“Form ever follows function.” Louis Sullivan, an American architect believed the style of architecture should reflect its purpose. It applies to all sorts of design – including weddings.
Most engaged couples focus on the look of their wedding. Yes, aesthetics are important, but it is not the most important aspect of the wedding. Weddings are for people, to move through, engage with and inhabit an environment. Because of that, you must start by determining what people will do in each space, such as walking, eating, dancing, sitting and standing.
I am frequently asked “can we exceed the maximum capacity listed for the venue?” The answer is always NO. The capacity restriction is not a suggestion. It is the legal limit the building and fire departments set for the structure. Because it is a capacity limit, I never use this number as the maximum number of guests for a wedding. Ask each site what they consider the comfortable maximum seating limit; then reduce by 10%.
Why? People need space. Cramming people too close together is neither good form nor useful function. From a practical standpoint, service staff need to be able to move freely and safely through guests to ensure the best quality service. Can they squeeze through? Yes, they are trained professionals. However not allowing comfortable space for service is asking Grandma to end up with soup in her lap. Not the memory you want from your wedding.
Let me share a story from one of the first weddings I worked (not planned, back then I worked for a caterer). The couple wanted an intimate wedding at a historic mansion. The mansion’s ballroom, including the dance floor and adequate serving space, was designed to seat 100 people comfortably. However, the mansion advertised the capacity as 150. The couple invited 125 guests – and asked a 35-member bell choir to perform during the ceremony.
After the ceremony and cocktail hour were concluded, the catering staff invited the guests to the ballroom for dinner. Can you guess who else joined the guests? That’s right, the bell choir. The couple invited them to stay for the reception instead of paying them, but failed to tell the caterer or the mansion staff. The ballroom seating was based on the rsvp count of 126. Now we had 161 people to seat and serve dinner. We made it work. Dinner was delayed, but everyone got fed, not all in the ballroom. The moral of the story: never choose a venue that does not comfortably fit your guest count even if they tell you it will fit. When it comes to venue size, bigger is better. One other thing please, don’t forget to tell us about “extra guests.” On behalf of all my colleagues, I thank you.
Best wishes for an enjoyable wedding planning experience and a long happy marriage, Gwen
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A little about Gwen: Where to Start was launched in 1991. My corporate experience taught me the management skills necessary get the best for my clients. My broadcasting and theater studies play a significant role in how I see weddings. I love getting to know my clients – finding out what makes them happy, what they love in life and about each other. I combine this knowledge with my experience to create your perfect wedding. I hope you will allow me the privilege of helping you create your perfect wedding.