May 23, 2023 - Things to Do

The etiquette of saving seats in big-family Utah

Rows of chairs with "reserved" signs on the seats.

Reserved seating at a fashion show. Photo: Alessandra Benedetti/Corbis via Getty Images

This weekend I stumbled into a Utah cultural phenomenon that apparently has residents fuming behind their polite applause:

  • "Saving" gobs of seats at public events.

What happened: I arrived 20 minutes early at my daughter's piano recital to what looked like plenty of seating.

  • Yes, but: One family said the whole front row — 14 seats — was "saved."
  • They also wanted part of the second row, but another seat-saver already claimed it. Then a third family tried to save another half-row.

By the numbers: There were seven rows of chairs, and 28 kids were scheduled to perform.

  • A couple of families had to stand in the back or sit on the floor.

Remember, this is a children's music recital. A degree of fortitude is required even with a chair.

What they're saying: I was inundated with tweets from people who witnessed the same pattern at graduations, church services and concerts.

  • "I didn’t realize how often this seat saving thing happens in Utah," wrote Kathleen Anderson, a former congressional candidate from Salt Lake City.

Flashback: In 2013, a Weber County man was sentenced to 30 days in jail after he hit another person with his car during a fight over a "saved" church pew at a baby blessing.

Get smart: Some Utahns have said it's OK to save 2–8 seats, but anything more is excessive.

  • Erin's reality check: That recommendation may be scaled to Utah's large families; for your own safety, please do not try to save 8 seats in a full house anywhere else.

📬 Tell us! We want to learn more about the rules. How many seats should you save at a general admission event? How do you respond when someone claims more space than is fair?


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