Pie Are Square


    One of the most common questions I get asked is, “Can my guest count fit in this space”? Whether it’s a patio in someone’s home, or someone trying to figure out the right size tent for their event, it’s rare that the average client has a good sense of event spacing. Shoot, even some event professionals have limited knowledge when it comes to figuring this out! But you’re in luck! Today you’ll learn the general rules on figuring out proper spacing. Class, sharpen your No. 2’s.

    1. Round Tables: 10 square feet per person

    Here’s the math behind that space. First, you take the size of a table. For example, let’s say a 60″ round table, which measures 5′ in diameter. Then you have to assume that an average person sitting in a chair will take up approximately 1.5′ of space around the whole table. That essentially creates a circle 8′ in diameter. Finally, you will want at least 1′ behind each chair for simple walkway space. That creates a 10′ diameter circle. Mathamatically, the area of a circle is “pie are square” (pi x radius x radius), or in this case 3.14 x 5 x 5 = 78.5 square feet. Because 10 guests can fit on a 5′ round table, you get technically 7.85 square feet per person.

    Now, MOST Special Event professionals do not have a math degree. I know I CERTAINLY do not. So we tend to like to ballpark numbers. Roughly this, roughly that, so that we can get to reasonable accurate numbers pretty quickly. Therefore, instead of doing the whole area of a circle thing (difficult), we simply change the circle to a square. Why a square? Simply, because most of the rooms and tents that we work in ARE shaped roughly in squares or rectangles and in doing so, it gives us a bit of buffer room so we don’t pack the event space too tight. So instead of trying to figure out how many circles we can fit inside a rectangular space, we simply use squares.

    So, in the example above, a 5′ round with 1.5′ for guest seating plus 1′ for walkway space (on each side) is 5’+1.5’+1.5’+1’+1′. 10′. We simply say we need a 10’x10′ area, or… 100 square feet… or 10 square feet per person.

    2. Rectangle Tables: 10 square feet per person

    I can bore you with another long explanation on how a table measure 2.5′ x 8′ blah-blah-blah, or you can simply know that generally speaking, it’s also 10 square feet per table. The basic reason is that you need roughly 10′ x 7.5′ of space per table, which is of course 75 square feet of space. But that will only fit 8 guests comfortably at each table based on those measurements, giving you 9.375 square feet per person. Essentially 10 square feet.

    3. Rows of Seats: 8 square feet per person.

    Simply put, you are losing the tables in this equation. Technically, each seat takes up 2′ x 2′, plus another 2′ x 2′ worth of aisle space. Mathamatically, this can be easily computed by taking the area of the space you are trying to have your event in (say a 30×30′ tent) figuring out how many tables of 10 guests will fit in there (in this case, nine 5′ round tables, or 90 guests), then just multiply that number by 1.25. There you go. Number of guests if you just do rows.

    If you are quite the nerd (or just a punk), and want to see proof of how that works out mathematically, here’s the example spelled out a bit more in detail: A 30×30 tent would be nine 10×10 squares, or 9 round tables with 10 guests each. 90 people. Multiplied by 1.25 would be essentially 112 guests. If you tried to fit them on round tables, you’d come up with 11 rounds of 10 guests each (sorry Dick and Jane, we decided to de-invite you). That would be 1,100 squre feet of space. Now take away the tables only (because you’re just trying to fit chairs into the space, right? Just rows of chairs). Each 5′ round table has an area of 19.625 square feet. Taking away 11 round tables would essentially take away 216 square feet of space. 1,100 minus 216 equals… 884 square feet. Therefore, that’s 884 square feet in a 900 square foot, 30×30 tent. 110 chairs. Ok Dick and Jane, since each of your chairs only takes up 8 square feet, lucky you, I have 16 square feet left. You’re re-invited. 112 chairs. Done.

    So there you have it. Lots of mathematics for a relatively simple math formula. Figure out what kind of square your table with guest seating will take up, then figure out how many squares you can fit in a space. Or if you want to be technical, more precise, but a bit more risky with space, remember “pie are square”. Nerd.