Seating your guests is literally the hardest job you have when planning an event. And can also be the most fun one. Matching up who sits with whom. Aunt Suzie doesn’t speak to Uncle Mort because blah blahh blah…. Grandma doesn’t like loud music. Cousin Barbara just has to sit at the same table with cousin Ruthie or she’ll just die. Hopefully Rachel and Ben won’t get into another argument – maybe we should separate them. Wouldn’t it be nice if Tim and Beth met and fell in love? And where do I put all these kids????? And….. what do you mean I can only fit 10 tables in the room? I have 300 guests!! So where do I put everyone?
Once all your RSVP’s are in, you now have a good idea of who’s coming. What I mean by this is that at the last minute, some will be no shows and someone will undoubtedly call to say they can make it after all and is it ok to come.
The first thing you need is a layout of the room. If you are having your event in a hotel ballroom or other venue with a party room, chances are they can provide you with a layout that they typically use which will show you where the tables are, where the band or DJ goes, the dance floor, and where all the additional tables will go (food, activities, etc.). They will create this on their software for the amount of tables you will be using. Often times this is the best layout because they have done this many times before and know what room set up will work the smoothest. If you are bringing in an outside caterer you may want to consult with them and with your band manager or DJ to make sure this works for them.
60” or 66” round will hold 8 – 10 guests
72” round will hold 10-12 guests
30” x 6’ rectangle will hold 6-8
Ask your venue or rental company if you’re ordering other sizes and then you can begin the seating chart. Sort your rsvp spreadsheet so that you have all the “yeses” together. Now we have all the names of who is coming. Here’s a great way to do this. Either blow the room layout up to gigantic proportions or re-draw it on a white board, chalkboard or poster board. Now get some of those little post it note strips. Write each individual name on a post it strip. Color doesn’t matter. We’re not color coding. Think about the groupings of people you have. Guests feel more comfortable sitting with people they know. Grandparents of the bar/bat mitzvah have probably given you a list. Seat them together. Work friends know each other. Your friends may crossover into multiple groups; they are the easiest to place because they are more flexible. Guests from out of town should have special consideration because they’ve traveled to be here, so you want to make sure they are comfortable with whom they sit with. Either other relatives or someone you know that has something in common with them. And the closer to you, the more special they feel, so place the tables in closest proximity to you – the host and hostess – for those special guests.
For bar/bat mitzvah’s you’ll have a “kid zone” where the bar mitzvah and all his/her friends will sit. This arrangement is usually done in an “E”, “T” or “U” shaped table design or with lounge furniture and belly bars and cocktail tables and the kids sit wherever they want in that area. No need to place them. This is usually on the other side of the dance floor from the adult seating. The reasoning for this is multiple – kids have a separate area just for them, they are all together, and since the tables or seating is all the same, the bar/bat mitzvah doesn’t have to choose which of his/her friends should sit as his/her table. And….. they sit for 5 minutes and are off and running. Take your room layout and post it’s and start setting table arrangements. The beauty of this is that because you can move the post its around, you can play with this layout until it’s just as you’d like it to be. Once you’ve got it all the way you want it, you can name or number the tables.
You will have to give a copy of the room layout to your Event Planner, Caterer and Venue. On that copy, indicate the amount of guests at each table, and the name or number of that table. i.e. – table #1 – 10 guests or “Paris” – 10 guests. This lets the set up crew set for 10 guests at table #1. They do not have to have the names of the guests, just the table number/name and amount of guests.
Your caterer will need to know if there are any special dietary meals and where they are seated. i.e. special kosher meals, gluten free, vegetarian. By carefully and thoughtfully placing each of your guests, your guests may wind up with some great new friendships or a new romance or two.
Blog post contributed by: Sherrill Kinsler Gilford, RSVP Events