Before you can finalize centerpieces and decor to fit your wedding-reception theme, you need a table count, which depends on the space layout and any designated activities such as dancing. Preparing a wedding floor plan lets you determine the ideal placement of tables and event areas to ensure guests enjoy themselves.
A drawing of the room shell with doorways, windows, columns and other architectural features indicated serves as the base of a wedding floor plan. The site manager or event coordinator may provide one; if not, you can draw your own on a computer or graph paper. An easy scale is to consider each square on the graph paper as 1 square foot of space. Note the location of bathrooms, emergency exits and any room characteristics that could hinder guest movement. A sketch for an outdoor reception might include trees, walkways and fountains.
The seating arrangement centers around activity stations, or focal points. For example, you may prefer to sit with your bridal party at a head table instead of at a sweetheart table. Other focal points to consider include a wedding-cake table, dessert station, gift table, bar or photo booth. The size of the dance floor and your band or DJ's space and electrical requirements affect the floor plan as does accommodating guest-book signing and seating-card pick-up. Your caterer or event coordinator can advise how many tables to allow for the buffet stations. Once you have a list of focal-point requirements, make scaled-to-size templates using another piece of graph paper. Draw a square for the dance floor plus different sizes and shapes of tables.
According to the book "Wedding Plans, Wedding Crafts," keeping several key measurements in mind ensures guest comfort. Allow 24 inches of space behind chairs for room to move, which means you may need to place tables 5 feet apart. When deciding whether to seat six or eight at a table, remember the average place setting requires a space that is 24 inches wide and 18 inches deep. You may mix large round tables with smaller ones, different sizes of banquet and square tables, or combine squares with rounds as long as the end result suits the space.
Arrange focal points and guest tables on your sketch. You may need several attempts to get the right combination that lets guests find their seats and move easily throughout the room without creating bottlenecks. Double check for tables too close to the music before finalizing your layout. Review the plan with the venue staff or owner then begin seat assignments. In addition to relatives who don't get along and single friends, your seating plan should accommodate guests with physical challenges or special needs who may want easy access to the bathrooms, or guests with children who may prefer being seated near the exit.