If you’ve ever attended a wedding before, you’ll know that it’s quite common for guests to be assigned a specific seat during the wedding breakfast. If there are no assigned seats, there are at least assigned tables – each table will have a number (or name), and you will be told which table is yours.
Assigned seats at weddings removes ambiguity and awkwardness, and there’s less of a chance that guests will be left ‘floating’ unable to find a seat. It’s rare for a wedding to have open seating (where guests are totally free to choose where they sit). But for more casual affairs, where mixing and mingling is encouraged, a seating free-for-all may be the most appropriate seating arrangement.
In this guide, we’ll talk you through the different types of wedding seating arrangements, and discuss the benefits and drawbacks of assigned seating.
We’ll also share how to create a foolproof table plan that will work for all of your guests.
Assigned Seats at a Wedding: Yes or No?
There are three main types of seating arrangement that you can have at your wedding: open seating, assigned tables, and assigned seats. With open seating, it’s a free-for-all – guests can sit anywhere they like. With the other two options, your guests are at least somewhat limited regarding where they can sit.
It’s worth clarifying that assigned seating is only really for the wedding breakfast (also called the reception dinner). It’s practically unheard of to assign seats for the ceremony itself, other than reserving the first one or two rows for the wedding party.
At most weddings breakfasts in the U.K., there is some form of seating arrangement, whether it’s assigned tables or assigned seats. Let’s discuss each option so that you can decide which seating arrangement is right for your big day.
Open seating is by far the most relaxed wedding seating arrangement. It’s best suited for casual weddings (such as outdoor, beach, and backyard weddings) and small weddings where most guests will know each other. It’s a perfect option for informal dining such as finger buffets, food trucks and the like.
With open seating, your guests are free to sit anywhere they’d like. They each choose their own seat, and there are no restrictions on which tables are for whom. The only exception is the top table (reserved for the newlyweds, their parents, the best man and maid of honour).
Having open seating avoids all the hassle involved in designing a seating plan. But if you’re going to have open seating, ensure that there are plenty of extra seats, so that couples and groups can find space to sit together.
Open seating is fairly uncommon at UK weddings, so be sure to display a prominent sign at the entrance of the dining room instructing guests to choose their own seats. Otherwise, they’ll be wandering around like lost puppies, waiting to be told where to sit!
If you have assigned tables at your wedding, it means you (the bride and groom) decide which tables everyone’s going to sit at. However, you don’t actually specify which seats everyone will take at their table. For example, Mary Smith must sit at Table 6, but she can choose any seat at that table.
For assigned seating, you’ll have a seating plan displayed at the entrance to the dining room. The plan typically features a diagram of the room with each table name (or number) clearly displayed, along with a list of guests’ names underneath each table. This way, your guests will quickly be able to figure out which table is theirs.
Assigned tables works best with smaller tables that seat 6-8 guests. For long, banquet-style tables, it’s easier if everyone has a specific assigned seat. Otherwise, you run the risk of guests leaving odd single seats free, preventing couples from being able to sit near each other.
Assigned seating is the strictest and most formal way of allocating seats for your wedding guests. It allows for absolutely no ambiguity – each guest is told specifically which seat is theirs. It works for small and large tables of any size or layout.
For this method, you’ll still need to display a seating chart so that your guests know where in the room to find their seat. At their space, they’ll see a place card bearing their name. That way, they know they’ve got the right seat.
This seating arrangement works best for larger weddings, particularly if many of your guests have dietary requirements or if you’re offering meal choices to your guests. This way, staff will be able to serve everyone quickly and efficiently, as they’ll have a pre-order and will know who’s sitting where.
What Are the Benefits of Having Assigned Seats at a Wedding?
There are many benefits of having assigned seats at a wedding. This is why the vast majority of brides and grooms prefer to have control over where their guests sit.
1. Wedding Guests Prefer Assigned Seats
Surveys show that wedding guests overwhelmingly prefer being told where to sit, rather than choosing their own seats.
This is probably because picking your own seat in a massive room can feel awkward and overwhelming, especially if you don’t know many other people at the wedding. You might feel too embarrassed to sit down next to someone you don’t know.
2. Help Your Schedule Run to Time
If your guests are made to choose their own seats, they’ll spend ages wandering around trying to find somewhere to sit. Having assigned seats, on the other hand, means that everyone settles down quickly, easily and without fuss. This will prevent the rest of your big day from being blown off-schedule.
3. Ensure Couples and Families Can Sit Together
Assigned seating also avoids the potential problems that might arise from couples and families not being able to find enough seats at the same table.
When guests are free to sit where they’d like, they’ll naturally leave one space between them and guest that they don’t know, rather than being presumptuous and sitting next to a stranger. This means that couples and families may end up having to split up. With assigned seats, this isn’t an issue, as you can allocate the correct number of seats to each couple or family.
4. Make Things Easier for Your Caterers
The biggest draw of assigned seating benefits the venue staff and caterers most of all. If your guests have chosen different meals, or many of your guests have allergies or dietary requirements, assigned seating is extremely helpful. It enables the caterers to quickly serve the right meals to the right people.
If everyone chooses their own seat, the servers will have to shout over the babble in order to get the right meals to the right guests. This can be a logistical nightmare, and it also spoils the atmosphere.
5. Avoid Family Drama
Having assigned seating also means that you have control over who sits near whom. This can be of enormous benefit if you have certain friends or family members who don’t get along, and may cause drama if they have to interact with one another.
For example, let’s say your parents are divorced and don’t get along. You might be worried that they’ll get into an argument. With assigned seating, you can make sure that they sit on opposite sides of the room. This is a very valuable way of keeping the peace that mustn’t be underestimated.
What Are the Downsides to Assigned Seating?
Honestly, there aren’t many downsides to having assigned seating at a wedding. Telling your guests where to sit is the ‘done thing’, and it’s what your guests will be expecting. However, there are a few situations in which assigned seating might feel inappropriate, and you might prefer to have a free-for-all open seating plan.
• Casual weddings. At informal, relaxed weddings (such as outdoor, beach, backyard or barn weddings), casual seating might feel a lot more natural and will help create an informal feel.
• Small weddings. If you’re having fewer than 30 guests at your wedding, and everyone pretty much knows each other, it might feel unnecessary to have assigned seating.
• Self-service dining. If you’re having a finger buffet or a food truck rather than a sit-down meal, assigned seating is almost pointless. Your caterers won’t need to know who’s sitting where, as your guests will be serving themselves.
• Short on time. If you’re planning a last-minute wedding you may simply not have enough time to create a seating plan.
You might also feel reluctant to spend money on seating charts and place cards if you’re working with a limited wedding budget. However, table plans and place cards don’t need to be expensive.
Where to Buy Wedding Seating Charts and Place Cards
Have you decided on assigned tables or assigned seats at your wedding? If so, head over to Bride and Groom Direct for high-quality and affordable table plans and name place cards. Choose from dozens of beautiful templates, and use our free editing tool to customise your design to your liking.
After you approve the proof, we’ll dispatch your order to you within 3-5 working days. As we charge a flat rate for shipping, why not order your other wedding stationery at the same time, such as your wedding invitations and thank you cards?