Not Enough Space To Seat All Wedding Guests

My fiancé and I have seemed to have hit a road block in our wedding plans and do not know what to do. We have selected our venue and already paid the down payment. We absolutely love the venue and have not found any others in our area that compare in elegance and class and met our budget. Our plan is to hold the ceremony and reception at the same location, on a Friday evening in May. The ceremony would be no longer than 30 minutes or so at 7:30pm and a candlelight cocktail reception immediately to follow. To hold the ceremony earlier would be difficult as it is on a Friday evening. The weather in Minnesota can be very temperamental and unpredictable, because of this we decided to hold the ceremony indoors to avoid any potential issues of rain, wind or even the possibility of snow. The venue can hold 260 people for a cocktail type reception and only 180 for an all seated option. Due to the time constraints of the evening we do not have the time or the additional funds to set the room up for the ceremony and “flip it” for the reception. Our plan is to set the room up for the reception and hold the ceremony on the dance floor in the middle of the room – ceremony in the round. Guests would sit at the set reception tables. The problem we face is that we both have large families and our immediate family only guest list is at 260, if the room can only seat 180 what do we do with the other 80 people? We would like to not have to cut our guest back another 80 people if at all possible, we have already cut the list back from an original 500 guests. I feel that with the ceremony only be approximately 30 minutes in length and being held later in the evening that inviting people separately to the ceremony and then all to the reception is going to make it too late for people to want to attend the reception only, and I have always thought it was tacky to invite 180 people part of the event and then only 80 more to the second half. We had thought about seating 180 and the other 80 would stand, but that to me is tackier than splitting the invitation lists. This dilemma has placed our wedding plans at a stand still and we want to find a solution that is not rude, tacky or garish. Do you have any suggestions that can help us solve this issue?

Donna, Wedding Queen, President; Top Wedding Sites, Inc

If the venue says the room will seat 180, I’m fairly sure that means that they will only allow 180 people in that room according to fire laws. Even if that’s not the case, it’s never polite to ask any guests to stand. How would you choose who will stand without insulting them or making them feel like less important guests? I just don’t see that as a viable option.

Can you move the wedding up a couple of hours (or better yet, have the ceremony in another location?) so that you can have a more private ceremony with a limited number of guests and then the entire guest list invited to the reception afterwards?

I don’t see any alternatives.

Rebecca Black, Etiquette By Rebecca

There’s problems all around. Your guest list would have to be cut to the maximum seating number 180. There’s no getting around this if you want to keep your venue. And, you are scheduling this so late and only serving cocktail nibbles. Your guests may not have had time to eat before attending. If held here in my home town, Davis, CA, I probably wouldn’t have a problem if only inviting locals–we tend to eat early and don’t have to drive far. This may be an issue with many of your guests though–work, driving, picking up children, and then no time for dinner. Make sure you are hosting this most fair for your guests.

Good luck!