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Seating for a Dinner Party

When hosting a dinner party, where you place your guests around the table is a crucial element for the success of your event. You presumably put thought into who you invited to the gathering. Do not stop there. The placement of each person around the table is something that should not be thrown together at the last minute.

Depending if your dinner is formal or casual, there are two ways to seat guests. Put another way, ask yourself if your dinner is one that will follow official protocol, or one that is geared more toward matching people with similar interests. The most common approach, and often the most enjoyable for guests, is to match people based on personality and common connections, regardless of protocol.

Things to consider with your seating assignments:

1. Separate couples: When two people know each other well, it is easy for them to slip into their comfortable rolls of just talking to each other, especially if one or both tend to be shy around strangers. You want to avoid making it easy for a couple to disengage from the group.

2. Alternate male and female: Why is this important? When women are grouped together at one end and men at the other, the instinct is to only talk to those people, thus ignoring the opposite end of the table. To have a table that is fully engaged, it is best to alternate.

3. Match personalities: Think about your guests and how they interact with others. Do you have two people attending your dinner that are more reserved? If so, you do not want to seat them together. Do you have several talkative guests that love to attend parties? If so, spreading them among the others ensures there will be lively interaction as they will help carry the conversation in their section of the dining table.

4. Match interests: If you know two individuals just returned from a fabulous trip to New Zealand, it might make sense to seat them together. They could spend the entire dinner talking about their shared experiences. What about business interests? If several of your guests work in real estate, they will enjoy having this common topic to discuss throughout the meal.

5. Separate potential problems: If you have two guests attending you know do not get along, put them on opposite ends of the table.

6. One table or two? I prefer smaller dinner parties with 12 or less people. If possible, keep everyone at the same table. The synergies of conversation are always much livelier, and there are more people for your guests to converse with. This also helps avoid those awkward silent moments that occur more readily when guests are in smaller groups. For a large party more tables are sometimes necessary. Just remember that a smaller table of people that do not know each other means your ability to match your guests appropriately becomes that much more important.

7. Hostess: As the hostess at the table, it is your job to instigate the conversation. If I see two guests sitting quietly, I might say to them, “Suzy, Debbie and her family just moved to the neighborhood, and her children will be entering our local elementary school where your children attend. Do you have any tips for her that might help the transition go more smoothly?” The responsibility of the hostess to help with conversation is another reason I prefer not to separate my guests into different tables, because that means there is no hostess present to steer the dialogue. If I do have more than one table, I will choose one guest I know well to serve as the hostess for that table. My other guests never know this, but I rest comfortably knowing my chosen helper will ensure a quality time for the other people.

8. A hostess needs easy access to the kitchen. Your goal is to be able to quietly slip in and out of your chair without causing a stir. If your table is a rectangle, you will sit at the end closest to the kitchen. If it is a round table, pick whatever chair is closest.

9. Table size: If you have a choice, round tables work best for overall conversation, but all shapes will work. I have a round table in my kitchen that can seat 8 and a rectangular table in my dining room that can seat 12. Tip: My dining room is shaped to only accommodate a rectangular table. To give it a round table feel, I had a new top made that is wide enough I can put two people on either end, as opposed to a traditional table where there is only room for one at each end. This helps with conversation flow at both ends of the table as though everyone was perched around a circular table.

Together with you,

Lisa Lou

1 comentario

What is correct seating etiquette with a table that has two heads and two foots, like the one you had made for your dinning room? We are having Thanksgiving with my husband and I hosting and no one else is married that is attending. My widowed mother, unmarried sister, 3 teenagers (two girls and my 17 year old son) and 1 young adult bring her boyfriend (first time we are meeting him, they are both 20). I cannot locate anything dictating who sits in the other head / foot chairs.

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