How To Produce the Perfect Seating Plan
Whether you’re hosting a corporate dinner, occasion meal or (especially) a wedding, getting the seating plan right is essential to hosting a successful event. It governs every single one of your guests’ experiences and needs to be carefully considered from the very beginning of your planning. We’ve put together a simple guide to help you through the minefield of how to produce the perfect seating plan.
The first decision you need to make is how to layout the tables. There are no hard and fast rules on this one, as it will largely depend on numbers of guests and the shape and size of your room. Here are some of the benefits and pitfalls of the various configurations that should be open to you.
Pros: A good use of floor space meaning you’ll get more guests in than other layouts. It also means none of your guests has to sit on an ‘end’.
Cons: Guests are at the risk of being left with no one to talk to if both their neighbours are engaged in conversation on their other side. Flowers and other table decorations and general distance often prevent chat with guests sitting opposite each other. If you have any awards or presentations your guests will need to swivel their chairs round to face the right way.
Pros: Great if you have any presentations at the front of the room as all guests can easily turn to face the right way.
Cons: Not the best use of floor space as half your table is empty and you have two diners with only one neighbour to chat to.
Pros: A great way to make sure all guests can see everyone in the room and practical if you have speeches or presentations as no one will have their back to the stage. You are also left with a space in the centre of the room which can be used for entertainment or speakers. It’s also an easy layout for serving staff to wait tables without interrupting guests. This layout works well if there is a specific individual hosting the event as they can take centre stage on the top table in the middle.
Cons: Not great on floor space usage and you’ll always end up with two guests on the end with only one neighbour.
Pros: Guests have a neighbour either side and can also chat with people opposite them as they aren’t as far away as n a round table. Also an effective use of floor space.
Cons: Not all venues have rectangular tables and the end places can be a little squashed. Diners will also need to turn their chairs round to face the front if there are any speeches or awards.
Before you decide on a layout, ask to see the room set up for an event with similar numbers to yours. You need to make sure the room doesn’t feel too cramped, or that the venue has been tempted to exaggerate numbers and that some of your guests will have to sit behind pillars or right next to the loo. It’s also good to get a feel for the room and to check out the flow.
Who sits where?
Every event is unique, as is its guest list, but there are several things to consider when creating your seating plan.
If your guests are expecting to make work contacts at your dinner, keep this in mind and make sure you are providing opportunities for all your attendees. To double the number of contacts everyone could make, simply ask all the men to stand up and move two places to their left after the main course has been cleared.
Family and friends
At a more social occasion, ensure all guests are seated with friends and family they know well. Integrate less well-connected members of your party equally throughout your seating plan. One person on a table of friends is more likely to be included in conversations and made to feel welcome, whereas a table full of people out on a limb could be a disaster in terms of dynamics.
Wedding top table and etiquette
Tradition dictates that the top table at a wedding is a long row with bride and groom in the centre, parents either side and best man and chief bridesmaid tailing the ends. But these days, with so many divorced families and unconventional bridal parties, it really can be done any way the couple choose. It’s far more important everyone is comfortable with their dinner neighbours than sticking with tradition. It’s always worth telling guests in advance of an unconventional seating plan if you’re worried someone might get upset.
Your seating plan
Make sure your seating plan is displayed outside the door to the dining room so people can find out who they are sitting with early on. This will be a great ice breaker during pre-dinner drinks as guests seek out their fellow diners. Also make sure each place at the table is clearly labelled so your guests know exactly where they are supposed to sit.
Children, older guests and attendees in wheelchairs might need more space at their table, so take this into consideration. Anyone hard of hearing or short-sighted might benefit from being closer to any presentations or speeches and it never hurts to seat pregnant ladies nearer to the loo!
Keep these well below eye level – it’s more important that your guests can see each other and have conversations than it is to create a floral spectacle.
Dinners and weddings at The HAC
We have seven fabulous indoor spaces and five acres of lush lawns – you’re bound to find the perfect one for your event. Just give our Events Team a call to discuss you preferred layout and we’ll help you find the right room. You can reach us by calling 020 7382 1533.