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How Much Space Between Rows Of Chairs?

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Picture this: you are in charge of setting up a large number of chairs for an event, and you are struggling to decide on the layout. You don't want people to sit so close together that they are crammed in. However, you do want to make as much seating available as you can. Whether you're setting up for a temporary event or a more permanent seating arrangement such as a weekly church service, you may wonder how much space you need between rows of chairs. Fortunately, you've come to the right place. We have researched the topic in detail and have an answer for you. 

Rows of chairs should have at least 2 inches on either side and a gap of at least 18 inches between the back and front of the chair. This allows enough space for someone to sit comfortably. If you suspect people will need to walk up and down the rows while people are seated, you may need a bigger distance. 

Now you have a general idea of how you should set up your seating arrangement, but keep reading as we delve into this further. We'll discuss when you might need more or less space between chairs. We'll also answer some other questions you might have about setting up rows of chairs including at a wedding or at church. Let's begin.

Empty seat row set up for event meeting, How Much Space Between Rows Of Chairs?

Spacing Between Rows of Chairs

Regardless of the event that you are setting up chairs for, you want to make sure your guests are comfortable while they are seated.

Empty chairs lined up for seminar

If a guest is on the taller side, you need to make sure there's enough room for them to sit down and not have their knees touch the chair in front. This also applies to the space between the sides of each chair as well. People do not want to feel like they are sitting on each other's lap while they watch the event. 

Ample Space

For certain events, namely those that require an RSVP, you likely know exactly how many people to expect. In cases like these, you have more freedom with the amount of space you have between rows of chairs.

For example, if you have a room that can comfortably seat over 100 people but you know only 50 will be attending, you have more leeway with how much room you can leave between the chairs. 

Limited Space

White chairs on sandy ground lined up for a presentation

If you have no idea how many people will be coming to the event and you want to maximize the number of chairs you can fit in the room, it's a good idea to follow the general spacing measurements we provided earlier. 

If you know that there will not be a lot of movement during the event and people will likely remain seated, you should space rows of chairs with 18 inches between the front of the chair and the back of the chair in front.

This spacing will allow people to sidestep down the rows to find a seat. Consider upping the space to 20 inches or more if you'd like people to be able to walk normally down the rows. As for the distance between chairs beside each other, many standard chairs will connect to each other.

However, if you have chairs that do not, it can be a good idea to leave 2 inches beside the chairs. This gives your guests plenty of elbow and lap room. 

How Much Space Do Chairs Take Up?

The amount of space a chair takes up largely depends on the type of chair and its purpose.

For example, a standard dining chair is approximate 18 inches wide and 18 inches deep which is great to know if you're arranging a dining room. Church chairs can be as narrow as 18 inches as well but can also be as wide as 22 inches.

Banquet chairs, which are commonly used at events, can be as narrow as 17.5 inches wide and 17.5 inches deep with a seating area of only 15.5 inches by 15.5 inches. If you're planning on renting chairs, don't be afraid to ask the company for the dimensions of the chairs they offer so you can have a better idea of what to expect.

Dining Chairs

Dining room interior of home with tableware set on the table for four persons

The amount of space needed for a chair also depends on whether the chair will need room to move—for example, if the chair is at a table and will need space to be pulled in and out or if there needs to be room for a server to maneuver around.

In these instances, you should have at least 44 inches of room behind the chair to accommodate a server and diner. If a server will not need to walk behind the diners, a minimum of 42 inches should be between the back of the chair and another chair or wall. This will leave 6 inches of space between the two seated diners. 

How Far Apart Should Chairs Be In Church?

Scene inside the bright church

Before you decide on how far apart the chairs should be in your church, it's important to think about the service. Are there a lot of songs during service or moments where everyone will need to stand?

Is there a lot of movement? Will there be times when people will need to be able to exit and enter their seats multiple times? If you answered yes to any of those questions, you may need to allow more space between the rows of chairs. 

Church pews are typically spaced 36 inches apart, but if you'd like people to comfortably move up and down the rows, even while others are seated, you can increase the space up to 40 inches.

Of course, you can space the chairs or pews farther than this, but then you may face the issue of not having enough seating to accommodate your congregation. 

For a more visual explanation, take a look at this helpful YouTube video:

The standard church chair is 20 inches wide. Depending on the style and design of the church chair, a church chair can range between 18.5 inches wide to 22 inches wide. Most churches opt for a 20-inch chair to offer a size that is both comfortable and also maximizes seating capacity. 

Click here to see a 20-inch church chair on Amazon.

How Do You Calculate Church Seating Capacity?

In order to calculate church seating capacity, you need to know the square footage of the seating area. The international building codes state a minimum of 7 square feet is required for people to sit, but this is the bare minimum required and doesn't necessarily offer enough space for people to sit comfortably.

To calculate the seating capacity, you just need to divide the total seating area by 7 (or more if you want your congregation to be more comfortable). 

For example, if you have 800 square feet of space for your seating area, you could seat 114 people if allowing them 7 square feet each. 

The number of rows of chairs you need for a wedding depends on the number of your guests and the size of the event space. You should have an even number of chairs in each row and always have extra chairs in case your guest number increases or guests leave a chair between families.

Church decorated with flower bouquets during the Wedding ceremony

If you're renting a venue, you can ask how many chairs they typically put in a row and then calculate how many rows you will need to accommodate your guests. 

A standard setup is 8 chairs on either side of the aisle, so 16 chairs per row. If you have 100 guests, you would need at least 7 rows, for example.

Keep in mind that most wedding parties reserve the first 3 or 4 rows for immediate family. So if you have a large family that would like to sit together, it might be a good idea to add a few more rows in the back for other guests. 

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, by now, you have a better idea of how you should space rows of chairs. If in doubt, stick to the standard 18 inches of walk space and 2 inches beside each chair.

Remember this is the bare minimum amount of space you should have between chairs, so if you know you have a large space and few guests, adding more space between rows will allow them to sit even more comfortably. Happy planning!

For more reading on the topic of chair placements, check out some of our other blog posts here:

Where To Place A Chair In A Bedroom [6 Amazing Options]

How Many Chairs Fit Around A 72-Inch Rectangular Table?