How do I accommodate people of size at our wedding?
July 5, 2012 5:04 PM   Subscribe

How do I accommodate people of size at our wedding?

So, we have two (much loved) guests who will be attending our wedding who are in the 300-400 lb weight range. Needless to say, we can't use the rental chairs, which are only graded for use up to 250 lbs.

Where the hell can we rent or borrow chairs that will accommodate them for the ceremony and for the reception? No rental company will rent us exactly four heavy-weight-bearing chairs, and I think I've called them all. (We're in Chicago if it helps.) We cannot possibly be the only people on earth with very large friends and family.

If you have private advice, please say so, I'll reach out to you via MeMail. Thanks for any help you can offer.
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (37 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You only need two such chairs? You could probably just buy them.
posted by The World Famous at 5:09 PM on July 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

How about wheelchairs? Medical equipment companies rent them and I've run into some pharmacies that do as well.
posted by XMLicious at 5:19 PM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Could you borrow something like a couple of those decorative cast iron garden benches?
posted by easily confused at 5:22 PM on July 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

How about wheelchairs?

Jesus Christ. DO NOT DO THIS, unless of course you want to completely humiliate your guests and ruin their evening.
posted by Dasein at 5:23 PM on July 5, 2012 [110 favorites]

As a personal anecdote, more than one guest at my wedding was in the 300-400 pound range. We did not provide any special seating - it didn't even occur to us. There were no problems, and it never occurred to me until reading this question that such a thing would even be contemplated. I do know that our guests would have been mortified and offended if they had arrived and been offered wheelchairs. They probably would have been mortified if we had offered any sort of alternative chair.
posted by The World Famous at 5:24 PM on July 5, 2012 [14 favorites]

Could you just buy two of these, or similar?
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:25 PM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Buy something and sell it on craigslist afterwards if you have no use for it and the guest doesn't want it.

But... have your guests specifically asked for special seating? I am sure they're aware of what kinds of chairs can hold their weight.
posted by desjardins at 5:30 PM on July 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

Lifetime makes some heavier duty folding chairs, but I cannot locate any weight specs. Meijer and Sams Club sell them in four packs for $120-$150.
posted by jgreco at 5:30 PM on July 5, 2012

Could you maybe ask them? This may have come up before. Of course this may be a bit awkward, depending on how close they are to you. It will give them an idea of what to expect, though.
posted by Fig at 5:31 PM on July 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

One of the suggested items in The corpse in the library's link is a $50 "oversize portable chair." I have a pal who has one of these with them wherever they go, it might be an elegant solution! Plus it has a drink holder, which would be one of my requirements at a wedding!! :)
posted by kuppajava at 5:34 PM on July 5, 2012

Like desjardins said, I am sure they are very aware of what they can and can't sit upon.

Have you asked the rental company about this dilemma? I'm sure they must have encountered this problem before, and if they don't have a solution, maybe they can point you in the right direction.
posted by Sal and Richard at 5:35 PM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ah, the Lifetime chairs are rated at 500 pounds.

I'm reasonably certain those are the same ones I've seen at Sam's and Meijer.
posted by jgreco at 5:36 PM on July 5, 2012

How about wheelchairs?

Seriously? Don't EVER do this.

Could you maybe ask them?

Don't do this either.

As a former person of size, if I were to be offered a chair that was noticeably different than everyone else, that would automatically make me feel embarrassed. I don't know how this goes off well without all chairs being the same. One thing you could do, maybe is to have a couple of rows of more durable chairs. Like for example a row on each side such that there is some kind of symmetry so that two larger chairs don't blatantly stand out.

For the reception, it might be easier to be discrete since you can maybe sit them at the same table and have a loved one privately approach them about it.
posted by SoulOnIce at 5:39 PM on July 5, 2012 [7 favorites]

I don't know where to get chairs that will work, but having watched a plastic chair disintegrate under a large man on the deck of a boat, I'd bet that anyone needing a special chair will know it in advance. Presumably your caterer deals with this on a pretty regular basis and can offer some assistance.
posted by foodgeek at 5:57 PM on July 5, 2012

I am a person of size and I find many chairs, especially hard narrow ones without arms of the type you might find in the sort of place wedding receptions are held (because they fit well around a circular table) excruciatingly painful to sit on for any period of time because of what it does to my back. There are things I find humiliating but asking a host for a seat I can bear to sit in is not one of them; it's something I and a relative of mine do frequently, so I guess it depends on the person. I actually kind of think it's absurd to say you should never do this. Certainly don't just set anything out as an assigned seat without asking but I personally would be grateful to have the option available and I think it's impressively considerate of you to be thinking of this ahead of time.
posted by XMLicious at 6:04 PM on July 5, 2012 [6 favorites]

I think she meant don't just go round up some clearly medicalized appliances like wheelchairs.
posted by canine epigram at 6:18 PM on July 5, 2012

As a former person of size, if I were to be offered a chair that was noticeably different than everyone else, that would automatically make me feel embarrassed.

Two people I know, one my mother in-law, the other a casual acquaintance, are obese. I have had to assist them with their seating issues before, and they were very appreciative of being given chairs that accommodated their needs. If the chair were to break, at best it would be much more embarrassing than merely being offered a different chair, at worst they could suffer a severe injury from being impaled on chair parts.
posted by wutangclan at 6:20 PM on July 5, 2012 [5 favorites]

If you only need a few chairs and nobody will rent a few, why not rent a larger number, like a dozen? Everyone can sit on those, but not everyone can sit on the other chairs. Universal design :)
posted by manicure12 at 6:34 PM on July 5, 2012 [16 favorites]

In order to counter the potential embarrassment of offering different chairs, you could use slipcovers on all chairs at the wedding. Many weddings do this anyway: some sort of white drapy fabric with a bow holding it at the back. This would make all the chairs look basically the same, even if two of them are more sturdy. And you wouldn't have to say anything, since assigned places are normal at receptions.

The other thing you can do is to rent sturdier chairs for EVERYONE. Cancel your current booking, and find a company whose chairs are all rated to 500 pounds.
posted by lollusc at 6:40 PM on July 5, 2012 [12 favorites]

My mother is in the size range of your loved ones. She sometimes requires a wheelchair for mobility issues, but when she doesn't, we keep a specially made folding chair in the car in case we go somewhere and the chairs look insufficient. While I can't speak for others, I know that she personally would be touched to know that people were concerned for her comfort.

I think the easiest way to deal with this issue is to rent several of the sturdier chairs and have a row or two of them vs. two lone chairs.
posted by crankylex at 6:50 PM on July 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

At just under 300 lbs myself, trust me, I KNOW I am "of size", and I FEAR sitting in and breaking a chair. I will stand before I will sit in a molded plastic chair, a regular outdoor chair, or any chair that appears even close to not being able to handle my weight. On top of that, I am quite tall, which creates it's own problems with said chairs. I would be delighted to be provided with a wide seating alternative. Yes, it could be a bit embarrasing, but I vote on comfort and peace of mind. And really, I know I am obese, everyone else knows I am obese, so why pretend otherwise? Just give me the damn chair! (But, you know, don't announce it or make a big deal of it, and a heads up ahead of time won't hurt, i.e. "we took special attention to see that you are comfortably seated at our wedding".) YMMV, but thats where I am coming from.
posted by batikrose at 6:54 PM on July 5, 2012 [15 favorites]

How about a row or two of benches?
posted by hot soup girl at 6:59 PM on July 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

Have one person sit on one of the "normal" 250lb chairs. Have another person sit in their lap. If the chair does not collapse, just use the regular chairs.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 7:12 PM on July 5, 2012 [12 favorites]

I'd be shocked if your rental chairs aren't just fine for this purpose. This "weight limit" is about as realistic as a "sell by" date. If they break them, just buy 'em from the company. It's not like the chairs are going to turn to matchsticks under them.
posted by Miko at 7:25 PM on July 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

I don't know what kind of chairs you're renting, but if they happen to be Chiavari chairs, man, just try to rent something else right away. I'm within a fairly normal weight range, and even I felt worried the entire time I was seated at a wedding reception using these chairs that my chair would collapse. I hated that experience, and unfortunately, Chiavari chairs seem to be some sort of de facto standard for "nice" chairs at weddings.
posted by limeonaire at 7:43 PM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

My uncle dated and is still friends with someone in OP's size range. When she came to a family event at my parents she brought her own chair(////although it was the sort of party where one could eat in any common area and our couch could have supported her) If the other chairs look like TCitL's suggestion, I recommend getting them and lollusc's idea of slipcovers.
posted by brujita at 8:09 PM on July 5, 2012

As a person of size, you probably don't need special chairs. I have been within that range and never had a problem sitting on all manner of chairs. What you DO need is not to squish the chairs right next to each other - leave a little space for hip overflow, know what I mean? I always end up rushing to get an end of the row seat for this reason, but it would be so nice not to have to stress about it.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 8:44 PM on July 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

My best friend is 6'3, 410 pounds and he had no issues with the folding rental chairs at our friends wedding a couple of months ago.
posted by KogeLiz at 8:56 PM on July 5, 2012

Two symmetrical bench rows.
posted by Elysum at 9:03 PM on July 5, 2012

I weigh 310. I would sit on a 250 chair. I wouldn't wiggle. Have they asked you to make special arrangements? If not, i wouldn't.
posted by kenaldo at 9:20 PM on July 5, 2012

I'm overweight, although not in the range of your guests. I had a friend whose house I just couldn't visit, because she'd trot out very flimsy, plastic folding chairs, which I would perch anxiously on, every muscle taut, while they creaked and listed alarmingly for the entirety of my visit. I was dying for her to notice, and possibly offer an alternative.

Overweight people can actually tell they won't fit comfortably on most casual seating, and if they are beloved guests, I am almost entirely sure they will be quite happy to let you know what will be most comfortable for them. I would ask them, as simply as possible, what you can do to make them as comfortable as possible, you can mention the flimsy hire chairs, I am almost positive they won't go up in an offended puff of smoke.
posted by Kaleidoscope at 3:15 AM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd be sad if someone made a reference to my weight at the start of a special occasion. I'd know they were trying to be thoughtful, but it would be hard to forget for the rest of the event. Your relatives might not be sensitive plants like me, but I wouldn't take the chance on ruining the whole day for them. Get a bunch of the better chairs, or all of them, or use the flimsier chairs.
posted by theredpen at 6:34 AM on July 6, 2012

You know your guests best: are they the type who are embarrassed by their weight, or does it not bother them? Do they ever complain to you of pain or discomfort related to their weight?

Without asking them outright, you're not going to know if having special seating will embarras them or be appreciated by them. If you don't want to do that, then make your best guess at which type they more closely correspond to. If you think special seating will be appreciated, then I think the idea of two rows of benches, or sturdier chairs for all guests, as mentioned above, are good ones.
posted by guessthis at 8:09 AM on July 6, 2012

I'm a person of 375lbs, and I have sat on a variety of chairs that were probably not at all rated for my weight. Most weight ratings are are simply a bullshit cover-your-ass maneuver by in-house lawyers, not anything to do with the actual engineering of the chair.

Feel free to me-mail a link to the kind of chair you have rented, and I will tell you whether or not I would feel comfortable sitting on it without fear of breaking it.

Also, an added note for all people facing such issues: the number one thing you can do to make fat people comfortable in your chairs is to make available chairs without arms on them. I am far more likely to simply not fit in a chair at all than I am to break it if it's got arms on it.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:32 PM on July 7, 2012

I guess this is another depends-on-the-person issue because for me the most uncomfortable thing I usually encounter is chairs without arms or with ones that are too low for me to lean on; having all of the weight of my torso supported on my tailbone seems to be the thing that causes the most trouble for my back.

In chairs without arms, if there isn't a table or counter to lean on, I actually find it more comfortable to sit sideways in the chair or twist my torso so that I can lean my arm on the back of the chair and I've observed other guys doing this (though it's still not very comfortable.) In chairs with really low arms I often ball up my jacket and stick it under an elbow so that it's possible to lean against the arm.

Though if the arms of a chair were so narrow they were cutting into my sides that would understandably be uncomfortable. I just don't usually run into that, for my height and the way my weight is distributed.

Given the variety of reactions here it might be tough to anticipate the best way to provide for the comfort your guests... realistically, overweight people are probably going to be accustomed to dealing with their own particular problems. A thought that occurred to me is that if the reception is somewhere like a hotel with comfy chairs or couches in the lobby or otherwise scattered around, people who are uncomfortable seated at tables can at least take a break periodically.
posted by XMLicious at 1:50 PM on July 7, 2012

That might be a guy-girl thing (assuming you are a guy?). Women carry weight in their hips more than men, which makes the arms on chairs a bigger problem.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:56 PM on July 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

Try to increase the number of supportive chairs you're renting, and then use ushers to keep the comfy chairs from being pounced on early by the able. If you've invited elderly people (like grandparents) or people with disabilities, they will also appreciate supportive seating being available. Honestly, no one loves sitting in hard folding chairs.

I'd try padded benches with backs, like church pews.
posted by nicebookrack at 4:40 AM on July 12, 2012

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