Posted by Talley Sue Hohlfeld, Etiquette Expert
The magazine is generally a fan of assigned seating at weddings—we hate the "junior-high lunchroom" feel that comes from hunting for a seat among tables that are partly filled with people you don't know (or worse, ones you *do* know who are "saving this seat for someone else"). And we love the idea of carefully chosen dinner-table companions.
But just this week, a reader sent in a question about whether she should assign places (or even tables) if her reception has several very filling food stations, and no sit-down dinner. And I have to say—I'm torn!
The beauty of assigned tables is that everybody knows they have somewhere to sit. And as the hostess, you can have exactly the right number of tables (less furniture in the room, and less $$ sometimes).
But the beauty of food stations (besides that they're really yummy) is that they make for a very fluid conversation. Your aunt goes to try the Chinese, and ends up in line next to your groom's college roommate. Then she heads for the fresh fruit, and she's in line behind your second cousin on your dad's side. Lots of friendliness, lots of casual conversation, lots of interaction and movement.
So, do you want her to discover a new dining companion each time she goes to try a new food? Or do you want her to have a safe haven where she can shelter between adventures?
I think I'm answering my own question here—I think I'd still vote for assigned tables.
(But if you opted not to have assigned tables, you need to be sure you have extra tables, so that there is always likely to be an empty one. That will reduce the likelihood that your guests will do what the aunts and uncles did at the last such wedding I went to, with no assigned seats—they staked out tables and made sure never to leave them unattended. They might as well have been assigned.)
Are you having food stations, and will you assign seating? And would you give this bride different advice?