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Seating Styles: How to Seat Your Guests

Updated: Aug 21, 2019

If you are planning an upcoming event, one of the things you'll have to decide is how you want to seat your guests. There are so many options for styles of tables, chairs, and lounge furniture, and every venue allows for different types of layouts. Five or ten years ago, it would have been uncommon to find traditional seating for only some of your guests, but today the options are endless! We break down the 3 major styles of event seating below.

Floral table-scape and seating.

Styles of Seating

1. Cocktail

This set up requires little or no seating for your guests. You might provide high top tables (usually come in 24”, 30” or 36” diameter and are 42” high) with linens for guests to gather around, you may provide stools (backless or backed in wooden, acrylic, or another material) for some or all of these tables. You may want to consider a small table for guests that require a seat. You want to be considerate of the fact that most or all guests don’t have an actual seat when you decide what your catering will be. Passed hors d’oeuvres or passed small plates are ideal so that guests don’t have to hold a heavy plate along with their drink, etc. Buffet style is also acceptable but you should choose food that is easy to eat while standing. Although many couples do choose a cocktail style reception for a cost effective option, it’s not usually ideal for events longer than 2 hours as guests may be fatigued and hungry.

2. Partial Seating

This is becoming an increasingly popular seating style. You can customize it to your venue, budget, and style of event. Aesthetically, this is a cool option because you can choose furniture that fits your theme. You might provide some lounge areas with vintage or modern couches and coffee tables and some cocktail tables with or without stools. You also probably will want limited seating for important guests (i.e. bridal party or guests of honor) or maybe some tables with chairs for guests to rotate as needed. For catering, you may want passed hors d’oeuvres, buffet style and/or food stations or food trucks.

3. Full Seating

The most classic set up is a fully seated reception. You may want rectangular tables in a long row for a picturesque and intimate dinner, or traditional round tables with linens for a large reception. No matter what type of table you choose, you’ll have a seat for every single guest that is attending, and you either provide assigned seating or open seating. You’ll need to choose linens, runners, napkins, centerpieces, place cards, etc. If your budget allows, you may want a fully served meal where your guests will likely get the opportunity to choose their protein and it will be prepared for and served to them. You also may consider a buffet, family style, food stations or food trucks. See our post on catering styles where we break down these meal options.

Scroll through our instagram for more seating examples!

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