When planning weddings, many brides and event planners envision farm tables with long, rustic benches for reception seating. After all, nothing creates a farmhouse-theme like tables paired with benches. However, chairs may just be a better seating option for your guests. Hopefully the following will help guide you when planning your event.
While benches are still popular today, consider their original use. In early days (and
even today) chairs were relatively expensive to purchase, and required a significant level of skill to handcraft. Most farmers simply didn’t have the skills, and their frugal nature likely prevented them from buying more chairs than were absolutely necessary. Most opted to buy only enough chairs for the adults, and possibly a few extra for visitors. Benches, in contrast, could be made with little skill and only a few pieces of wood. Being less comfortable than chairs, children were usually relegated to the benches.
Chair and Bench Rental Costs
Of course, today, you don’t have to handcraft your own seating, as benches and chairs of all types are available for rent. But, many still wonder if there’s money to be saved by renting benches. The answer to that question really depends on the type of chairs you’re considering when comparing costs.
A typical eight-foot long bench, when used for reception dining (versus ceremony seating), accommodates four guests. Since a typical bench rental cost is $25, you’ll be spending $6.25 for each guest. Many vintage-style chairs – such as the Chiavari or Crossback – can be rented for roughly the same price. Therefore, if maintaining the vintage theme is important to you, the cost of chairs versus benches won’t be a significant factor.
Comfort and Accessibility
The most obvious difference between chairs and benches is, of course, comfort. However, a less obvious – but more significant – consideration is accessibility. Simply put, benches are much more difficult to “get into” than chairs, particularly for women wearing dresses, the elderly and yeah… even guys wearing skinny-jeans! Worse, your guests in wheelchairs will be limited to sitting only at the ends of the tables, which may or may not be a problem depending on your layout.
Dos and Don’ts
We certainly don’t want to talk you out of using our benches – quite the contrary. We do, however, want you to consider how best to use them to ensure the comfort of your guests (and if you’d rather not worry about it, that’s fine as well… it is YOUR wedding after all!)
Don’t place all of your tables in a single row (or two) if you’re using only benches. Otherwise, only the few guests seated near the ends will be able to “slide” into their seats, and guests in wheelchairs will only have two (or four) places to sit.
Do break table rows into numerous smaller rows, or have space around every table. Half of your guests at every table will have easy access to the ends of the benches.
Do combine the use of benches and chairs. There are all kinds of patterns for alternating between benches and chairs, depending on the layout of your reception. Have fun coming up with different ways to create a unique event!
Do use benches for your ceremony. Benches create a wonderful, rustic “church pew” scene, and without tables in the way, guests can sit anywhere with ease.
If you have any comments or suggestions, please feel free to share them!