The biggest benefit to assigned seating comes if you are having food service. It is much easier to deliver the food to the table when you know who is sitting where and have a seating chart to back this up. Additionally, if you have relatives or ex-relatives who don’t get along, a seating chart allows you to make it easier for these guests to avoid each other. Finally, you can prevent awkward moments such as when the casual work acquaintance winds up seated at the table with the bride’s parents when you have assigned seating. The drawbacks to assigned seating are the time that it takes to set up the seating chart and the hurt feelings that can occur when guests do not get to sit where they want to sit.
The other option is to allow your guests to seat themselves. On your part, this is easier. You do not have to build a chart ahead of time, and guests can mingle and move around the room. If you are NOT doing a buffet-style meal, it can be difficult to serve the meal, though. Another difficulty occurs when guests show up late and wind up sitting at a table with people they do not know well.
As you can see, there are pros and cons to both assigned seating and “seat yourself” receptions. Think about your dream reception: Will you have a buffet or served food? Do you have certain family members you need to keep apart or seat together? Each of these elements is key in determining which option is best for you.