Open Seating vs. Seating Chart. Which One is Better?

open seating
Photo by Elite Photo

Q: My mom is insisting we have a seating chart at our wedding reception, but I’m kind of leaning towards open seating instead. What are the pros and cons of having a seating chart?- Amanda

A: While this is of course YOUR wedding and the decision is ultimately up to you and your future spouse, I would most likely side with your mom. Here’s why…

Open seating is becoming more and more popular at wedding receptions, and I can see why. It’s way easier to not have to worry or even think about WHERE people are going to seat. Because let’s be honest, having to make a seating chart sucks, plain and simple. I thought it was a total pain in the butt when we made ours, mostly because you have to bring in so many people (your parents, future in-laws, spouse, etc.) and all figure out whose friends and family should sit where. You have to think about whether Uncle Ted will get along with cousin Bill, or if your friend Mary is still talking to groomsmen Mike after that awful date they went on. It’s not easy for you…but here’s the kicker: It’s going to be way easier for your guests.

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A wedding seating chart is a great way to keep the reception organized, and also give guests a sort of home base for their purses, jackets, as well as a place they can come back to for a break when they’re not dancing or mingling. It’s also a must if you’re having a plated or family-style meal, as servers need to have designated tables and seats to deliver to.

SEE MORE: This is What the Perfect Wedding Reception Timeline Looks Like

Open seating obviously works with buffet-style receptions, but we would argue that having a seating chart even then would be the best way to go. I’ve seen this happen at multiple weddings with open seating plans where only single seats are available (meaning a couple would have to eat in different seats), or entire tables have to scoot down to make room for guests, or worse…there isn’t enough seating at all (way more common than you think). While open seating is definitely a possibility for many receptions, it’s not always the most comfortable option for guests, especially elderly ones (or women in heels. Or pregnant women. Or people with disabilities or those suffering from an injury. The list goes on!).

The only time I think open seating is the preferred way to go is with cocktail-style receptions (which will be around 2 hours shorter on average than a typical wedding reception), and where you can have a mix of high and short tables. Even then you’ll just want to make sure you have PLENTY of seating on hand for guests, and make it easy for them to get to it.

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