This post was written exclusively for etouches by Claire Harrington, public relations manager of Social Tables.
Remember the anxiety you felt in middle school when it came time for lunch and you had to figure out where you were going to eat? I don’t know about you, but the fear of sitting by myself drove me to the verge of a panic attack each day before the clock struck 11:30 a.m. I may or may not have nonchalantly meandered towards the door each day, feigning use of the trash can (this after crumpling up a perfectly good sheet of lined paper), so that when the lunch bell rang I could sprint down the hallway, gunning for both a frito pie and a seat next to a “cool” classmate.
Now, fast forward to the last wedding you attended solo. The anxiety was back in full force, (though slightly alleviated by that glass of wine). Who were you going to get stuck next to? The overserved bridesmaid? Your childhood friend who won’t stop stalking you on LinkedIn? The guy in the powder blue tux?
Seating is a nightmare, both for the attendee and the planner. It’s the cause for many a bride’s meltdown, and the reason why table seating software companies such as Social Tables are taking the event world by storm. Let’s take a look at the past and the present of table seating diagramming:
Assigned Seating: Gone are the days of the poorly cut Post-It notes. With today’s technology, you are now able to upload your guest list into an application, select an individual, and drag and drop them into a preset seat. Need to save time? In one click, you can seat an entire table by pre-grouping the names.
Let’s say Aunt Marge, Uncle Bill, Farmer Joe McDonald, Stacy McDonald and Joe McDonald, Jr. and are sitting together. Simply grab any one of them from the list, and drag their name into a seat. Automatically, the rest of that group is also dropped.
Did the McDonald’s have a falling out with Uncle Bill and Aunt Marge? Easy switch – ungroup Uncle Bill and Aunt Marge from the rest, and drag and drop Farmer Joe’s name to a new table. The kids come with, and the divisive duo stay put.
Last Minute Guests: No longer is a last minute addition to your table seating cause for hysteria. Let’s set the scene: Your single friend Lisa calls 17 hours before your wedding to tell you she’s bringing her fourth boyfriend in as many weeks and needs a +1.
Instead of yelling at her for being inconsiderate (or heading to Facebook and playing the ultimate kill card: DEFRIENDING), you can now easily pop into the auto-seat section of a table seating software app, immediately identify where the open seats are, and drop she and “Mr. Perfect” in. Now, just demand he brings a substantial gift with him (in the form of a $250 check).
Guest Profile Details: Remember when the idea of a perfectly detailed seating chart was a thing a mere fantasy? Drumroll, please…welcome to the 21st Century, where you can tag each attendee with an appropriate guest profile.
Let’s start with the basic tags to deploy: Salutation. Table number. Entree preference. Food allergy. Job Title. Attendance purpose (alumni, sponsor, student, etc.)
Let’s take it up a notch: Social profile sourced-picture. Warnings to staff (I.E. “If Grandma Winnie’s wine glass is ever empty, she will make you regret the day you were born”). Marital status. Ability to be annoying on a scale of 1-10.
Adding content to their name helps service staff properly handle your guests. For example, when you hover over an attendees seat in Social Tables, a small box automatically appears that shows all of the tags you added for that attendee. No more asking (or worse, guessing) who gets beef and who get chicken.
Social Engagement: If you don’t care to deal with assigned seating, you’ll embrace the idea of social seating.How about a crowdsourced table? Wild child Aunt Betty and your never-married Uncle Lou hit it off when they were serendipitously seated next to each other at your ceremony. Why fight fate when you could let them find their names on a screen before entering your reception, and drag and drop their names into open seats? Talk about zero stress for the planner.
Note: This isn’t a good option for the “grown up” version of my middle school self. Unless I stalked the cute boy I saw in the front row then immediately slid my face into the seat next to him before his date could get her name there….
Spatial Planning: Seating doesn’t end when a person is assigned to a table. You also have to consider comfort. Think Goldilocks. The details have to be just right. New table seating software companies allow you to add:
Gridlines – Helpful to avoid breaking fire & safety code rules (you do NOT want to do that).
Dimension Lines – Want to make sure there is exactly 6 feet between the bar and the buffet? Grab a dimension line and extend it until you hit your desired length.
Service Perimeter – The CMP service perimeter standards are strict. Why waste time with a mathematical compass when you could click one button and have the perimeter automatically populate?
If table seating software had been available in 1999, I could have saved myself the pain of being seen as unpopular. True, it wouldn’t have actually elevated my social status to the level of popular, but at least I could have strategically positioned myself to sit next to the popular girls with their Lisa Frank binders and their tattoo choker necklaces…I digress.
If table seating software had been available earlier, no one would be stuck sitting next to a loathed acquaintance at a dinner. Everyone could choose to sit with their friends (or the cute guy they they were all-too conspicuously eyeing).
If table seating software had been available earlier, there would be significantly fewer fire code violations, which means fewer fines, which means more money to spend on events.
Really what I’m saying is that had table seating software been available earlier, the world would be a better, happier, safer place.
Written by: Claire Harrington