The new rule for event seating is that there are no rules.
Everything is mix and match now,” says Tom Budas, director of marketing for AOO Events in Los Angeles, Calif. “No one wants to see only matching table rounds. Mixing in custom-made belly bar height with high-backed bar stools makes the design more interesting.” The key in arranging the tables is to make sure the tall seating is behind the traditional seating so as not to obstruct views, he warns.
Phil Heidt, president of ABC Special Event Rentals by CORT, Mukilteo, Wash., agrees. “Creating different venues within the event and using a mix of coordinated seating is the current trend,” he says. “If we are setting up a wedding event, we use a wood padded folding chair for the ceremony, stand-up cocktail tables with bar stools for the cocktail hour, chiavari chairs for the reception and an area for lounge seating if possible.”
“The event dictates the seating,” Budas says. “You have more freedom to play around with a reception-style event—where there’s more of a flow to it—as opposed to a formal event where everyone has to be sitting at once.” And while seating arrangements contribute to the drama of the event, he keeps in mind that comfort should reign. “Once everyone sits down you don’t really notice the chairs’ look,” he says. “You notice whether or not they’re comfortable.”
Both Budas and Heidt note an increase in the use of clear acrylic chairs to add a versatile, contemporary edge to event seating. “You can add a colored pad, pillow or sash to coordinate it to the event’s colors,” Heidt says.
They also advise planning lounge seating into the mix, when possible. Though it costs more to rent lounge furniture, including one or two plush seating areas in the seating design creates a hospitable atmosphere,—inviting guests to relax and feel welcome.
“The new fashion for event decor is really that there are no rules anymore,” Budas says.