Posted by: A Part of the Solution | September 18, 2011

How Much Space Do I Need for My Event?

You’re throwing a bash, a shindig, a get-together. You’re having a wedding, a graduation party, a bat mitzvah. You’re pitching a system, a religion, a connection. In other words, you need to know how many people fit into the space/s you have in mind while still accommodating the activities you have planned.

First things first: pay no attention to the Fire Marshall’s certification. The ‘number of persons who may legally occupy the premises’ doesn’t consider tables, chairs, dance floors, podiums and stages, aisles or anything else. That number is good only if you want a mosh pit which stretches through the full space in question.

Instead, consider that you will need a 10′ X 10′ area for every eight people you wish to seat. That’s in rows or at round tables. An aisle space is necessarily a minimum of 5′ (cramped and cozy) to a generous 10′. You want a 10′ block for every 8′ bar space (and you need 8′ of bar and a bartender for every 75 guests or fraction thereof). You need at least two such blocks for a dance floor–and another one for the actual band (2 if they’re more than a four-piece). You want a 10′ block for every buffet or service table (name card table, gift table, brochure table, coat check table, registration table &tc) in the space you’re using.

Don’t imagine you’ll get ahead by skimping on these dimensions and calculations. Buffet service tables need room for the servers to work one side of it, guests to pass in front of it, and enough additional space so that your guests with full plates have a means of leaving the serving area with their dinners/desserts/Venetian breakfasts intact.

The same thing goes for those round tables. A 5′ round does not seat 10 people if you wish them to eat: 18″ isn’t enough room to work your plate without jostling the elbows of the over-dressed diners on either side of you. Go ahead and measure those inches on a table top for yourself. Lay a plate, napkin, utensils and a glass or two there. If all your attendees are a size 2 or smaller, it might work–otherwise 8 people is a reasonable assignment.

When you lay out the floor plan, you will need to keep fire exits clear. You may not go sticking folks at a table just there. Ditto the above for ingress to bathrooms. Or the kitchen (if your event involves eating). I only mention these examples because I have talked many a Bridezilla/anxious mother/harried assistant down from her disregard for these simple rules of health and safety.

When laying out chairs in rows, please do remember to leave enough space in front of each row for attendees to find their seats, shift their outdoor gear, and allow latecomers to pass. Two-and-a-half feet is good. Two feet just doable. Less puts you back in the hosting-future-supermodels zone. See paragraph three for information about aisle space (ideally the rows ‘float’ and you have side aisles as well as a center aisle).

Here’s the good news. Places renting out spaces have diagrams they can send you with exact dimensions available. You can quickly estimate whether or not your event is the right size for any given space using the formulas above. Once you’ve eliminated the candidates that absolutely won’t work, you have a shorter list of probables to cull. What a time saver!

Reminder:You don’t want too much room for your event either. If you only have forty-two guests, you don’t need a grand hotel ballroom unless you’re all professional ballroom dancers. Too much space prevents your event from having a warm focus and building its vibe.


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