Poll: Saving Seats

saving-seats-large-e1331292405401Some Exponent readers have had bad experiences at church when people would not let them sit because they were saving seats.   I empathize, because I have also felt very unwelcome on occasions when I have tried to take a seat at church and been told that it was saved, especially when multiple people refuse to let me sit and I find my self wandering the room trying not to show how embarrassed and frustrated I am.   

However, I confess that I have occasionally been a seat saving culprit. For example, I once attended a show at an amusement park, and a few adults saved seats for the rest of the group so that the kids could enjoy the park instead of sitting still for an hour waiting for the show to start.  However, another show attendee was offended by our seat saving and loudly complained about us to park staff.  The park employee sided with us, telling her that park policy permitted people to save up to eight seats for other members of their group, but we offered to squeeze in and give up a couple seats for the angry stranger anyway.

April Young-Bennett

April Young Bennett is the author of the Ask a Suffragist book series and host of the Religious Feminism Podcast. Learn more about April at aprilyoungb.com.

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12 Responses

  1. Chris says:

    My widowed mother was denied seats many times because married couples were saving the seats for their married friends. She eventually realized that she was consigned to the single row. I’ve noticed the same thing happen in our ward and have suggested to the seat savers that elderly widows should be allowed to sit anywhere they want to sit. It’s hard enough being single without being denied a seat!

    I will save seats for my single friends. However, some have quit coming to church because they feel so unwelcome!

  2. Diane says:

    Can’t say that I’ve ever had that experience. In fact quite the opposite, I’ve almost had an eye kicked by a 5 year who used the pew as a jungle jim and the father sat there and acted as if it were appropriate.

    I wish single adults whatever their age could attend single wards.

  3. TopHat says:

    I’m pretty ambivalent about saving seats. Sometimes I want to save a seat for someone and I want people to be understanding of that. But sometimes I get peeved when others do the same, so I’ve got to work on that.

    Right now, we have sacrament last and both me and my husband are in the nursery, so we have to wait until everyone picks up their kids before we can go find a seat in sacrament. And half the nursery is from a different ward who actually goes home right after nursery (as opposed to having sacrament next like ours) and they tend to dawdle a little more in picking up their kids. So my husband and I and 2 kids have to come a little later and the seats are heavily picked over. So that’s frustrating, but that’s how it rolls.

    I think the time that saving seats was most frustrating for me was when I was in my freshman ward at BYU. I was the pianist for sacrament, so I would leave early to play prelude and not get to sit with the congregation until after sacrament was passed. I would ask my roommate to save a seat for me, but with the way college freshmen are, everyone who trickled in late would grab up seats and my roommate couldn’t be assertive enough to tell them my seat was saved. So for the entire year, I would get down from the piano and go sit by myself in a corner. It was extremely isolating- not really the best way to start off my university experience. I really wish a seat had been saved for me.

  4. spunky says:

    Honestly, finding a seat in the chapel is the most anxiety-ridden experience I have. It was one of the biggest pushes for me to stop attending Relief Society- the women in the last Relief Soicety I regularly attended were all saving seats for their friends, and I tired of pulling out a single seperate chair from the stack just to sit alone.

    I think I was better at sharing seats with other females when I was a single, mainly because I felt their pain in walking into a room alone– it makes a huge difference for someone– anyone, to look and say, “would you like to sit here? This seat is not taken.” then actually speak to them about where they are from, etc. As DH travels often for work, I find myself seeking out single or widowed women to sit by in sacrament and sometimes Gospel Doctrine (if I stay), but it is probably more of a coping mechanism rather than true Christlike love– I cope with my own anxiety by seeking others alone, and if there are no other like-individuals, I leave to avoid the seat saving rejections.

  5. Kip says:

    I don’t mind people saving seats. My pet peeve is when people come a couple hours early for stake conference and put their coats and scriptures down on a bench and go home. People saving seats is okay, stuff should not hold a seat for an hour.

    • Rachel says:

      We just had stake conference. We have folks who leave their stuff from the night session and then waltz in 30 seconds before the meeting starts.
      I think they think that by attending the adult session, they have the right. Meanwhile, I show up a good 45 minutes early to get a soft seat.
      I sooooo want to move things, and then play dumb. But I’m too chicken. “Oh! There were some things here, but I thought they’d just been forgotten LAST NIGHT, so I took them to ‘lost and found’. Sorry!”

  6. Kate says:

    I am joining the complaint chorus!
    I understand that you save a seat for your husband or a friend.
    That said: I quit going to BYU Women’s conference for this very reason. I always went all by myself and ended in the worst seat of the conference room or couldn’t get in at all because many women were saving seats not for one friend but 10 or more.

  7. Sinclair says:

    I’m pretty okay about the whole saving seats gig provided that there is a person there and not a row of scriptures. This was a problem some years back when, during stake conference, someone would show up and distribute cases of quads on the pews. Even coming an hour early didn’t mean I got to sit on a cushioned pew. Given that it was just a couple times per year, I got over it.

    I am, however, irritated by the whole seat ownership deal that goes on with long-time members.

  8. Cowgirl says:

    This is absolutely fascinating. If you come to my ward you can walk in late and still score your very own pew. I had no idea couples saved seats for other couples or went early to stake conference to “stake” a claim as it were. So is this really common?

    • TopHat says:

      Stake conference: If you want a comfy pew seat instead of a hard chair in the cultural hall where you can’t hear or see, then you’ve got to get there early!

      • Rachel says:

        I have to get to sacrament meeting 20 min early in my ward any given Sunday to get a chapel pew. Thankfully, my kids are old enough to handle it. If they were still toddlers, I don’t know if I’d do it–I guess I’d get there, save a few seats and then let them wander a bit.

  9. Michelle says:

    My stake combated the saving seats problem by putting the High Council to work. No one was allowed in (except the choir- who was FORBIDDEN to save seats) until 30 minutes before the meeting, and prior to that the High Council would patrol the pews removing items that had been put there. My father is in the High Council and due to the no saving seats policy most of the time my mom and him end up in the first couple hard chair rows because my mom doesn’t get there in time.

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