren’t expecting to the budget. There are inexpensive ways to do it, such as simply getting it printed on a poster board at a local copy shop. Or, you can go all out and have an exquisite seating chart made to add to your overall wedding design like we mentioned earlier. Need ideas on what to do that fits your budget? We can help there too!
- Potential Displeased Guest – I mean you can’t make everyone happy, right? So I wouldn’t worry too much about this one. However, assigned seating could cause a guest to be displeased if they are sitting next to someone they would prefer not to OR they are not sitting with the people they would like too! The alternative would be the same, however, with open seating.
Now that you know some of the pros and cons to both open seating and assigned seating, you and your partner can make the decision that best fits your wedding! At the end of the day, it is YOUR big day and everyone will find a seat one way or the other!