(Closed) reception with fewer chairs than guests

posted 10 years ago in Reception
Post # 17
831 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: September 2012

@ThishaA:  Really, you must have a seat for everyone, ceremony and reception.  Even if it is a 10 minute ceremony.  Standing room only is not appropriate for weddings.

Post # 18
798 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: December 2010

We did this.  It worked because our reception was short (4 hours total, no ceremony before hand), had easy to consume on the go food and we ensured that older people had seats.  I didn’t sit down at all.  My side of the family/friends and our friends were constantly on the dance floor or mingling.  My husbands family staked out a section of tables and didn’t move for the entire night.  We were not expecting that from the entire family and it took up a lot of space.  It was…a bit frustrating.  We also had a coat check, but I was also worried about what people would do with their purses, etc.  It seemed to just work out.  

It worked and I liked the cocktail party vibe that it gave.  It was what we were going for, however knowing what I know now, I’m not sure I would do it again, mainly because of my in laws.

To me, if it’s billed as a cocktail party, people know there aren’t going to be seats for everyone. 

Post # 19
1175 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: May 2013

I’m placing a lot of focus on my guests experience at our wedding, because while yes it is our day, I’m still hosting a party and want everyone to have a great time. I want all of my guests to have somewhere to sit, a place to put their things, and to know that we thought about them enough to do this. I have to agree with others above, I’d probably leave early if I didn’t have a seat. 

Post # 20
816 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: May 2012

I am sorry but I am not too fond of this idea. When I go to a wedding I expect to have a place to sit and eat my meal. If it is just passed hour’s dervers/cocktail party that is fine, but when you have people in the same place for more than 3 hours I really believe that you need to give them a place to sit. I hate having to carry my purse around with me everywhere I go, I like that I can just set it down at a place that was designated for me that whole night.

Also, I really do not believe that the older/more traditional guests will be too keen on the seating situation.

If it is budget you are concerned about there are other ways to save.


Post # 21
2639 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: July 2012 - Baltimore Museum of Industry

This will depend a lot on your guest list. Every older guest should have a seat- maybe reserved tables for older family members, for ex. 

One of the venues we looked at was going to have to pull tables after dinner to make space for a dance floor. If we had gone that route, we would have put our friends at that table, and given them a heads up. That said, you still want a cocktail table/someplace to rest a bit during your dance marathon.

I agree with PPs that seats are needed for everyone the ceremony- I’ve had to stand before, and it’s not fun in heels. 

If you have a buffet, how is it going to work without enough chairs? Would the first & second round that goes through the buffet have to get up and give their seats to the last rounds? Or are you suggesting pulling some tables before dancing starts?

Post # 22
515 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: October 2012

We are doing the same thing but no buffet.

Post # 23
2001 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: April 2010

I’ve been to many a cocktail-style event without enough chairs for all the guests to be seated at once, and it worked out fine.

Granted, if it’s a standard length reception (4-5 hours), and you’re serving a plated meal that requires a knife and fork to eat, and you’re having lots of “stop what you’re doing and pay attention to me” stuff (multiple speeches, special dances, etc.) you need full seating.

But if you’re going for more of an unstructured cocktail party vibe, it is very standard for cocktail parties to have a mix of tables, high tops, and lounge seating. 

ETA: just realized I already posted upthread. 

Post # 24
104 posts
Blushing bee

I have been to this kind of wedding and managed to snag a seat and I did not like it. Every time I wanted to get up for any reason (i.e. bathroom, drink refill) I was worried someone would take my seat.  My Fiance was the best man, so we couldn’t duck out early and there was no dancing.

If you did do this, I would definitely advertise it as a cocktail reception because that might set the standing expectation and thus might encourage people to wear shoes they are ok with standing in.  I would also make sure to serve food that doesn’t need a fork to eat and have cocktail tables.

Hope that helps! 

Post # 25
486 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: December 2014

Hm I’ve never been to a reception like this. I don’t think I would like it as I really hate having a drink in one hand and a plate of food in the other with no place to sit down and eat (or even just sit down and relax). As someone else mentioned, if the food is one-bite food that requires no fork, knife, or even a plate, it might work.

Post # 26
435 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: October 2012

I went to a wedding like this and found it very awkward. It was a heavy hors d’ouevres reception, and I did not care for that either–it was dinnertime, so I was starving, and a few hors d’oeuvres were not sufficient. My fiance and I wound up staking out a spot near where the catering staff was entering the reception with their trays, and we would attack them every time they came out. I felt like an *sshole but it was the only way I was going to get a decent amount of food.

Post # 27
102 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: June 2012

Our venue is rather small so we have had to kind of work around this issue.  It makes me really uncomfortable to think our guests wont have a place to sit (we are thinking about 140 will attend), so our plan is to do seating for about 125 in the main room of our venue, and then we will have additional lounge and cafe table seating in a room connected to the main room.  The lounge will have couches and comfy chairs.  This room will also be where the candy bar and photobooth will be set up, so people wont feel completely closed off.  I figured a lot of my friends would like to sit in this room because they will want to chat some away from the crowd and loud music.  Also, we will be having high bistro tables scattered around the dance floor to allow people to have a place to set their drinks or whatever while they are dancing.  Honestly, this has been the most stressful part of our planning, and I’ve just decided to go with it.  Its not my ideal set up, but I think it will work out all right.  

Post # 28
7111 posts
Busy Beekeeper
  • Wedding: August 2013

I think it can work, but it requires some figuring out. Where would people put their purse and jacket? Honestly I don’t have a good answer for this if everyone doesn’t have a chair. Also, I would have lots of high top tables so people have a place to eat. Overally, if your goal is to get people mingling and dancing, I would have a seat for everyone so people aren’t afraid to get up and lose their seat. But if it’s more a space problem, then make it work. Is there a way to have little sitting areas? That would be nice.

Post # 29
86 posts
Worker bee

I’ve worked weekends the last two years at a wedding venue and had a few couples who chose to go this route.  I can honestly say that there were very frustrated and uncomfortable guests at each of those weddings.  Guests would constantly come up to me the entire night asking for extra chairs and when I would tell them why there were no extra chairs, that the bride and groom wanted to encourage more mingling and dancing, I got mostly eye rolls and frustrated huffs.  I think the worst one was where they served baked potatoes and fixin’s- the guests who had no table, not even a bistro, had no way of eating their food!  If you do choose to go this route, MAKE SURE you label some tables/seats for your older guests, pregnant guests, guests with small children, etc.  And even then, if I were a guest at a wedding like this, likely I would not be assigned a chair because most people don’t know that I have a physical condition that makes it painful to stand for long periods of time and I would be absolutely miserable- I would probably just be forced to leave early in all honesty.  You never really know what is going on with all of your guests, so in the end, I would personally never recommend this route to anybody.  But yes, if in the end you choose to do this, definitely think about the logistics of how they will eat their food, where they will put their purses/coats, etc, and try to make it a shorter reception, two hours max.

Post # 30
86 posts
Worker bee

@caits615:  This is absolutely the rule I believe 99% of couples should be following: “I’m placing a lot of focus on my guests experience at our wedding, because while yes it is our day, I’m still hosting a party and want everyone to have a great time.”  Well put!  This means that you should not make decisions solely based on saving money (i.e. not paying for tables, linens, etc, to be able to seat all guests).  If you are inviting them, you have to do so while thinking about if you can afford to give them a proper place to sit and relax at the party that you are hosting. Bottom line, if someone can’t afford to place out and dress enough tables for the guests they want at their wedding, they should probably reconsider having so many guests, or try to cut costs somewhere else, but please don’t skimp on your guests basic comfort. The least you can provide for them is their own chair.


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