To Assign or Not to Assign, That is the Question

Many times, I have asked my clients the question, “Will you assign seating?”  And, sometimes I get an answer of “No.”  I am the first to tell you, this is your wedding day and you should do what you want. However, I know this may appear the path of simplicity, it is anything but simple.  In fact, the decision to not assign seating can open a large can of worms. 

First things first…this is very important…sort of a little pet peeve of mine.  Let’s get educated on the difference between an escort card (wall) and a place card.  Believe it or not there is a BIG difference. 

An escort card (or wall, frame, mirror, etc.) is a card that is available at the cocktail reception or at the entrance of the dining room.  The card displays the guest name and their table number.  The guest then goes into the dining room, finds their table number and chooses their seat at the assigned table. 

A place card is a card that rests at the actual place-setting of a dining table.  The guests find their name and table number on a board, go to the assigned table and look for the chair and place-setting that has their card.  Then they sit at that spot. 

Sounds awfully fussy right?  I disagree.  Have you ever been the kid in the high school cafeteria, with their lunch tray walking table to table with no place to sit?  Each table has a group of kids that know each other well and you perhaps don’t fit with any of the groups.  So, you choose the table that is empty or full of the misfits that no one else wanted at their table.  The feelings of anxiety, distance, fear and loneliness set in.  If you’re lucky enough to not have experienced this, please rent any teen movie ever made and this scene will play itself out time and time again.  Usually with the poor person spilling their tray of food on their clothes.   

While my description may sound dramatic, I promise you it isn’t.  I have been that person both at high school and at a wedding reception.  It is the most awkward, horrible feeling in the world.  And, I pray that my children or any wedding guests don’t have to feel this.  Don’t think it will happen at your reception?  Think again.  As the planner who walks the reception and listens to your guests, I hear them.  They say things like “Geez, there’s nowhere to sit, I don’t know anyone.”  Or, “Ha-ha, we have a table to ourselves, we look like total losers.”  It is uncomfortable.  I attended a wedding in which we were step-siblings.  Did that make us family?  I didn’t know.  My husband and I sat down at a table of eight chairs. Everyone walked by us.  One couple didn’t have anywhere else to sit.  They started to sit down with us as we invited them to share our table, but found some friends and literally got up so fast, I thought the table was going to fall over.  They bolted from us like we had Ebola.  So….wait for it….the two of us ate dinner by ourselves…completely.  In a room full of tables with laughter and joy…we sat alone.  I was mortified.  We felt so out of place and uncomfortable, we quietly made our exit hoping no one noticed. Given no one sat with us, I am certain no one noticed our absence.  Worst feeling ever. 

Hosting a wedding is just that.  Hosting.  This means you should do your absolute best to make sure your guests feel comfortable and wanted.  Every couple I work with says the same thing, “We want our guests to feel welcome, loved and taken care of.”  Assigned seating does just that.  Do you need to get as formal as telling them the exact seat they must reside?  No, but you can.  At a minimum, give them “their spot” at the reception.  A place where they will feel welcome and perhaps make new friends.  It can be fun, when you look at your guest list and start making table matches.  Paring a very social couple with a couple that perhaps is shy.  Or, partnering some work colleagues from your place of business with colleagues from your partner’s business.  It is amazing to watch the friendships that transpire through the night.  Suddenly you may see friends, who didn’t know each other prior, dancing the night away together.  And, you’ll realize that “of course” they would get along…they have a common love of football, Abba, Ed Sheeran…fill in the blanks. 

Be a good host.  Assign seats, don’t let your guests float around aimlessly or sit at a table alone.  That’s my soap box for this week, I’ll step down.  But, thanks for considering this simple gesture of kindness.