Party overflow strategies

Party Overflow: Adapt, Accommodate and Be Merry

You’ve planned it all out: It’s the largest fundraiser event of the year, and it’s sold out. The ballroom is at capacity.

Suddenly, you have an extra 50 or more guests on the list. They must be accommodated – you can’t turn away solid givers or guests of those elite.

What to do with the party overflow?

Deep breath: It happens. This is the world of special event fundraisers. Despite your best planning and guest list projections, there will always be surprises.

Years ago, I was in these very weeds. We were hosting a huge event at The Breakers in Palm Beach. The ballroom was maxed out at 500 guests. There were at least 50 more to accommodate.

We came up with two solutions:

One additional person at every table. Each table now had 11 seats instead of 10, and allowed for the strategic placement of single guests.

Use 60-inch round tables instead of 72-inch round tables.  The extra floor space created more room for additional tables.

Both of the “solutions” did require us to give up the wide, more comfortable chairs with arm rests. However, no one really noticed the chair selection and everyone was happily accommodated.

Now, if the above options do not work for you, there’s a third option: You can spill over into additional adjoining ballroom space. Most ballrooms are equipped with smaller connecting rooms generally used for cocktail hour, or pre-event gatherings.

If this approach is used, those seated in the next room might feel slighted. Find a few of your more notable guests and enlist them to sit with those guests as part of a fun twist on the event. If more laughs are had in the adjoining room, no one will care where they are seated. Also, ensure the event chair and committee members circulate to the least desirable tables as a goodwill gesture.

Everyone loves a prime table, but that is not a reality at most gatherings. Having the event committee seated throughout helps quell any hurt feelings over seating.

Unhappy guests will always make their feelings known to the paid staff, but rarely raise their voice to a gala chair. Allow the gala chair to help run interference when possible.

The occasional tongue-in-cheek comment from the stage about seating helps, too.