Place Cards or Not?

TerriJMMay 29, 2006

I feel so strongly that place cards should be used at a wedding to pre arrange the table seatings. My future daughter-in-law and her family feel strongly that everyone should just sit where ever they want. I see that as a fiasco and mass confusion. Also the meal will be buffet style, with several different stations. This difference in opinion is causing such friction for all of us. Has anyone else had experience (good or bad) without using place cards? Thanks!

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I didn't use place cards per se, but we did have hosts and hostesses seat each person at their pre-arranged table. We tried to seat everyone with whom they would want to sit so I don't know if there would have been mass confusion in either case. I've never been to a reception without any direction as to where to sit.

DH and I went to a black tie wedding and they had a buffet style service. The hosts/hostesses went to each table in turn to minimize lines. It worked quite well. Just be certain that no tables will have to cross the dance floor to reach any buffets. You don't want a mess resulting from food + dancing.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2006 at 10:33PM
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I feel strongly, too, that assigning tables (not individual seats) is really important if you have more than a few guests. Every time I have been at a big party where the hosts didn't bother to assign tables, it has been a real mess (although I wouldn't say "fiasco"). Sunday I was at such a party, and I heard a couple of people sighing about it as they hunted for seating. There were the usual shuffles -- e.g., "Are there five seats here? No? Here? No? Well, can we take two chairs from your table and squeeze them in over there?" I just don't think hosts should put guests through that.

People on this forum have compared the experience to a flashback to the high school cafeteria: "Can we sit with you?" It is not fun to wander around with a plate full of food and perhaps a drink looking for a table with enough seats for group, and it looks like every table has ONE empty seat. I have heard hosts say, "Oh, we just want everyone to sit 'where they want'" or "We don't want to be all stuffy." I don't know what's "stuffy" about helping your guests avoid the above awkward scenarios, and as for sitting with people they want -- that's the hosts' job. They are supposed to arrange congenial groups that will enjoy each others' company, and for that matter to ensure that any feuding or incompatible people don't end up stuck together because no other seats were available. You can do that either by making natural groups of people who know each other well or share age, relationship, or some other common factor, or by mixing people that you think would like to meet. I actually think arranging the tables is one of the most fun tasks of planning a reception.

HOWEVER: in the OP's case, it sounds like you are the MOG, and the bride's family is planning this reception -- is that right? If so, then even though you are in MHO 100% right -- DROP IT. They are the hosts, and it is their mistake to make. If they don't assign tables, it might be annoying, but so what? It's not like they are planning on poisoning the guests. You can sow the seeds for a lot of future friction -- and put your son right in the middle of it -- if you criticize their decisions, to them or to anyone else (it will just make you sound critical and petty). Just let it go and do your best to help people find seating if they need help (discreetly, so it doesn't look like you're trying to prove you were right). If you give a party, you do it your way.

Congratulations to you and your son!

    Bookmark   May 30, 2006 at 2:45PM
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I'm w/ gellchom, on every point.

The one thing you might pursue, however, is to suggest that they be sure to have more seats than they'll need, so that even if every table has a couple of empty seats, people won't have to wander around trying to find a seat.

and after that, DROP IT. in the name of less friction.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2006 at 4:05PM
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I'm a wedding coordinator. Assigning tables, but not individual seats, is common for buffet meals. The only time that seats need to be assigned is when more than one entree is offered and the wait staff need to know who gets what.

Reserving tables for the wedding party and parents then making all of other seating open is also very common. I rarely see a problem with it on the day of the wedding.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2006 at 7:37PM
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I also agree 100% with what gellchom said. My most vivid memories of my (first) wedding was my future MIL trying to call all the shots - down to the color of the tuxedos. All I could think of was that it was my wedding, she'd already had hers, and it was my turn to make the decisions. So why was she insisting?? That pretty much set the tone for our relationship.

It's ok to offer suggestions or advice, but once the bride says thanks but no thanks, I'd back off. Remember, this woman is now a part of your life. The relationship you make with her will affect your relationship with your son and future grandkids. It won't be the end of the world if she goes against your advice on this. As the saying goes, pick your battles. This isn't one worth a fight or worth making what could turn into permanent hard feelings between the two of you.

Good luck, and congratulations!

    Bookmark   May 31, 2006 at 1:44PM
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Thanks, everyone, for your valuable input. My son, the groom , and I had this discussion as he asked my opinion. When I told him that I have had several awful experiences at affairs where tables were not assigned, he ran back to tell his bride and her family. They are firm in their thinking and will not consider other options. On one of these bad occasions at affairs with no placecards, we could not find 2 seats together that were at a table with friends...only seats available were at old cranky Aunt Hilda's table. After looking and looking, we discretely put our plates down and left.
At another affair, I put my purse and camera on a chair to "reserve" two seats. After the cocktail hour, when I walked into the reception I found that somebody had moved my purse and camera to another table in the back of the room. Did I have fun at this party? Not sitting at the back of the room with people I did not know.
I agree that this is the bride's day, not mine. However, her father (A veterinarian) asked us to pay for our guests. Once we agreed to share in the cost, I think we should be able to have some input. There is nothing more fearful, than inviting 60 close friends and relatives whom I fear will have an awful time at this wedding because they may be forced to sit with people they do not know.Or worse yet, they may end up sitting with the cranky old aunts and uncles who will bend their ears about their constipation problems and prostate issues!!!
I so desperately want them to have fun as they are traveling to be there for us. I worry that they will leave early and regret coming in the first place.
If I could arrange the tables, I could plan for all of my friends to sit together and enjoy the afternoon.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2006 at 3:57PM
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"If I could arrange the tables, I could plan for all of my friends to sit together and enjoy the afternoon."

But you can't. All you can do is make trouble, get off to a terrible start with your future daughter-in-law and her family, make yourself look controlling and petty, and make your son miserable, because he will be caught in the middle. And over what? Tables? What is going to happen when you don't like their decisions about where they live or how they raise children? Reread lowspark's post, above. Is that what you want your daughter-in-law to think about you?

I gather that although you are chipping in money, they are still the hosts, planning the party and making the arrangements. As we all wrote already, we understand your concerns, although I think you may be worrying too much that unassigned seating will result in all your guests having an "awful time" because they will be "forced" to sit with people they don't know. I don't like "open seating," but I don't have an "awful" time at such parties. I certainly wouldn't "leave early and regret coming in the first place" over such a little thing, and I don't think your dear friends and family, who want so much to share this wonderful occasion with you, will, either.

"They are firm in their thinking." They aren't going to change their minds. So the only choice you have now is whether you will be gracious about it or whether you want to make trouble for your son. You can continue to argue about it, and then you can ruin the reception by complaining about the seating and making sure all your guests know that you understand they are having an "awful" time. Or you can forget about it, enjoy the day the same as you would any party where the hosts are doing something wrong, and focus on visiting with your family and friends, and on your son and his happiness. That is the most important gift you can give him.

You have already given your request and your advice, based on your experience, but they are stubborn. And now we have given you our advice, based on our experience.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2006 at 9:37PM
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Gellchom and others are right. On the scale of things in life, this does not even register a blip. The important thing is that the bride and groom have found people they love and they want to be married with friends and family around them. Everything else is secondary.

Anyway, there is no harm in sitting with new people. Guests will possibly meet someone important to the bride and groom if they sit at a table with people they have not met. Everything will be ok.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2006 at 10:28AM
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This is such a difficult situation. But let me pose a couple of questions for you to consider.

1. What's more important, your relationship with your son's future wife, mother of your future grandchildren, someone who will be in your life permanently with whom you'll want to get along with at all family events, holidays, etc. OR the possible discomfort of a few of your friends (surely the majority of them will be able to manage a seat near someone they know) for a couple of hours?

2. If you can, think back to your own wedding, and try to imagine how you would have felt if your future MIL had tried to impose her views (any views, seemingly important or not) on you after you'd already made your position clear. IOW, put yourself in your future DIL's place and imagine how she will see you.

It's a big mistake that I see MOGs make -- trying to decide for the bride and burning bridges before the wedding. It makes for hard feelings from the beginning, feelings which can be impossible to repair later. And your son is in the middle trying to decide which one of you to please, knowing it's a lose-lose situation no matter whom he sides with.

For the sake of your son, for the sake of your relationship with him and with his bride, I strongly urge you to LET THIS GO. As was said above, do not mention it again, to bride and groom, or to any of your friends. It will only make you look bad. And if a friend says anything about it, "why didn't you have assigned tables?" your answer should be, "I apologize for any inconvenience, but I'm so glad you were able to share this happy day with us."

I wish you luck, and remember, when these kinds of things pop up in the future, and believe me, they will, your best bet is to defer to your DIL and then drop it. It's ok to give your opinion and advice, when asked but never ok to insist on having your way.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2006 at 1:42PM
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Thank you for you brutally honest replies. I have taken your advice and will remain quiet regarding this insignificant issue. I am blessed to be able to welcome my son's wonderful bride into our family.
All of who responded have helped me put things into proper perspective. I appreciate all of you who took the time to write down your thoughts. I needed to hear from you how silly I was being. Now I can continue to enjoy the excitement of the approaching wedding. Terri

    Bookmark   June 5, 2006 at 6:57PM
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That's a great attitude, Terri. There is a lot of wisdom shared here for you, and I give you a pat on the back (pat pat) for being so open and willing to rethink things.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2006 at 7:34PM
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Good for you, Terri! And thank you for not being angry at us for being blunt, and for taking our comments in the spirit in which they were offered.

You don't need to chastise yourself for being, as you put it, "silly." It's not silly at all to want your guests to have a good time. I know I would be driven just as crazy by this, and I'd have a really hard time taking my own advice! That is why this forum is so wonderful; we remind each other of what we really already know anyway, and support each other in getting some perspective and doing the right thing.

The wedding will be wonderful, and as you wisely note -- the wedding isn't the important thing; the MARRIAGE is. Congratulations to you all.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2006 at 9:17AM
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My daughter just got married and she is also an invent planner. So needless to say I kept my mouth shut and just wrote the checks, and this was my own daughter! She still brags to everyone how great I was through the whole thing..LOL little did she know I was just practicing safe parenting LOL
I'm with you though, I think assigned seats are a good thing, and luckily enough so did my daughter.
If i were you I would just wait for instructions, don't give out any unsolicited advice no matter how innocent...and than just BREATHE! LOL

    Bookmark   June 8, 2006 at 9:45AM
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What my fiancee and I are doing are assigning seats for the parents table, the MC and the person doing the toasts to the bride. That way the key people are close to the front and everyone else can choose their seats.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2006 at 3:20PM
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