Mirror seating charts have been an increasingly popular service that I offer because of the high-end and luxurious look of a custom lettered mirror. It's the perfect piece at a wedding reception to honour each and every guest and acknowledge them by name. Being greeted by a huge piece of art makes a big impression and is the perfect opportunity for guests to take a selfie too!
Since I've been posting more about my process for making these, I've had such a huge influx of messages, so I thought I would post all of my answers to your questions here! Read on for my favourite tools, processes and other FAQ.
Tools for a Mirror Seating Chart
Before you dive into a mirror seating chart, gather all your tools so that they're close by. All calligraphers have different processes but here are my favourite tools for the job!
- Stabilo Aquarellable and Sharpener - a water soluble pencil. This magic tool marks on plastic, glass and metal. It's the perfect tool to create all your guidelines and sketch out headers for spacing because it's completely removable without leaving a trace. It can also be written on top of and doesn't affect the look of the final writing. Have a sharpener handy to keep the pencil sharp!
- Sharpie Oil Based Marker Fine Tip - an oil based paint pen. Available in extra fine, fine, medium and broad. Fine is my preferred size for large signs because you can get great details and is also good for faux calligraphy. It stays put on mirrors, glass and acrylic and doesn't scratch off as easily as water based markers. It's also completely removable with rubbing alcohol, so it's very forgiving to work with!
- Tape measure and Ruler(s) - you'll need to measure and divide the mirror. The tape measure is best to measure the full length of a large surface and the ruler works for smaller, detailed surfaces.
- Level - a good ol' fashioned level (not a laser level) is great for creating guidelines for a seating chart, because you're basically making a fully ruled surface so it's easy to write perfectly straight!
- Rubbing Alcohol and Paper Towels - dry or damp paper towels can easily clean off the Stabilo Aquarellable. When soaked in rubbing alcohol, great for removing mistakes done by the Sharpie Oil Based Marker.
- Calculator - you need math! Every wedding seating chart is an extremely custom job. The perfect scenario would be an even number of tables with 10 guests at each and names that are an even length. Totally not what the reality is! You'll have to count out names; tables and juggle how to format the tables for a symmetrical (or not) seating chart.
Styles and Etiquette for a Mirror Seating Chart
Seating charts can be formatted to list by table or alphabetically. When a guest list exceeds 20 tables, the alphabetical format is highly recommended so that guests can find their names more easily.
Should you include the head table and vendor tables? This is a matter of personal preference. I ask clients to provide those names because those extra tables can sometimes balance out a seating chart by tables that isn't dividing evenly.
When asking for a list of guest RSVPs, make sure that your client has double checked the spelling of every name and formatted the names to exactly how they want them to appear. Make sure that in your contract or invoice, it's clear that you are not liable for any mistakes from their provided documents. If they are unsure about how to format names, here are some typical structures:
(First Name) (Last Name)
(Title) (First Name) (Last Name)
Mr. Kanye West
Mrs. Kimberly Kardashian-West
(Last Name), (First Name) & (First Name)
West, Kanye & Kimberly
|(Last Name), (First Name), (First Name) & Family||
West, Kanye, Kimberly & Family
Measuring a Mirror Seating Chart
- When clients ask for a suggested size, a good rule of thumb is to aim for a square foot for every 20 names.
- Measure out the mirrored surface and remember to leave a bit of a margin so that you're not writing to the very edges. If you have 12 tables, it can easily be formatted to a 2x6 grid or a 3x4 grid. For 15 tables, it might be best to do 3x5 because two columns wouldn't divide evenly. I won't explain every use case scenario, but this part requires some basic problem solving.
- On average, I aim to have 1.5cm height per name and about 4cm per table header so that they're legible.
|Not looking to DIY? I'll do it for you!|
How to Make a Mirror Seating Chart
- List - get your guest RSVP list ready. Whether it's your own or you're getting it from a client, have it formatted for the style that you'll be creating the list in. Are you designing it alphabetical or by table? If you are centering the names, center them in the document too.
- Measure - measure the full width and height of the mirror so you have an estimate of how much space you have to work with. I usually draw a sketch on paper to estimate how much space should be left for a header and divide the remaining space for the guest names.
- Mark - use the Stabilo Aquarellable to make markings of your measured areas. Use the level to draw straight lines. Once you draw in every line, you can also draw rough guidelines for the header to make sure your spacing will be even.
- Write - use the Sharpie Oil Based Marker to begin creating the artwork.
- Clean - after the paint has dried (it dries pretty instantly but sometimes faux calligraphy spots take longer to dry because there's more paint there). Take a dry or very slightly damp paper towel to rub off the guidelines.
- Photograph - taking a photo of a mirror can be tricky. It's definitely a good surface for a selfie but if you want to document it for a portfolio, clean up your workspace and angle the mirror so that it reflects a blank wall. This removes distractions like a reflection of yourself or your furniture so that people can admire your artwork ✨
Erase - I always advise my clients to clean off dust and fingerprints with a dry cloth or paper towel. When they're done with it, they can erase the artwork completely by using rubbing alcohol and a flat blade to scrape off all the paint. If your clients want a keepsake, they can always leave the header on the mirror and erase the rest.
How do I measure for guidelines?
It's a mix of design sensibility and math. I really can't elaborate specifically because it's dependent on so many variables, like the mirror size, the number of names, the styles of the header, etc. It helps to have the RSVPs sent to you in an excel or google spreadsheet so you can divide the names into columns more easily. Some designers mock it up in Illustrator but I find that a spreadsheet gives me enough info. Good luck!
Is the paint permanent?
The Sharpie Oil Based Markers stay put on the mirror with regular use; which is why it works well with a dry or damp paper towel rubbing it. But when it's time to clean off the mirror completely, its' removable with rubbing alcohol and a flat blade to scrape it off. For this reason, it's a forgiving medium because you can wipe off mistakes during the process!
How do calligraphers price Mirror seating charts?
Most calligraphers charge a "setup fee" for all the measuring, math and setting up as a base cost. Then on top of that there is a fee per name. This usually does not include a mirror rental or delivery. Expect to pay a minimum of $200 for only services on any mirror seating chart.
Do you rent out mirrors?
Personally, I don't have the space to store rentals so I don't offer rentals. My clients provide me with surfaces they purchase or rent elsewhere. The artwork can be left on but is also removable if the mirror needs to be reused or sold.
Then where do I get mirrors for this?
I recommend my clients check out homesense/winners where they seem to consistently have a huge stock of large mirrors. My favourite are the ones around 5-6 feet tall. If you're looking to rent, there are many wedding rental companies with more ornate mirrors, but they do have more restrictive timelines.
Do you deliver or ship mirrors?
Again, speaking personally, I do not deliver or ship. I only work with local customers here in Toronto and we work out favourable drop-off and pick-up times for them. The week before any event is always hectic, so I do my best to have projects completed a couple weeks ahead. Shipping is out of the question simply because of scale and weight; plus mirrors are fragile!
How much time do you need?
Often people forget to consider how their guests will find their seats until they actually receive their RSVPs. This is usually too late to book a calligrapher that is in high demand. Like other wedding vendors, a calligrapher will need to be booked a few months in advance. I always suggest that a mirror and finalized RSVP list is submitted to me 4-6 weeks ahead of the wedding date. This is to ensure that I can complete it with ample time for pickup.
How come there isn't a volume discount?
A calligrapher is just a single person writing out every letter by hand. It's not the same as using a printer so there's no way the labour scales the same way. It's a lot of detailed and meticulous work!
Ready to Order a Mirror Seating Chart?
|If you're in Toronto or the GTA, get in touch with your wedding date and estimated guest list size!|