socially distant seating arrangements

Image by Philip Casey Photography | Featured on Style Me Pretty 

With all of the excitement and joy that comes with getting engaged, many couples find themselves longing for the day when their wedding planning is a thing of the past and they can simply enjoy the celebration. As many couples are still navigating the “new normal” with COVID wedding etiquette in mind, the planning process can be especially difficult. Since socially distanced seating arrangements are a particularly popular topic at the moment, we have compiled a list of considerations and ideas to help you as you are planning a safe layout for your ceremony and reception at your Charleston, SC wedding venues.

How to Maximize Your Socially Distant Seating Arrangements


Research Local and State Guidelines

First thing’s first. Before making any seating plans, make sure to consult all local and national COVID-19 regulations wherever your ceremony and reception venues are to avoid potential fines and ensure guest safety. Some states may have capacity restrictions, whereas others do not. For the most reliable information regarding the coronavirus, check official resources such as the SCDHEC and CDC websites. At this time, the SCDHEC does not recommend closing large community events in our state, however, the Seabrook Island Club is currently limiting gatherings at our wedding venues in South Carolina to 50% of the event space occupancy limit, or 150 people. Now, let’s move on to a few things to keep in mind as you are working on your seating plan!

Choose a Spacious Venue for Spread Out Seating

Before making seating arrangements for your ceremony and reception, you (of course) need a guest list. With the reduced amount of people able to sit in close proximity, you may not be able to fit the normal guest count into your venue. It’s important to have your list planned out, even before booking your venue, so that you can find one that can accommodate all of your guests safely. On your guest list, also keep track of who is interacting with each other regularly because this gives you more flexibility when seating later on. Another way to ensure guests are safely seated throughout your wedding celebration is to hold your ceremony and reception at an outdoor or hybrid (indoor/outdoor) venue. Outdoor venues not only provide fresh air but also offer ample space for socially-distanced seating patterns.

Always Seat Six Feet Apart

As per CDC recommendations, it’s best to seat your guests who are not in the same household (or regularly interacting with one another) at least 6 feet apart for both your ceremony and reception. For example, seat guests at your reception in smaller pods, limiting the number of people per table, even if it can seat more, to stop the spread. Remember, the fewer people seated at each row or table at your wedding, the more seating you will need, making the space feel full even with fewer guests. This is something to keep in mind if you have already booked your venue and are working with limited space. In this case, you may need to whittle down your guest list.

Create a Seating Arrangement for Your Wedding Ceremony

Whereas reception spaces tend to easily accommodate more spaced-out floor plans, ceremony setups can be a bit tricker, especially because you have to plan around guests being able to see and hear you say “I do” at your wedding venues in South Carolina. Cultural and religious traditions often play an important role in a wedding ceremony so it is important to keep that in mind when designing your seating arrangement. For some cultures, you might need a bride’s side and a groom’s side. Other couples may want to ditch those norms. It is also important to position the photographer in his own space so he can get all the angles without worrying about interfering with the guests. Here are a few ways you can set up so that everyone can soak up your special moment!

#1 – The Curved Arch

The curved arch can accommodate smaller wedding parties. An arched semi-circle formation around the married couple and bridal party serves as a unique wedding layout for proper social distancing. If your style is a bit more contemporary, you can also forgo traditional chairs and use picnic blankets, rugs, floor cushions, or couches as a dais seating option for families that live in the same household.

#2 – Seating All-Around

Rather than having space-consuming rows, circular seating arrangements can provide a unique experience while balancing distancing protocols. In this arrangement, you and your partner will be the center, with circular rows moving outward. This option also allows for more guests than the curved arch. The circular setup embraces an intimate atmosphere and a unique wow-factor and helps guests feel fully immersed in your special day.

#3 – Freeform Seating

With a shorter guest list, you can break social norms and go seatless. Freeform seatless arrangements can create a more intimate experience while allowing guests to safely social distance. You can implement standing tables as guidelines of where guests should remain. This format works best for guest lists less than twenty-five. To ensure guests won’t miss your special moment, you may consider exchanging vows on a raised platform or tier. If you know your guests would prefer a seat, you can also set up a more scattered, randomized arrangement that gives an informal vibe while keeping guests properly spaced.

Create a Seating Arrangement for Your Wedding Reception

Serving styles have a big impact on the reception layout at your venue. While weddings have traditionally leaned toward a buffet-style meal for convenience and to create a social atmosphere, many weddings in today’s world are doing the opposite. There has been a big shift toward serving plated meals, as they tend to involve less contact and touching, making them generally more sanitary. As an added safety measure, place small hand sanitizers on the table for guests to use before eating. Plus, they make for cute, COVID-friendly wedding favors.

Whichever plated option you choose, make sure to ask your catering company and anyone else who may be coming into contact with the food about the preventative measures they are taking to avoid the spread of germs. Keep in mind that some couples are opting out of full meals altogether, holding a brunch or afternoon wedding that doesn’t require seating and can serve mini plated appetizers. If this appeals to you, make sure to set a parameter so that guests know the approximate distance to keep from each other. Here are a few seating options that work well with a socially distanced reception:

#1 – One-Sided King’s Table

Unlike a typical king’s table, using just one side of the table for seating allows for proper social distancing in several locations around the room. This long rectangular table is also an option for larger households that live together. Couples can sit with others at the one-sided king’s table without feeling overcrowded. Unlike a standard table, guests are still able to chat and stay safe. However, with limited ability to mingle, you will want to pay extra attention to who might interact (from afar) best with who at each table.

#2 – Variety of Table Sizes

Mixing and matching different sized seating options can help maximize the use of space at the venue. Large households naturally require large tables like 60 or 72-inch tables, however, there will likely be smaller parties that need to be distanced, too. 48 or 36-inch tables can be used to seat couples or small families. Mixing and matching different sized seating options can help maximize the use of space at the venue.

#3 – Round Banquet Tables

It’s best to use round tables rather than square or rectangular tables to use less space while seating more. Round tables come in all different sizes for all different guest party sizes. With larger round tables, different households can safely sit together six feet apart, providing the traditional social wedding experience.

Ready to tie the knot? If you are looking at Charleston, SC wedding venues for your upcoming wedding ceremony and receptions, Seabrook Island Weddings has the perfect one for you. We offer a variety of both indoor and outdoor venues, from our spacious 6,000 square foot Atlantic Ballroom to our expansive outdoor Ocean Terrace. Contact us today to learn more!



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