Seating a function can be the most tedious and frustrating aspect of the entire planning process. Invariably, no matter how far in advance you have planned, last-minute changes will still occur as guests are enjoying cocktails in the next room.
Every planner ultimately develops a system for assigning and rearranging seats. Regardless of how you match names with chairs, whether you are seating 1,000 people or 10 people, there are some unbendable rules to follow. The Who Sits Where diagram (below) as well as the Seating Arrangement Checklist
should be a helpful tool as you are planning your event.
Another key to a large event is to have a designated host at each table. This person can be an administrator, a faculty member, a development officer, or a volunteer, such as an alumni board member.
When you are entertaining foreign leaders, members of the diplomatic corps, members of Congress, state and local government officials, religious leaders, or members of the military, you must observe the rules of official protocol and seat guests according to their ranks. Stated in an oversimplified way, seating by precedence, gives the best places to those at the top of the organization’s hierarchy. The tricky part begins when you must mesh people from various organizations and determine who outranks whom. On campus, the ranking administrator is, of course, the president; next is the provost.
To obtain help in seating by rank, consult a comprehensive etiquette book such as Leticia Baldridge’s New Complete Guide to Executive Manners
, Protocol: the Complete Handbook of Diplomatic, Official, and Social Usuage by Mary Jane McCaffree and Pauline Innis or Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands by Terri Morrison and Wayne A. Conaway.