The One with the Partial Seating

Seeing as how I am a North-to-South transplant, I have had to be taught things about being Southern. In the four years I’ve lived in the south, I’ve learned a few things:

1. Nobody drinks unsweetened tea. I don’t drink tea at all. I’m basically shunned from all picnics.
2. “Bless Your Heart” is the worst insult you can give a person.
3. Bacon grease can keep in a coffee mug in the fridge for months
4. Southern weddings are a big deal. Read: HUGE DEAL.

Oh boy. Southern weddings. If you know what I’m talking about, you know what I’m talking about. It’s kind of one of those “if you have to ask you’ll never know” sort of situations.

For some reason, even though I tell people I’m from Pennsylvania when they ask, I wanted a Big Fat Southern Wedding. This seemed like a good idea in theory, but having not been to a ton of big Southern weddings myself, I didn’t really know where to start.

Enter: Lauren with Cafe Catering. Yet again, she was able to explain to me what was expected at such an event. We went over lots of little nuances, but she also had to explain some of the bigger components to me.

One of these items was the seating situation. We are having food stations, which are also known as “heavy hors d’ouevres.” These have apparently become quite popular with the folks down here below the Mason-Dixon. Obviously wanting to fit in, I signed right on up. This led to her explaining to me that since we will not be having a large, sit-down dinner, there is no need to have assigned seating. In fact, there was no need to even have a seat for every person.

Mind = Blown.


Gif via How I Met Your Mother Gifs

Here’s how that conversation went:

Me: “But, where will people put their shoes and bags and phones?”
Lauren: “Um, they’ll just pile them somewhere”
Me: “But…but…when I go to a wedding I always take my shoes off and leave them under my chair…where will they leave their shoes?”
Lauren: “Wherever they want”

It took a little while, but I think I’m finally on board with this plan. She suggested that we provide enough actual seats for 70% of our total guest count. This will be divided into:

Nine 60”³ round tables with eight chairs:


Image via

”¦and six high-boy cocktail tables that don’t actually have chairs:


Image via All Occasions Party Rentals

According to Lauren, and a bunch of websites that I’ve read regarding this exact scenario, this provides seating for the older people and those who would prefer to sit, while at the same time allowing a surface to eat off of while standing up for the younger folks. It will create a nice flow where people will be able to eat, drink, dance, mingle, play games and just generally enjoy the wedding all at the same time.

I’ve floated this idea to a few of my bridesmaids, and they don’t seem to think it’s a great idea, and I didn’t either initially, but it’s growing on me. Plus, I’m that much closer to passing for a Southern belle. Bless my heart.

What do you think, hive? Anyone out there do partial seating like this?


Mrs. Camera

Charlotte, NC/Charleston, SC
Wedding Date:
September 2013
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  1. Member
    LaughLines 346 posts, Helper bee @ 11:14 am

    Another north-to-south transplant here and I have to say that I have never thought of food stations as southern. In fact, the opposite!

    I would echo others who say it’s nice to have seats for everyone, even if it’s informal (couches, benches, etc). Especially for eating.

    And I’d also repeat the advice that only you know your guests. If you’ve got a mix of family and friends who approach the event differently (e.g. some who will socialize most of the time (near the bar? ;) vs. others who like to sit and eat to start the evening), I’m sure a skilled caterer could make this work.

  2. Member
    ladymegbeth 227 posts, Helper bee @ 11:40 am

    Ugh. Love you, MC, but I hate it when they do this at Southern Weddings. I went to one where they had seating for everyone, but we weren’t allowed to go in until after the cocktail hour (where there was NO seating AT ALL for an HOUR!) and by the time we sat down, my feet were so sore from the fancy heels, that I didn’t get back up for the rest of the wedding! Granted, that’s my fault for not breaking in fancy new going-to-a-wedding heels, but it’s still bad. Southern weddings, I jsut now know to wear flats and we all agree to eat in shifts so that I can hold drinks while my date eats and then vice versa. *shrugs* You can’t make everyone happy, so just go with what makes YOU happy. At the end of the day, it’s your wedding after all. Us Partail Seating haters be damned! ;)

  3. Member
    mu330_98 8 posts, Newbee @ 1:15 pm

    You will never make everyone happy. That’s a tough lesson to learn for people-pleaser types (and I am one of them). As hard as I try, my wedding plans will never please everyone that is coming. So, with the advice of my fiance, do what you want. Do what makes you happy, and what will make the day as fun and stress-free for you as possible. In the end, I think we all worry too much about the guests at the wedding. I know that sounds harsh, but what is that day truly about? Celebrating YOUR love. Your guests will forget all of those moments and details; you will carry it with you. So make it what YOU want.

  4. Member
    texasaggiemom 595 posts, Busy bee @ 3:52 pm

    @devinthebrave: Thanks for this eloquent translation for our sisters in other parts of the country! Love this entire post, especially the part where I nearly snorted sweet tea out my nose when I got to the “I don’t drink tea” part. I also agree with the many posters who said that leaving guests standing is a “southern” thing. I think this divides more along age lines, and I’m finding that in my early 50′s, I suddenly care if I can eventually sit down, especially at a dressy event.

  5. Member
    texasaggiemom 595 posts, Busy bee @ 3:58 pm

    @TexasAggieMom: I am unable to edit my previous comment, but I meant to say that leaving guests standing was NOT a southern thing.

  6. Member
    adventurer 209 posts, Helper bee @ 4:51 pm

    I like the “idea” of this, but in practicality I’m with the other hive members who really appreciate a place to have a seat. :) That way, when it comes time to hit the dance floor, I’m not ready to plop down in a vacated seat! But . . . I agree that you will know your guests and it could totally work for some groups!

  7. Member
    mspony 9265 posts, Buzzing Beekeeper @ 6:55 pm

    I prefer to sit when I eat (otherwise, my food ends up all over me), so I prefer a seat. It definitely makes it easy to jump to the dance floor though :)

  8. Guest Icon Guest
    Amy, Guest @ 8:07 pm

    I think this kind of plan–free for all! just mingle–works great for extroverted guests. But this is HELL for an introvert.

  9. Guest Icon Guest
    futuremrskt, Guest @ 9:39 pm

    I have to chime in. I went to two weddings, both in the south- One in Memphis and one in Austin. Being from California, I actually hated the partial seating. At the Memphis wedding, it was a southern style bbq buffet. We went and got our food and had a really hard time trying to find a seat for four people to sit and eat. The only people who had an assigned seat were the bridal party and some family. It made it not that enjoyable to stand while eating BBQ. The one in Austin was a stations wedding, and we had a hard time getting enough to eat. We got our food and found a seat, but since everyone spent the whole evening crowded around the food, and we had a really hard time getting food.

  10. Member
    jaina8851 107 posts, Blushing bee @ 6:20 am

    I’m in the “I need a chair” camp. My cousin’s wedding was this “continual cocktail hour” concept with no assigned seating and not enough chairs for everyone and it was THE WORST wedding I have ever been to. We left way earlier than we had planned because my feet were so exhausted from standing in heels on the grass for hours. It was so terrible. Granted, they also disappeared for over an hour with the bridal party and had only a cheese spread set up, and didn’t end up having anything substantial for dinner either, which may have contributed to our discomfort… but, the biggest lesson we learned from the experience was to make sure we had enough chairs for every guest.

  11. Member
    BookishBelle 1629 posts, Bumble bee @ 6:50 am

    Maybe it’s just because I’m very Northern, but I’m young and I like to sit while I eat…will most of your guests be coming from out of town and not be Southerners?

  12. Member
    Essa 124 posts, Blushing bee @ 8:55 am

    We’re doing assigned seating, though it may be a headache. Even still, we will have a few high tables for people to mingle at who don’t want to sit but also do not want to dance (a crime if you ask me, everyone should dance!).

    Thank you for the southern lessons! We’re in PA now (and our wedding will be in PA) and we’ll be moving to SC this August. I keep hearing how different things are and that’s equal parts scary and exciting! I’m just a worrier really. Hahaha.

  13. Member
    blonde17jess 1290 posts, Bumble bee @ 9:17 am

    Being a northerner, this makes me sooooo nervous! I am very intrigued to see how it turns out though. You’ll definitely be saving yourself the headaches of seating charts and everything!

  14. Member
    gwaihir 17 posts, Newbee @ 9:47 pm

    I think Mrs. Fox had a reception like that, so you might want to check out some of her posts.

    I have knee problems, so I don’t like standing up for more than about 10-15 minutes, especially in heels, trying to eat, hold a drink, and a clutch. But there must be something also said for not only talking to the two people on either side of you all night and mingling with more of the group.

  15. Member
    cicijapan 263 posts, Helper bee @ 6:29 pm

    I would definitely prefer to sit down. To stand wearing heels for hours does not sound like fun.

  16. Member
    priyathescientist 1514 posts, Bumble bee @ 7:42 am

    I’ve definitely been to weddings where I’ve seen this work. The cocktail tables are a great idea!

  17. Guest Icon Guest
    Missbliss, Guest @ 7:40 pm

    I’m from Pennsylvania too! I have been to big weddings North and South of the Mason Dixon line. I also reside in the region of PA where cookie tables reign supreme! I have gone to weddings with not enough seating and weddings with assigned seats. I know seating charts are a pain, but I tend to prefer them. Reading your description of what is being encouraged in the South sounds like an open house/graduation party that many guests are not expected to stay for any length of time. I think it’s annoying to not have a spot to land in during the duration of a lengthy wedding reception. Since I would guess that you’ll be expecting out of town guests, you need to realize that assuming that your younger guests will leave seats for your older ones is a big assumption. Since your guests don’t know that you don’t have enough chairs, they typically do the first come first served method of seating. That means that your frat brothers and your sorority sisters get great seats and grandma and the extra special family guests who stay at the church during photos end up at the tall tables.

  18. Member
    astacey1784 10 posts, Newbee @ 1:44 pm

    We did this for our wedding in December of 2012. As far as I know it worked perfectly. We did heavy hors d’ouerves and had seating for about 80% of the guests. We found that most of the people who were sitting at tables were family and most of our friends/coworkers preferred to mingle at the cocktail tables (many of which we put in the bar area). Overall I am glad we did it the way we did! If we had setup enough tables to seat 100% of our guests we would not have had room for a dance floor and the main room would have been a lot more crowded.

  19. Guest Icon Guest
    Stacey H., Guest @ 1:55 pm

    I think your best bet is to keep all the tables, PLUS have chairs available for people to just be able to sit down. If the ladies are wearing heels, carrying a purse, a coat, they need to be able to rest.

    If there is dancing, feet will get tired even if they feel safe enough to leave their shoes along the wall, who wants to do that?

    On Four Weddings, I always see the dismay on the other brides faces when they get to cocktail hour then hear them complain that even when there is a formal sit down dinner afterwards, they absolutely hate a stand up endurance test before then with the cocktails and food plates in hand balancing and trying to eat.

    I wouldn’t put my guest through a stand up only reception. My feeling is that if they came to your home for cocktails and dinner, you would provide a place for them to sit no matter what. I want my guests to feel content & happy.

    I don’t believe in inviting guests to a free for all rush for the chairs, if I invited them, why not make it perfect for them also so it is less stress for you even if you have a coordinator taking the abuse of unhappy guests spilling their drinks and dropping expensive food on the floor all evening.

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