by Hannah Anderson • photo by Agnes Lopez • from the Fall/Winter 2012 edition of Bride
Choosing where to place your closest pals, new in-laws and extended family within the reception dining area can be a tricky balancing act. Keep the following etiquette tips in mind when assigning seats.
Assigned Seats or Free-for-All?
For formal dinners, Carrie Mengerink, director of catering sales at Jacksonville Golf & Country Club, recommends seating immediate family and other notable guests at the tables nearest the bride and groom, and placing guests who are not as close to the couple farther away. She says open seating is another popular option, but be sure to assign a few tables for family and other key guests. Kristin Costello, private events director at Queen’s Harbour Yacht & Country Club, says couples must also decide whether they want to mix the two sides of the family or keep the guests of the two families at different tables. She says open seating cultivates a more social atmosphere and allows more blending among the families, but she suggests designating a table for the bridal party so members do not become separated.
What’s In a Name?
As an alternative to numbering tables, name tables according to a theme that is meaningful to the bride and groom. “I have worked with a couple of brides and fiancés who liked to travel and named tables after countries or key places they had visited,” says Mengerink.
“With formal place settings, you want the table to look full before the meal begins,” says Costello. She says each setting should have silverware for each course, a wine glass, water glass and champagne flute, and charger, if desired. Less formal dining arrangements, such as heavy hors d’oeuvres cocktail receptions or buffet-style dining, do not require a full place setting. Mengerink suggests a napkin pocket containing silverware in place of a plate, and to distribute individual food plates at hors d’oeuvres or buffet stations.