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September 2015Page 1 of 1  

How to Seat Your Wedding Reception Guests

Publish On 2015-09-02 , 1:45 PM

If you're having 50 guests at a buffet, you may or may not want to give people specific seating assignments. But if you're having 100 guests or more and serving a seated meal, you'll want to make sure everyone's got a specific place to sit. Why? For one, people like to know where they're sitting -- and that you took the time to choose where and whom they should sit with. It's also helpful if you're serving several different entree choices, because the caterer and waitstaff can figure out beforehand how many chicken, filet and veggie dishes a given table gets, because they (you) know who's sitting there. Read on for tips on how to seat neatly.

Mahogany Place Tagaytay

Start Early

We've been at kitchen tables the night before the wedding (or even wedding morning) with a bride and groom just starting their seating chart. Don't let this be you -- you've got more important things to think about at that point! Sure, it's fine to make last-minute changes, but try to get the chart mostly done at least a week before the day.

Hit the Keys

Create a new spreadsheet. If you haven't already, insert a column into your guest list document categorizing all the invitees by relationship: bride's friend, bride's family, groom's friend, groom's family, bride's family friend, groom's family friend and so on. This way, you'll be able to easily sort the list and break it down into more logical table assortments. Now you'll need to separate these lists into distinct tables.

Create a Paper Trail

If you're feeling more low-tech, draw circles (for tables) on a big sheet of paper and write names inside them (make sure you know how many people can comfortably be seated at each one). Or you could write every guest's name on a sticky note and place it accordingly.

Head Up the Head Table

A traditional head table is not round but long and straight, and it's generally set up along a wall, on risers, facing all the other reception tables. It may even have two tiers if your wedding party is large. Usually the bride and groom sit smack-dab in the middle (where everyone can see them), with the maid of honor next to the groom, the best man next to the bride, and then boy/girl out from there. Flower girls or ring bearers usually sit at the tables where their parents are sitting, much to the relief of the bridesmaids and groomsmen. Decide to sit this way, or plan a sweetheart table for a little one-on-one time.

Clearwater Resthouse

Switch Things Up

But you don't have to do it that way. All the bridesmaids can sit on the bride's side, and all the groomsmen on the groom's. Or maybe you're not into being on display, or you don't want your wedding party to feel isolated from other guests. Let your wedding party sit at a round reception table or two with each other and/or with their dates/significant others, and have the head table be a sweetheart table for the two of you. (How romantic!) Another option: You two sit with your parents and let that be the head table, with the wedding party at their own tables.

Place Your Parents

Traditionally, your parents and your sweetie's parents sit at the same table, along with grandparents, siblings not in the wedding party, and the officiant and his/her spouse if they attend the reception. But if your or your honey's parents are divorced, and are uncomfortable about sitting next to each other, you might want to let each set of parents host their own table of close family and/or friends . This could mean up to four parents' tables, depending on your situation -- or have the divorced parent who raised you (or your partner) and his/her spouse/date sit at the table with still-married parents. (Phew, confusing!)

Remember, the parent-seating question is a flexible one. Set it up in whatever way best suits everybody. If you're unsure, don't hesitate to talk to the parents in question about it before you make your final decision.

Tame Tensions

There may also be situations in which certain family members just do not get along. Maybe they haven't spoken in years. Maybe the last time they saw each other there was a drunken catfight. Understandably, you want to keep them as far apart as possible. Think about these kinds of relationships (or lack thereof) before you even start making your chart, so you can take them into consideration in the first place and begin by seating Aunt Hattie at table three and Aunt Lucy across the room at table 15. Trust us -- they'll appreciate it.

Play Matchmaker

Again, all your college or high school friends will be psyched to sit at a table together. This especially works out well if you and your beloved went to the same school and have the same friends. It also gives them all an opportunity to catch up with each other, because they may not have seen each other for a while. But again -- reception tables offer a cool opportunity to mix and match your friends and your partner's -- who knows who'll hit it off? Consider seating friends who don't know each other (yet), but who you think will get along exceptionally well, at the same table -- and the rest is history. It can't hurt!


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What Catering Costs?

Publish On 2015-09-30 , 2:18 PM

Even your most jaded wedding guests are expecting to enjoy great food and drink, and lots of it. Consequently, you can plan to spend about 50 percent of your budget on catering, so it's important to know where your money is actually going–and what you can do to save. Here are the factors that will most affect the amount of your catering bill.

Town's Delight The Caterer setup at Sylvinas Pavilion 

Factor One
Serving Style: In most cases, a sit–down meal is more expensive than a buffet, because a sit–down meal requires more staff to prepare and serve it, says Dana Harris of AST: A Southern Tradition Catering & Event Planning, in Atlanta. Caterers charge you a fee per staffer, and each table usually has a server or two manning it. The fewer staffers you need, the less you'll spend. However, a buffet isn't exactly a bargain. "Buffet meals require linens and serving pieces, and larger quantities of food—people eat more when they serve themselves," explains Kay Benson of East Meets West Catering, in Boston. "Plus, you'll still need to pay staff to tend to the buffet, and waiters to provide water and wine to the tables." Since there isn't always a major price difference, your choice in this great debate should come down to the style of wedding you're hoping for. A sit–down meal creates a more formal experience, while a buffet is more relaxed. If you're hoping for the formality of a sit–down meal, but want to spend less, opt for a family–style dinner, where guests, seated at tables, serve themselves from platters.
Factor Two
Your Venue's Kitchen Situation: If you're marrying in a rural location, like a vineyard, ranch, or farm, expect ineffficient kitchen facilities— or none at all. The less your venue has in the way of ovens, prep stations, and equipment, the more it will cost to bring in these items. Under such circumstances, a "satellite kitchen" must be erected, which can include tents, generators, and a water supply, equipment that can add up to equal to or greater than your entire site–rental fee. The same goes for a wedding held at a private home, also a huge fi nancial undertaking, since the kitchens in most houses are not equipped for large parties.
Factor Three
Cocktail Hour: Cocktail hour can be the most expensive part of the night. If you want sushi chefs, prime rib stations, and loads of passed hors d'oeuvres, along with free flowing top–shelf booze, the cost of food, setup, and staff for just that one hour can totally blow your budget. For the most cost–effective cocktail hour, Kay recommends having a few passed hors d'oeuvres and several unmanned stations that feature less expensive foods. "For example, if shrimp is left out on a station, guests may have as many as 10 to 15 shrimp, but they'll take only two or three if it's passed," she says. If you do opt for passed hors d'oeuvres, several additional servers will be needed. "The more passed hors d'oeuvres, the more staff you need to carry the trays and to bus debris," says Paul Dongarra of Dionysus' Kitchen, in Baltimore. "We suggest having just three types of passed hors d'oeuvres, and budgeting about one or two pieces per person—this plan offers a nice variety, but doesn't require a multitude of additional staffers."
Factor Four
Alcohol: To provide unlimited drinks, you could be charged a fee "per hour, per guest," in which case you would know the total going in—a great option for a drinking crowd. The other, less predictable option is being charged "by the drink," which is preferable if you're hosting a crowd of teetotalers. Additional costs can include the hiring of extra licensed bartenders or the renting of glassware and bar accoutrements, all of which can add up to 20 to 25 percent of your entire catering bill. There is no easier item to lose control of in the budget than alcohol, but balance that thought against the fact that there isn't another wedding component a guest will complain about more if denied. The compromise between affordability and angry protests is to "offer your guests wine and beer, along with a specialty cocktail," says New York's Marc Alvarez of Perfectly Marc'D. "And if you have an important relative who only likes a certain liquor, have a bottle of it on hand for him or her."
Factor Five
Ordering: The reason guests are asked to select "chicken" or "fish" on their response card is because costs skyrocket when guests order at the wedding. "The caterer would have to provide enough of each entrée to ensure that all guests get their first choice," says Jonathan Beil of Fork & Spoon Productions, in San Francisco. This multiplies your food costs and is wasteful. The alternative is to serve everyone the same entrée, like a composed plate of filet mignon and grilled shrimp, so that ordering is not an issue.
Tip: If you purchase your own liquor, whether because you want to or because the venue doesn't have a liquor license, some caterers will simply charge a bar setup fee, while others add a "corkage fee"—a service charge for opening bottles the caterer has not purchased (read: made money from). Costs can rise to several dollars per bottle. This per–bottle rate is what you should try to negotiate—you may be able to have the fee waived. As with all wedding costs, it never hurts to ask

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