Many of my clients express that they want their reception to flow smoothy. One of the tricks involves how your design your floor plan and guests seating assignments. While there are no set rules to follow, there are ways to arrange your guests to allow them to find their seats quickly and easily with no confusion, which ensures the reception flows smoothly. Imagine moving 200 people from one room to another. It takes a long time already. Don’t make it worse by creating unnecessary obstacles. Here are some planning tips.
- Obtain blank floor plans from your venue. You can use the blank ones to sketch out your ideas on layout. Also, get sample floor plans from previous events held at your venue to see what works well and what doesn’t in your space like my Sample Floor Plan #1 above. Especially with historic venues, common in Washington, DC, Virginia, and Maryland, room layouts maybe challenging.
- Work with your event planner, catering manager and facility manager. Pick their brains on how your event should be laid out based on your guest count and needs. You need to have sufficient space for guests to eat comfortably, and for servers to walk between tables to serve food and clear dinnerware without having your guests move their chairs.
- Get this information early on. The floor plan affects many aspects of your event like your tables, tablecloths, centerpieces, lighting, and escort cards.
- Find out the size of the dinner tables and how many guests each table can hold. This will determine the number of tables you need.
- If you are using table numbers, assign the tables numerically in order. If you are using words for your table markers, do this only if you have 10 tables or less. Any more tables and it might be difficult for a guest to find the “London” table among 20 tables.
- Many times, our wedding clients start their table assignments by making groupings of friends and family without thinking about how the tables will be numbered on their floor plans. Often, the head table ends up being Table #1. The problem with this is that the head table usually ends up in a central location and could throw off the rest of the numbering like in my Sample Floor Plan #2 below. While this example is not the worst case scenario, imagine you walk into the ballroom near Table 3 and you are seated at Table 4, it is not obvious that you should go to the left side of the ballroom.
- If you want to start grouping your guests into tables early, which I encourage you to do, start by giving your tables a letter like Tables A-Z. The idea is to not to use your actual table number or name yet. So Head Table might be Table A. Once you know how the numbers will be laid out, you can transpose your list to match the floor plan, i.e. Table A = Table 8 (see the example in Sample Floor Plan #3 below).
- Be mindful of where the speakers for the DJ or band are located. You may not want to put your grandma or elderly guests too close to the speakers.
- You must leave sufficient room around where the bar is located to allow for people to stand in front of the bar without crowding those who are seating near it. The same goes for the cake. You don’t want someone to back up his/her chair into your lovely cake.
Finally, don’t over think it. Guests sit for dinner for about 1-1.5 hours. If they don’t like where they are sitting, they can get up and go elsewhere after dinner. I hope this help! — Vicky