L is for Layout!
Designing the layout (floor plan) always takes couples more time than they think it will. Right after creating your guest list, the seating chart is the most complicated task you’ll do. And making the floor plan in general can be frustrating if you don’t know where to start. Where do you start, you ask?! Well let’s dive in!
Ask your planner for sample floor plans that have been utilized in the past (no planner? Ask your venue rep or the rental company). This gives you a good jumping off point so you can either use one exactly, or suggest some edits/tweaks to change. If you really don’t like any of those options, ask for a blank floor plan and print it. Yea, we said it - actually print it. Then get yourself a trusty no. 2 pencil and sketch it out making it as close to scale as possible. Once you’re happy with it, send it back to your planner (or venue/rental co.) and they can render a digital version for you. Ideally we’ll have this done about a month out. Then the daunting process of grouping your friends and family at different tables begins. We need the final seating chart about a week out so we can adjust chair counts.
If you’re having the ceremony and reception in the same space and flipping it during cocktails, keep in mind that some components can’t change (read: DJ/band setup, backdrops, and gift table). These need to be in the same spot for both your ceremony and reception layouts. Usually you can accomplish this by having the dance floor somewhat near where your center aisle was. This puts the DJ or band in perfect position to see the processional and dance floor. Also do your guests a favor and put your gift table en route from where they park to where they sit. This will create a natural spot for them to drop the gift and not accidentally take it to the ceremony as their plus one.
If you’re not doing a flip, but the reception space is still being set during the cocktail hour, don’t forget to have two bars, one at the cocktail hour and one at the reception space. You don’t want guests to be going to the reception space for drinks while catering is presetting salads and waters.