When is a Seating Plan Required?
Seating plans are more likely, but not always, required when there is a dinner service or a large crowd. Unassigned seating sounds great in theory and it is certainly less work for the event organizer. Unfortunately, there are some drawbacks. There may be an unseemly rush for the ‘good’ seats. VIP’s may end up sitting where they cannot see or hear anything. It may take longer to get guests seated. The last few guests may end up walking around looking for seats.
Options for Assigned Seating include:
Creating your seating plan
- Guest can be assigned to a specific seat.
- Guests can be assigned to a specific table.
- Decide on your floor plan and room set-up, to ensure you have the right number of tables and guests at each table.
- Determine, depending on the number of VIPs, if you will have one head table or more than one.
- Once all guests have replied, use your invitation mailing list in either electronic form (Word or Excel) or paper form (post-it notes) to arrange the guests at their tables.
- Keep in mind:
- Put people together who know each other or have an association. e.g. family members, donors and their recipients, sponsors, invitees with their guest.
- Try to mix Okanagan College employees among all the tables to act as hosts for external guests.
- There may be reasons guests do not want to be seated with each other (ex-spouses, political adversaries).
- Seat your emcee and other speakers so they can conveniently access the podium.
At the event
- Print placecards with guests’ names.
- Tip: Print a few blank placecards in case an unexpected guest arrives.
- If your event is a plated dinner, for which your guests have to indicate in advance their meal selection, add symbols or abbreviations to each placecard indicating their dinner choice. Provide the explanation of symbols to the catering manager in advance. This can also be useful at small events where seating is not assigned. At these events, display the placecards near the entrance for guests to pick up and place at their seats.
- Have one or two event organizers at the door to act as hosts to greet guests, provide information on food and bar service, etc.
- Hosts should indicate to arriving guests whether there is assigned seating and direct the guests to their tables as appropriate.
- Ensure the table numbers are clearly visible and displayed prominently.
- Hosts can verify guests’ names as they arrive to ensure seating plan is still appropriate or make adjustments if unexpected guests arrive or if expected guests do not arrive.
- If due to an unexpected absence, a VIP table is left visibly short of guests, you may want to move an appropriate guest or two over from another table.
- Where there is no seating plan, you should “over-seat” at an event so that the last few people to arrive do not have to separate to find seats at different tables because only one seat remains at each.
- It is important to ensure all guests are welcomed and accommodated before hosts take their seats.