Weddings are about two things: Bringing people together to participate in and celebrate the union of two people, and those two people offering hospitality to those participants. In this and the two previous columns we’re looking at the many and varied ways that you can make your guests feel welcome and appreciated.
I used to be a fan of open seating for wedding receptions. I’ve changed my mind over the years, and here’s why: Weddings by definition bring people together from two people’s lives, many of whom have never met. Both partners have immediate and extended families, old and new friends, and colleagues from their workplace. While you may have the impulse, honorable as it is, to help your guests meet new people and make new friends, your first responsibility is to make them comfortable. The easiest way to do that is to be sure that they are seated with people they already know and like. Provide your guests with a “home base” from which they can venture out, if they like, and to which they can return in comfort.
It’s also appropriate to seat your parents and grandparents in a place of honor, wherever that seems best at your reception. Even if you don’t assign seating for any of your other guests, this is always a good thing to do.
There are several ways to help your guests find their seats. You can use escort cards, which gets guests to an open-seating table; or place cards, which gets guests to their assigned seat at a specific table; or an easy-to-read seating chart (Note: not all guest have young eyes!) keyed to table numbers or names. Pro tip: Whichever method you use, it’s a good idea to lay out the numbered or named tables in a logical order, starting from the front of the room. Make it easy for your guests to find their table and their seat.
Assigned seating also avoids the mad rush for the best seats, not to mention the prospect of lone guests pitifully circling the room, looking for a place at a table where they’ll be comfortable.
Some small things:
• Even though many guests use GPS for navigation, be a good host and provide written directions to your ceremony and reception venues. Make it even easier for your guests by including parking or valet information.
• Guest sometimes arrive at wedding receptions with gifts, even though gifts should properly be sent to the marital home. No matter. Make it quick and easy for those guests to find where gifts are being collected or, even better, have someone at the door whose job it is to receive and manage gifts. The same is true with envelopes containing cards and cash or checks.
• Let your guests know what they’re eating. Use attractive signage on hors d’oeuvres and buffet tables or stations, menu cards for seated-and-served meals, and be sure that servers know what’s in every hors d’oeuvres that they are passing. It also doesn’t hurt to have a drink menu posted at the bar. Your guests will appreciate not having to ask about what’s available or to potentially be embarrassed by asking for something that isn’t. It will also make bar service go faster, which all of your guests will appreciate!
Honor your guests with your great care and consideration. To borrow from the liturgical texts, it is right to give thanks and praise. Not, in this case, to God, but to the loving and yes, divine people in your life with whom you have chosen to share this important and intimate event in your life. Make them feel as welcome at your wedding as they are in your heart.
Next time: Creating the perfect backyard tented reception.
David L. Egan is the proprietor and steward of Chase Court, a wedding and event venue in downtown Baltimore. Visit Chasecourt.com, and follow ChaseCourtWeddingVenue on Instagram and Facebook.