Do I Really Need Assigned Seating?

Shouldn't guests choose where they sit? After all we are all adults! In fact a YouGov survey conducted in February 2006 shows that an overwhelming 84% of wedding guests prefer assigned seating.

preferred being assigned to a specific seat 51%
preferred being assigned to a table (can choose any seat) 33%
free for all - no seats or tables assigned 13%
does not apply, do not/would not attend a wedding reception 3%

The results were particularly clear for guests aged over 50, only 8% of whom preferred unassigned seating.

Unassigned seating sounds great in theory and it is certainly one less chore for the organizer. Unfortunately it rarely works out so well in practice.

the perils of unassigned seating
  • There may be an unseemly rush for the good' seats.
  • It will take a lot longer to get guests seated. They may still be milling around while the food is being served.
  • Your beautiful decor will be spoilt by people leaving their coats on chairs to reserve them.
  • The last few guests end up walking around looking for seats, a bit like the unpopular kid at school lunch.
  • Couples can get split up. It is not unknown for guests to end up eating outside the venue because they couldn't get a seat together at a table.
  • Elderly relatives may end up seated where they can't see or hear anything.
  • If people turn up uninvited (common in some cultures) they may take seats intended for your invited guests.

It can also be a pretty miserable experience for guests:

"I hate going to a wedding where you have to find a table where all your friends and you can sit... or god forbid you are the people who know the couple but no one else... that is so horrible... even if you are assigned a table you still have to find a place to sit at it... yuck. That is just my opinion... can you tell I have been in this spot a time or two. I have a lot of friends that I have known since I was in grade school, but we went to different schools always, and never had the same group of friends... at their weddings there I was all alone, and no assigned seats, you feel like you are standing there and everyone is staring at you as you try to find what looks like a table of amiable people, and you end up sitting at the table with great aunt lucy because that is all that is left, and she tells you crazy stories that you never wanted to know... yikes... assigned seating is totally the way to go! Just from experience."

Kim on the discussion board

The larger the event, the bigger the risk you are taking with unassigned seating. In truth, organizers shy away from assigned seating mostly because of the time involved in assigning seats or tables. But it doesn't have to be a huge chore if you use appropriate seating assignment software.

If you still decide to go for unassigned seating then you don't need to read any further on this site. Just make sure you have more chairs than guests and good luck!

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