(Closed) reception with fewer chairs than guests

posted 10 years ago in Reception
Post # 3
62 posts
Worker bee
  • Wedding: December 2012

My sister had this type of reception 7 years ago, with a buffet dinner approximately 60% seating for guests. For reference, my sister had about 75 guests in an indoor space (art gallery), a live 4-piece jazz band and both high-top tables (no chairs) and round tables with 8 chairs a piece.

There was approximately ZERO dancing that went on at her wedding (the music was wonderful, but it wasn’t exactly the dancing type of music) and while I do believe the lack of seating arrangement encouraged socializing, ultimately its the one negative anyone in our family ever cites to my sisters wedding. As the night wore on, people wanted to sit – and there simply wasn’t enough room to do so. There are even pictures of guests sitting on each other laps (even one with me and my mom, random guests sitting on each others laps) and it makes my sister cringe to this day.

So I think if you have an “active” type of guest list that will want to do more dancing, and you can live with people being cranky about not having somewhere to sit, I think it can work out okay (but not perfectly).  Good luck!

Post # 4
35 posts
  • Wedding: October 2012

Most of the weddings that I have been to have this type of seating plan in place.  They usually only have about enough seating for 70% of people to sit at any one given time.  At the majority of these weddings have ended up being empty tables because everyone is up going to the restroom, getting a drink, dancing, walking outside, etc. 

We will also be doing our reception tables in a similar way as well.  It would be a lot of tables/chairs/centerpieces if we had enough seating for every guest (around 165).

Post # 5
1875 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: September 2012

I attended a reception like this once and honestly I didn’t care for it.  The food and drinks were great, but it kinda sucked not having a set place to eat and leave your stuff.  It’s really hard to balance a drink, purse, and try and eat all while wearing heels.  My friends and I ended up waiting around for some people to leave one of the few tables availabe so we could all eat together.  It didn’t really get people on the dance floor, just left a lot of people wandering around.  So in the end, my advice to you is to make sure everyone has a place to sit.

Post # 6
442 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: May 2010

We did this and it worked out great. However we had a lot of young people there and dancing was happening from the beginning. We reserved a table for our older relatives who sat the entire time but there were always open seats.

We had cocktail tables and regular tables in addition to just some benches a little outside of the area. I really loved our set up because it left enough room for dancing and mingling!

***Went to a wedding a few months after my own. Same type of setting (fewer chairs) but it was a dry wedding with little to no dancing. I stood the entire time and did not love it. I thought it was a bad choice for her wedding.***

Post # 7
242 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: September 2012

Our plan is fairly similar. We’re having the cocktail hour and the dessert/dancing in our venue’s biggest room, with about 6 large tables (12 chairs each) and 5 hi-tops (no chairs) set-up for our 160 guests. In addition to the “dancing” room, we’re going to have a lounge in the room across the hall with several couches/comfy chairs and the dessert/coffee buffet. We are doing a seated dinner in a tent in the venue’s garden with seating for everyone.

I was initially nervous about this plan, but apparently this is the standard reception scheme at our venue (it’s the biggest indoor space on the island where we’re having the wedding but still not quite big enough – a full seated dinner in that big room would max out at 120 guests). The coordinator assured me the same thing yours did, and I was fortunate to have an acquaintance get married at this same venue last fall, with one of my bridesmaids in attendance. Sounds like that wedding went very smoothly, with lots of dancing for the young people, and the parental generation and up happily parked in chairs to watch. Apparently, it also encourages a lot of movement and mingling between different social groups. So, I feel really good about the plan right now.

Good luck.


Post # 8
2001 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: April 2010

This can work with the right menu (hors d’ oeuvres that can be picked up and eaten with one hand – people will have a drink in the other hand – and do not require silverware) and the right crowd (if it’s an older crowd, they likely won’t “get it” and will be annoyed not having a designated seat).

I’ve seen this go badly when the food is not conducive to grazing and requires a knife and fork to eat, in which case you really do need a seat for every butt, because people will be reluctant to get up, dance, mingle, etc. if there are guests balancing a drink and a plate of food, hovering over the seated guests like vultures waiting to swoop in on the seats.

Post # 9
1 posts
  • Wedding: November 2012

I was very exictied for this post becuase I too am sturggling with this delimma.  I am looking to host a smaller wedding with about 100 guest and was thinking about offering 64 seats.  This leaves the other 36 people to hopefully mingle, dance or use the many high top tables provided for my cocktail style party reception.  I personnally like this idea but, am worried how it will all come together. And even after reading the answers I am still confused and not sure. =)

Howver, this does bring up another conern and question I am struggling with. I am on a budget and need to use my same chairs for both ceremony and reception. Which means my lack of chairs offered at the reception equals lack of seats for my ceremony too. This being said – I was wondering if it is tacky to have rows in the back for the standing room only??? In case you lost count; it would leave about 36 people without a seat during the ceremony.

Post # 10
7960 posts
Bumble Beekeeper
  • Wedding: April 2012

it wasn’t a wedding but i threw a large semi formal bday party a few years ago and it was hors d’ouvres, drinks and dancing for about 80 ppl.  i had some large rounds with 8; some high cocktail tables with no chairs and i also had a lounge area with a few sofas, armchairs and coffee tables.  it was great!!

Post # 11
44 posts

I personally don’t like the idea of not having enough chairs for guests to sit on.  A chair is one of those basic things such as water that you should offer at a gathering.  If it was cocktail hour or an hors’deourves only reception, it probably wouldn’t be a big deal.  However, not having a seat for a typical 4-5 hour reception seems inconsiderate and assumes that a certain number of your guests will be dancing and standing up most of the time. 

Post # 12
831 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: September 2012

Please re-think this idea.

Even at a dancing, heavy apps reception, there needs to be a seat for every butt.  People need to know they have a little place to go when they get tired, an table/chair where they can store their pashmina/blazer/clutch.

My father is a pastor and has officiated over more weddings than I dare count.  He is giving me a LOT of freedom to plan my wedding, but he did say one of his very few requirements is that there be a seat for every guest at the ceremony and reception.

Post # 13
40 posts
  • Wedding: August 2012

@ThishaA  I don’t think it’s great to have standing room only at the ceremony, unless it is 10 minutes long. As a guest I would be upset if I arrived early but did not have a chair to sit in for that part. I also think it’s going to be distracting for the folks who are in the last row of chairs as people will be milling around behind them.

Post # 14
2442 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: June 2013

Honestly, I would leave a reception early if I was forced to stand because there weren’t enough chairs to go around. I usually wear a dress and heels to weddings, assuming that there will be a chair for me to park myself when my feet start to hurt after a couple of hours of dancing and socializing. If there wasn’t a chair for me, I’d be dancing myself out to my car in the parking lot. 

Post # 15
2153 posts
Buzzing bee

It is not polite to no have a seat for every guest.  Many guests are not able to stand for hours on end (especially ladies in heels). How many people have bad backs, which limit standing.  It isn’t always something that is discernable or known. 

As for wanting the mixing and mingling.  What will end up happening is that people will get a spot, plop their stuff down and then stake it out for the night.  When I get up to get a drink or something, I do not take my purse and sweater.  I keep them at my seat.  And usually the group elects one or two runners, especially if you risk loosing your seat getting up.

Where will the guests who don’t get a seat put their stuff? What will happen if granny who is slower, doesn’t get a spot at a table?  Will she stand for hours on end? 


Post # 16
2153 posts
Buzzing bee

@ThishaA:  It is not polite to expect people to stand up.  Even if your ceremony is 30 mins long, people are looking at about an hour standing.  You will get there 15 mins early (minimum), 30 mins for the ceremony, 15 minutes to then get out/mix and mingle.

Also remember people won’t be wearing trainers, but will be in high heels.

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