Pros and Cons of Wedding Seating Styles

In Part 1, I discussed the variety of food service options you can use at a wedding, and now I will follow up with your options for seating.

First you have to decide if you will dictate where people sit or not:

Assigned Seating

This is when you make a seating chart of what guests will be at which table number and indicate to them prior to entering the reception area what table they will be at. This can be done with “escort cards” or a favor with their name and table number or a big chart.


  • This is absolutely the easiest and least stressful from a guests point of view- they know where to go! Also, they have a “home base” for the night where they can stash their stuff.
  • Everyone stays organized and gets seated smoothly.


  • Guests may not like where you put them- they don’t like their companions, they wanted to sit with someone else, they are too far away, they are at the “bad” table.
  • You have to make a seating chart and figure out something to display the table numbers and do escort cards or a chart. It’s generally more work for you.

Unassigned Seating

This is when you set up a bunch of tables and chairs and everyone comes in and chooses a seat.


  • Less planning work for you!
  • People can sit where they want and with whom they want.


  • Can end up with a bit of a musical chairs situation where everyone rushes in to grab a seat. Or even worse, a high school lunchroom where a oddball guest (ie someone who ONLY knows the bride or groom) doesn’t know where to sit. (And yes, I get that people are grownups and will deal, but it CAN cause a lot of anxiety and stress for many people.)
  • Difficult for people with mobility issues to get to a spot. (Consider setting aside a table for elderly relatives.)

Full Seating

This is where everyone has a chair at a table.


  • Everyone gets a chair!


  • If you do unassigned seating, you might consider making a few extra places so couples don’t have to split up if you end up with a bunch of tables with one seat left. And people inevitably move chairs around. Just a thought.

Best for:

  • Full sit down meals involving cutlery.
  • Long receptions- cocktails, dinner, dancing, etc.

Cocktail Seating

This is when you have a mix of high tables, regular chairs and tables, and lounge seating.


  • It’s fun and lets people move around.


  • People really do like having a “seat” where they can stash their stuff for the evening. And people who DO get the seats at tables generally will not give them up.
  • If you don’t get a seat, it’s difficult to manage a drink, a plate, and cutlery.
  • Difficult for people with mobility issues (consider setting aside a table for elderly relatives).

Best for:

  • Cocktail receptions with finger foods.
  • Shorter receptions- just drinks, finger foods, and cake.


Ultimately, people will be fine and enjoy your reception whatever style you decide to go with. And there will ALWAYS be whiners who aren’t happy with what you chose. But there is a fine line between doing what you want and what you envision for your big day and doing something because it’s easier or cheaper for you at the expense of your guests comfort. So I do urge you to consider your guest list. Mostly older relatives are going to be more comfortable fully seated with food service that they recognize. People your own age are going to be a lot more flexible.

And, I mean, I have been to and I’ve heard about weddings that we absolute disasters as far a guest comfort went, but they still created fun memories and people had good times at them.

And even I can’t even begin to decide if a wedding with somewhat bland plated food that all arrived at the same time and allowed me to eat with the people at my assigned table and a wedding with awesome, unique food where I maybe had to stand in line or be the last one to sit down at the one remaining table  with a bunch of strangers was better! They were both great!

And sometimes, the best you can do is the best you can do when working with limited space, time, and budget.

Pros and Cons of Wedding Service Styles

So, when you are planning a wedding or other large event, you will have to make a number of choices about how your event will be run. It can be difficult to consider all the choices available and make the best decision for your event. So I’ve run through some of the popular options for serving food and made pros and cons list for them so you can be sure to make your guests as comfortable as possible (which is your main aim as a host).


This is your traditional food service style- all the guests are seated at tables and waiters come around and bring them prepared plates of food, possibly in several courses.


  • Tables are generally served together and the people at that table get to sit and talk with each other while they wait and while they are eating.
  • Generally fast and convenient for hosts and caterers.
  • Everyone gets the same thing and you are unlikely to run out of food or leave people hungry.
  • You can do speeches and dances in between courses.
  • Is practical for everyone regardless of mobility.


  • Less mingling time for the guests.
  • You generally need to assign seating, especially if the guests had to indicate beef or chicken or whatever ahead of time.
  • Guests who are at a table they don’t like are stuck with it for the whole meal (too bad for them!)
  • Less choice of food and less ability to offer unique food options.


This is one or two very long tables set up with a variety of dishes. People get up and serve themselves and bring their food back to their tables.


  • Able to offer a wide variety of foods and everyone can choose what they like.
  • People can mingle a bit while waiting in line or waiting for their table to be called.


  • Some popular dishes may run out (when doing a buffet, it’s best to plan on too much food so the last people to go through aren’t stuck with dregs)
  • Difficult for guests with mobility issues to navigate. Also difficult for parents with small children (if you have many at your wedding)
  • Can have long , slow lines (hard for people in heels!) (Can be fixed by having duplicate buffets and/or utilizing both sides of the table)
  • If you call people up by table, the first group may be done eating by the time the last group gets their food, creating a lull in the party (keep those lines moving fast!)

Family Style:

This is when everyone is seated at a table and the waiters put big platters of food in the center of the table so everyone can serve themselves.


  • Able to offer a wide variety of foods and people can choose what they like.
  • Combination of the best of plated service (everyone sitting and eating together) and buffet (being able to select your food).


  • Some piggy guests might take too big portions of a dish leaving not enough for the rest of the table (make sure your servers know to keep an eye out and refill as necessary)


This is where there are several stations of food set up around the room (such as a carving station, a taco stand, a soup bar) and people go to each one and then bring their plates of food back to their table. Kind of like a spread out buffet.


  • You can get REALLY crazy and fun with the food- think mashed potato bar, build your own tacos, fresh carved roast beef, etc.)
  • Like a buffet, people can select what they want and in what portion.
  • People can mingle and compare the different options.


  • Guests can spend even more time in line than a traditional buffet since they will probably have a wait at each station.
  • A line for each station may mean guests’ food from the first station might get cold as they’re waiting for the fourth.
  • Hard to coordinate eating with your table companions since everyone is jumping up and down to visit the different stations.
  • Can be difficult for guests with mobility issues.


This is when you just serve small bites and appetizers either passed by waiters or at stations.


  • Can do really delicious foods and a big variety.
  • Can be cheaper than full meals (though not always!!!)
  • Encourages walking around and mingling.


  • Generally cannot serve as a full meal. Current etiquette says that if you have your reception over a generally recognized mealtime (11am-2pm, or 5pm-8pm), you need to serve a full meal.
  • Can be difficult for guests with mobility issues.


Part 2 will be different seating styles!


How Much Thanks Is Too Much Thanks?

Recently, we were discussing whether you could go overboard with thanking someone…

Jaya: Okay so the question is, is there ever a time where a thank you note is not appropriate or too much?
We’re always harping on how thank you notes are so great, but they do have a tendency to be Very Official and that can be weird for certain things


Victoria: That’s true. I think thank you notes can be weird for monumental gifts and services…like, they are so small in comparison, that they seem silly? Although, I guess, when my grandmother sent me my inheritance early, I think I sent a note but also called her (for me, calling her is a supreme gesture since we just…don’t talk on the phone).


Jaya: That’s a good point! Yeah, I think with large, generous gestures, especially with family, a phone call or in person thank you seems more meaningful. Like, I sent thank you notes to people who got me bowls for my wedding. This should be different than that.


Victoria: Haha yeah, exactly. And like, even aside from money gifts, like say someone came and stayed with you when you were sick for a period of time, or something. like…a thank you note is just not enough. And really, you aren’t GOING to be able to even really thank them in a way that is meaningful enough for what you received from them. Other than to sincerely thank them when it is occurring and hopefully be willing to do something similar for them.



Jaya: Right. I think that’s key, that this is all in service of conveying a deep emotion, which is a hard thing to make tangible. But to me, someone looking into my eyes and thanking me for something is always going to FEEL nicer than a note.
Victoria: Exactly. I like notes for wedding presents and stuff because it feels very formal for a formal exchange. But its very rote.


Jaya: Though, you bring up that nothing will ever be enough, which brings me to another pet peeve–people who will not stop thanking.


Victoria: Ughhh yeah, it’s very embarrassing.


Jaya: It seems like they understand that a note or a phone call is not enough, but try to make up for that by bringing it up all the time.


Victoria: Just be cool everyone.


Jaya: hahahaha


Victoria: No, I am serious though. It’s the same with taking compliments.


Jaya: Yes!


Victoria: Really and seriously try to bite your tongue and just say thank you the once.


Jaya: I mean, if anything, it just unnecessarily raises the bar. Then it makes people who only get one thank you from someone feel like that is somehow inadequate or in-genuine.


Victoria: That’s true.


Jaya: And also, I think it’s almost like saying “I’m sorry.” You’re not doing this to come off as a good person, you’re doing this to convey a specific feeling for the benefit of someone else. So just like, be sincere in your thanks and you won’t have to do it more than once.


Victoria: Agreed. Although, I think it can come up naturally sometimes- like with the Hamilton thing (ED: Jaya chipped in with a ton of people for Hamilton tickets for Victoria’s birthday), yeah, I thanked you guys at the time (and tried to thank everyone individually, in person) but then also specifically mentioned it when posting about it when it happened, and a few times when mentioning it to other people. But that feels organic, I guess?


Jaya: Oh totally. I’m not saying it has to be a hard and fast rule of ONE THANK YOU AND THAT’S IT. I think you nailed it, when it feels organic that’s fine. Instead of it coming out of an anxiety that you haven’t done enough.


Victoria: Haha yeah. I mean, I think the giver can feel the difference between joy and anxiety? Hence the be cool thing. When in doubt, say thank you once.


Jaya: Probably. Nobody is as smooth as they think they are, so if they send a note and call and bring it up twice in person, the giver is probably like “okay but you can chill now.”


Victoria: Hahaha I am smooth. But yeah, agreed.


Jaya: Well of course YOU’RE smooth. We’re talking about people without an extensive glove collection here.


Victoria: I am available for lessons for the low low price of $50 an hour, LOL.


Jaya: hahahahaha. Lessons on how to own gloves and thank people effectively, call Victoria.

Some Phrases To Avoid When Making An Apology (And What To Say Instead)


We’ve already covered the importance of an apology. That’s not exactly a controversial stance. We all recognize apologizing is a good skill! However, in my opinion, a bad apology is almost as bad as none at all, and boy are there a lot of people giving bad apologies. I’ve noticed a few phrases that are commonly used in apologies, but that don’t really do much to convey you’re actually sorry. Here are some to avoid:

  • “I didn’t do something to upset you, did I?” This and variations of this phrasing presumes the asker did nothing wrong, and puts the askee in an accusatory position. Either they have to say “no, it’s fine” (and anyone who is bad at confrontation knows how easy it is to say it’s fine when it’s not) or do the hard job of spelling out exactly why they are upset. It would be great if everyone was better at that, but most of us don’t like being so explicit because we don’t want to hurt feelings. So if you did something wrong and notice you upset someone, own up to it. Say “I’m sorry I upset you” or “What I said was disrespectful and I apologize,” or something equally explicit. And if you genuinely don’t know what you did, admit you don’t know and ask why.
  • “I’m sorry you’re offended/if it came off that way.” Phrasing like this is what you see every time a celebrity offers a half-hearted apologetic press release after telling a racist joke, and it’s easy to see right through it. It conveys you’re not actually sorry about what you said or did, just that someone else reacted badly to it. Misinterpretations happen, but not nearly as often as this phrase is utilized. Instead, apologize for the actual action, like “I’m sorry I said [X], I understand now how offensive it is.”
  • “I didn’t mean it like that.” This is a tricky one. Sometimes an explanation as to why you did the thing you’re apologizing for is necessary, and it’ll turn out to have all been a misunderstanding. But often explaining why you did or said something that upset someone just makes it seem like you’re trying to avoid blame. It doesn’t matter whether you meant to be mean or whether you thought you were being funny if what you said hurt someone. Instead, elaborate on that initial phrase by saying something like “I didn’t mean it, but I know that’s no excuse, and I’m genuinely sorry I upset you.”
  • Apologizing when you’re not sorry. Maybe you’re not actually sorry for what you did, and are only apologizing to try to smooth things over. The point of an apology is that you mean it, so just saying “sorry” when you’re not isn’t worth it to anyone. Instead, try to see if there’s a way to smooth things over in a way that doesn’t involve an apology. Did you get into a fight about politics? Say “I know we may not agree on this issue, but I want you to know I still care for you and respect you, and I’ll try not to bring it up again.” Is someone trying to make you apologize for something you don’t feel sorry for? Say “I don’t believe I’ve done anything wrong, but I want to understand why you’re upset.”
  • “Am I forgiven now?” Apologies are not transactional. You do not give one for immediate absolution, you give one for the benefit of the aggrieved party. Asking whether or not you’re forgiven forces the hand of the person you’re asking, because let’s face it, saying “no, you’re not forgiven yet” sounds mean. Instead, well, don’t say anything. If you’ve apologized you’ve done what you can, and it’s up to the person you hurt to decide if and when you’re on good terms again.

What Is a Marrow Spoon?

I managed to eat at the original M Wells in Queens in the year or so that it was open and the most memorable thing from that dinner was their marrow and escargot dish. It was a full on bone cracked in half so you could get at the marrow with little escargots dotting it, so delicious, though I don’t recall any particularly special utensils with it.

However, if you were a hostess in the 17th or 18th century and you didn’t want your guests sucking on bones at the dinner table, you would have special suuuuuuuper skinny spoons called marrow spoons to allow diners to get inside bones and scoop out all that delicious marrow.

They seem to have fallen out of fashion by the Victorian period or later, Emily Post doesn’t mention them at all.

Luckily for us, Martha Stewart, in all her glory, has a video tutorial of how to use them:

So tell me, have you eaten marrow? Do you like it? Did you use a marrow spoon?