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The 15-Minute Party Planner's blog breaks down basic party-planning tasks into simple actions that take 15 minutes or less. We're not here to make you the next Martha, we're here to help you be crafty quickly!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A guide to choosing seating for special events

Maybe you've got a big event to plan (a wedding reception, perhaps, or maybe a weekend-long scrapbooking retreat) and you're thinking that there's no way to boil the tasks down into manageable chunks. Fear not! Here's a handy guide to seating. Commit it to memory (or simply bookmark this page), for easy event planning.

Banquet-style seating

What it looks like: Rooms set up banquet-style typically use round tables that seat 8 people (60” rounds) or 10 people (72” rounds). (Occasionally, you will find banquet-style seating that uses square or rectangular tables instead.) The tables are then spaced evenly throughout the room.

When to use it: Banquet style seating is best for wedding receptions, award banquets, and other large events.

Theatre-style seating

What it looks like: Chairs are set up in straight lines and all face the front of the room. There are no tables or desks.

When to use it: Theatre-style seating is best for presentations or lectures that do not require participants to take notes. Theatre-style seating is also often used for graduations. The style is less for special events and more for meetings and conferences.

Schoolroom straight

What it looks like: Schoolroom straight seating uses tables and chairs set up in straight rows facing the front of the room.

When to use it: Schoolroom straight seating is best for presentations where participants will be taking notes. It’s also a good set up if your guests will be using a lot of table space; use this set up if you're coordinating a scrapbooking or bingo party.


What it looks like: People milling around with drinks and/or food. A few long tables are used to display food and there can be a bar present. Some smaller tables are provided for guests, and are usually of the high-top variety so that people can stand and chat. Chairs are placed along the edges of the room. An alternative to this setup is to use limited seating at standard-height tables.

When to use it: Reception-style rooms are set up to encourage the flow of traffic in a room so that guests can mingle. This is a great set up for networking events, cocktail parties, and other events where the focus of the party is on talking to other guests. It is also a good choice when hosting an outdoor party, since not much seating is required. Additionally, if you're hosting a wedding reception or networking event, reception-style setups are often less expensive than a full sit-down meal.

Other things to consider

When planning the seating for your party, keep in mind all the factors that will affect your room layout, such as the age of your guest (high-top tables may be hard for the very young or the very old, who are in greater need of seating), the actual shape of the room (Are there columns in the way? Are your seats facing a row of windows letting in blinding light?), and safety regulations (Can all guests access an exit? Are you complying with local fire codes?). In the end, choose the layout that will work best for you and your guests, and enjoy the festivities!

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