So often at events that I am asked to facilitate at I come across table plans that look great, but are impractical when it comes to getting people swiftly to their culinary destination. Therefore, someone asked me if I would provide my top tips for wedding and grand event table plans and here they are.
Designing an interesting table plan can be fun. If you have a theme, then go with it and make the most of locations, characters and even times of your life.
Two of the best creative plans I have ever seen are as follows.
“The Airline Ticket”. This terrific idea works really well, especially if you have quite a large number of people – anything between 150 and 400. It is very important though that if you are to do this that you have a very large area in which to lay the tickets out and then place them in alphabetical order well in advance of guest arrival. You cannot play catch up with this one.
You then get groups of tickets called in to the meal at different times, just like the boarding of an aircraft. If you have several doors to choose to go through you could even allocate “gate numbers”!
The second of the two best creative plans I have seen is “The Picture Board” and rather than use someone’s name, put a picture of them instead at their allocated table. Ideally suited for events under 150 people to avoid causing too much of a delay at the table plan. Funny pictures of participants always make this fun too. The only thing is this can take slightly longer to process as everyone looks at everybody else’s pictures too, so plans need to be available well before calling.
However, getting people to the right table easily is very often not clear, so here are a few tips to make life easier for everyone.
Make the plan(s) a decent size and use a typeface that is easy to read by everyone. It is clear and easy to read, even though it is not the best photograph. Whilst it may sound like it will look great, avoid italics combined with highly coloured backgrounds as they can be difficult to read, especially with “mood” lighting.
Be aware of your numbers
If you have less than 150 people, then by all means list the table and then the occupants as shown above on the left hand side only. However, once you get above 150 people you need to think about whether you want to produce two different plans. The one illustrated at the top of this artical cleverly uses both in its design but if there were many more guests then you will need one which shows the location of the table and another which lists your guest names in alphabetical order with their table name or number shown next to it. Above 200, and this is seriously recommended. Above 300, it is absolutely essential! As below
Wherever possible show the tables as to how they are located in the room in relation to the top table. This may seem logical, but it is amazing how often this is not the case.
The location of the plan is also important. Obviously it should be placed by the entrance at time of calling, so last minute lookers can check it on their way in. However, leave it (or them) where it can be most easily seen during any pre-meal reception, so it can be checked well in advance and thus avoid later queues.
How to draw guests to them
The simplest way is to employ me in my guise as The Man in the Red Coat. When running your whole event it would naturally include guiding your guests in the general direction of the table plan(s) This would be well in advance of the meal. Therefore, when the time comes to sit down, there would be no queue for the plan(s) and valuable time would not be lost.
However, I understand that I am not for everyone, so my tip if I am not present is to get those serving drinks to stand next to the table plan(s) and encourage those coming in search of a liquid refreshment to look at it before or after picking up the beverage of their choice. This normally means that the table plan(s) does get looked at well in advance of the call to table and avoids the aforementioned queue when people should be sitting down.
The final option
There is one other option and that is the “menu card including map”. This requires a lot of work in preparation and means the insertion of a bespoke map in each card. This shows the individual place setting of the person whose card it is. Expensive, time consuming, but highly impressive and 100% efficient when it comes to getting people seated on time. If you want to make an impression, this format is without doubt the best there is. See below,
James Hasler is a professional toastmaster, master of ceremonies and event facilitator, a Fellow of the Guild of International Professional Toastmasters. He is experienced in running all kinds of events from conferences, awards ceremonies, fundraisers, and weddings of all cultures both in the UK and throughout the world. He has worked with and for people from all walks of life, from the most humble, to celebrities and even members of the Royal Family.