Richmond Wedding Reception Tips: Seating

August 27th, 2012

Today we thought we’d take a break from our Real Weddings to discuss something that comes up quite often with our brides- wedding reception seating!

The reception seating arrangements at your wedding say something about the event – it might be that you are planning a casual and high-energy party, or a formal, sophisticated affair. Spend some time thinking about these different seating styles and how you can best complement your menu and entertainment while accommodating your loved ones on your big day!

Assigned Seating: this is the most formal of the seating styles. Each guest is assigned a specific place at a specific table. It is most useful when there is a plated meal with more than one entrée option as the place cards can be coded to indicate which one each guest chose, and serving staff can be given notes before the event starts to make the event run more efficiently.  Assigned seating also allows hosts to help smooth social interactions by placing guests with mutual interests strategically together (and those with potential conflicts conveniently apart). It is appropriate any time of day, but particularly so at a formal dinner. Another variation on this theme is assigning tables and allowing guests to choose their specific seat. Assigned tables are great for stationed meals or plated meals where service staff doesn’t have to match diners to their selected entrée.

Cocktail Style Seating with Heavy Hors d’oeuvres: Cocktail seating is often informal, fun and dynamic. A common style in traditional southern weddings, guests are not assigned seats and instead are encouraged to mingle. Pub-style tall cocktail tables may be used with or without stools for guests to perch on while enjoying passed or stationed hors d’oeuvres served in small bites. Lower, bistro-style cocktail tables can also compliment this type of reception. The signatures of a cocktail seating event are lots of variety and energy; perfect for a morning or late afternoon event, or later (post-dinner period) get-together. Timing is critical because guests should be clued in by the hour that they may not be served a full meal (although, often there is plenty of food at a cocktail-style reception to satisfy even the hungriest guest).

Open Seating: This style requires the least effort on the part of the hosts and is great for less formal events where the goal is to have a great party with few limits. Enough seating is generally provided for all guests; however, they are permitted to choose their own tables and places. It is a good idea to reserve a handful of tables to accommodate the bridal party, immediate family and newlyweds at an open seating event as they may be tied up with photo or social obligations during seat selection and it is comforting to know that their positions are secure.

Family Style Seating: Family style seating is increasing in popularity can be assigned or open. The term describes a method of service in which guests are presented with heaping plates of food, sometimes including entrees and side dishes, much like they would be at home or at a holiday dinner. Once presented, everyone serves themselves. Family style meals bring groups of friends and family closer together and are perfect for intimate gatherings any time of day.

You have many options when you are considering ways to place your guests. Explore each together with your fiancé and your closest family and decide what best lends itself to your unique event!

See you soon,

~Paula & Martin Ramirez

Paula and Martin Ramirez are the proprietors of Historic Mankin Mansion, a wedding resort and bed and breakfast just minutes from Downtown Richmond. They enjoy new restaurant finds, Virginia wines and discovering fun events and activities throughout the area for their guests.

Photo credit: PW Photography

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