So you’re having an event! You have invited all the guests, chased and gathered the RSVP's and now you have final numbers. Now comes the task of deciding where everybody is going to sit.
If you've ever wondered how you can make a seating plan yourself without having to pay for software, this is a DIY step by step guide. There is all sorts of technology available online but most are only free for a trial period and as we all know, seating plans and guests change until right at the last minute. So if you don't have the patience, technical know-how or budget to pay for a subscription, then read on.
I often say that doing the seating plan is the most stressful part of any event. Managing Auntie Jacqueline and her unpopular political opinions or those rival business owners who once sued each other is something you have to take real care over. It is also one of the few things you can’t do in advance as you need an idea of final the guest list before getting started with it and there are always last minute changes. On top of this, you’ll be receiving daily messages from ‘helpful’ guests with suggestions on who they’d like to be seated with.
This is my step by step guide to making a DIY seating plan, that I have used hundreds of times for events ranging from glittering galas to weddings, to awards ceremonies and more.
Step by step guide for making a DIY seating plan
You will need:
You will need sheets of paper with a diagram of a table on each one, be it rounds, squares, oblong or whatever. There are websites where you can download templates for the tables or you can easily do it yourself at home. I created this round table template using a dessert bowl and drew around it. Use an oblong cake tin for refectory style seating, a chocolate box for square, or you can always ask your venue if the plan is a bit more complex. You will need as many of these as there are tables, so 20 sheets if you have 20 tables of 10 guests.
Then, you need to write out all of your guest names onto post-it notes. Yes it's time consuming but it makes this process so much easier in the long run I promise as you then know you haven't forgotten anyone and will have a full overview of the room. Plus as they are on sticky notes you can move people around and try different combinations really easily. You may want to split gender by colour so you make sure you don't end up bunching all the guys and girls together like a school disco but this is up to you. I like using non gender stereotype colours and thankfully post-it notes come in a full rainbow spectrum of bright tones so you can choose your favourite.
Once you have all your names, you can then begin to stick them onto your table sheets
I stole these guests from ITV's Belgravia series which I am rather partial to at the moment. I think Tamsin Greig is marvellous and the other casting is superb as well. Stunning costumes too.
Sometimes it is good to start with your top table and work from there so you know who you have left to play with. If this is an event where guests have paid to attend you might have some full tables that have been bought and these are easy, all you need to do is ask the host for the order in which they'd like their guests to sit.
The trickiest events to get right are often weddings, and I subscribe to way of thinking that you should put all of your worst guests together on one table. Don't try and space them out, or balance them with good guests, you'll just spread their bad attitude/smell/political opinions further around the room.
Once you have your individual table sheets all done you can then choose where the tables go in the room and your venue should be able to create a room plan so you can assign table numbers. Bear in mind things like speeches or award recipients who need easy access to the stage. Likewise any young children or pregnant ladies who might need to be near the exit or anyone with accessibility requirements.
Tables at the back or near the kitchen are always thought of as the worst, so it can be a nice touch to seat a VIP or a VFG (Very Fun Guest) on one of those tables so that others in the vicinity don't feel hard done by. This idea was given to me by a very famous US Vogue editor, and I thought it was charming.
However complex your event seating, this method will help you get some clarity and feel on top of it. Here's an old plan I did for the Evening Standard Film Awards in 2012 which was at County Hall, an exceptionally difficult venue as seats are all fixed and it is an old court house! Please excuse the blurry photo, phone cameras were not the greatest quality back then. But you can see how complicated it was and how essential the post-it notes were!
I hope this is helpful, we'd love to hear about your events you have coming up and if you have any queries at all let us know in the comments!
I should say to finish that this post was definitely not sponsored by post-it notes in case anyone was wondering. They're just pretty nifty.