When it comes to planning a wedding or gala, deciding how and where to seat your guests can be one of the hardest tasks, but it can also play a big role in how much fun you and your guests have. Playing with event seating chart options, mixing personality types, avoiding obvious feuds and accounting for special needs can all keep your guests surprised, comfortable and ready to mix and mingle with some new friends.
Have a strategy when arranging guests
Event planners are like the orchestrator of the party, which includes knowing when, where and how to mesh people together. Sit the eccentric best friend next to an overly conservative uncle, and part of your party might start singing out of tune. To keep each table in harmony, pay attention to the personality types and individual needs or expectations of your guests.
The party personalities and attendee types can include:
- The extrovert: These people will liven up the table, but sitting too close, they may dominate dinner conversation and make the others feel excluded. Space the “chatters” out so that more introverted guests can easily chime in.
- The introvert: Just because they may not start the conversation doesn’t mean they won’t engage with the right crowd. Place them near like-minded extroverts or instigators to help them break from their shell.
- The instigator: An instigator can undoubtedly stir up some interesting conversation, but be sure to place another strong, yet neutral, personality to moderate and keep things from getting too controversial.
- The partier: Some people will never let go of their college days, and that means FUN for your wedding. Keep them close to the dance floor and away from more conservative guests.
- The guests of honor or VIPs: Whether it’s your wedding party, your parents or key donors at your gala, give your honorary guests their special place by placing them closest to all of the action. Also, keep anyone giving speeches within a short walking distance from the mic.
- People with physical disabilities: Some guests may have a hard time getting around, but this doesn’t mean you should just place them in the back. Instead, make sure wheelchairs can make it through aisles without asking people to scooch in so these guests can be accommodated throughout the event venue. Older guests who can grow tired quickly or may need to leave suddenly should be seated closer to exits or restroom facilities.
- Children: Small children should be kept with parents and placed further away from electronics, bars and other things you wouldn’t want a curious child getting into. Older kids can be better placed at a table all their own. Make it fun for them by including activities and party favors to keep them entertained.
Ideally, each table in your wedding seating chart should be populated with people who may already know each other, share interests or hobbies, are within a similar age range or have other commonalities.
Alternatively, you can use your event seating arrangement as an opportunity to make some unexpected connections by seating people together who wouldn’t normally seek each other out but who you are confident would hit it off. Be sure to pay attention to personality types, though; two hotheads with polarized viewpoints will likely clash before they hit the dance floor together.
COVID-19 Alternative: With the lingering reality of COVID-19, designing an event seating chart is harder than ever. Some alternatives could include only placing people together who regularly interact with each other (think family units) and providing more intimate and spaced out seating for people who may be at a higher risk of complications or feel uncomfortable sitting close to others.
Consider unconventional seating charts to spice things up
When forming your perfect event table groups, you may find that you still have a seat to fill or that a group has simply surpassed the table’s limit. Instead of just throwing a random guest to sit with a group of old college friends catching up on school days, adjust the size and spaces of your tables.
Not only does having various-sized tables allow you to be more creative with your party seating chart, but it will also enable you to focus more on each guest’s experience and less on just filling chairs. And a unique event or wedding table plan can give your layout an interesting twist that people will remember.
Some table arrangement ideas include:
- Mixing larger and smaller round tables (like 4-foot, 5-foot and 6-foot round tables) for different group sizes
- Opting for square tables that can be easily combined or broken apart
- Choosing long communal tables that group everyone together (note that this may not be a wise option during the coronavirus pandemic due to 6-foot physical spacing recommendations)
- Arranging tables to create easy cross-conversation between tables
- Extending the wedding party table to include plus-ones
- Creating intimate seating areas for parents, newlyweds or other guests
- Adding standing cocktail tables
Of course, when mixing shapes and sizes, be sure that you will still have room in your event floor plan for guests and staff to easily maneuver around each table when guests are seated.
COVID-19 Alternative: With social distancing still in place, you’ll want to consider an event table setup that will maximize space and provide adequate spacing while still making your guests feel a part of the party. According to physical distancing recommendations from the Centers of Disease Control, people should be seated at least 6 feet away from each other, so that’s a great place to start. You can either utilize large round tables and reduce the number of chairs; use smaller square tables and space them out appropriately or choose long communal tables and zig-zag plate settings so people can still see each other and chat without violating the social distancing rules.
Use technology to streamline the layout process
Instead of breaking out the arts and crafts and losing your living room to the headache of hand-drawn floor planning, invest in a digital event seating planner. By organizing your gala or wedding seating chart digitally, you can quickly move, arrange and rearrange people, seats, tables and more until you find the perfect match. With the right digital event layout system, you can create exact measurements so that all of those ideas in your head translate perfectly (that is, to scale) into the room. It also makes it super easy to share your plans with others, such as the event space or vendors.
To make the most of your digital event seating chart, be sure to include these items:
- DJ booth
- Dance floor
- Vendor stands
- Food tables
- Room measurements
- Table measurements
- Desired aisle length
*Account for chairs being moved out and leave extra space for disabled guests
COVID-19 Tip: Use the digital party seating chart tool to measure proper distancing. You can also avoid unnecessary in-person trips by sending your digital floor plan via email to clients and other stakeholders, discussing it through video chat or using any of the online collaboration features included in the seating chart software.
Take a seat and relax when you’re done
While creating an event seating chart can be a daunting and overwhelming task, you’ll be happy that you spent the extra event management time coordinating when you see your party come to life. To help you make the most of your party seating chart, remember to:
- Arrange guests according to personality, interests and commonality.
- Make your tables fit your groups, not the other way around.
- Save some trees (and lots of headaches) by creating your event seating chart digitally using professional event design tools.
And, of course, when all is planned and placed, make sure you take your seat and enjoy the party!