“Dining partners, regardless of gender, social standing, or the years they’ve lived, should be chosen for their ability to eat – and drink! – with the right mixture of abandon and restraint. They should enjoy food and look upon its preparation and its degustation as one of the human arts.” ― M.F.K. Fisher
Deciding on a seating arrangement is one of the more important chores in preparing for your dinner party. A well thought out plan can enhance the gathering and prevent some pitfalls. And remember, a dinner party is as much about conversation as it is about dinner.
A good place to start is to read an article by Genevieve Roth in the magazine Real Simple. Click on “Dinner Party Strategies.” She will cover certain rules and give you lots of help in carrying out this important task. The article discusses certain personality types and how to place them around your table.
I decided to weigh in on this with a few ideas of my own and from others:
For dinner parties with eight or more guests, seat them at two tables with the host seated at one and the hostess at the other. If find yourself at a dinner party and the guests are seated at two tables, you will probably be subject to Alex Cornell’s observation: “No matter what you do, ironically, you’ll always end up at a table that you think’s going to be the good one – and, you know, when I say the good one, I mean the most interesting, maybe the most fun or – but you always end up at the table where the other one is. Rachel Martin called this the “Murphy’s Law of dinner parties.” For more on their conversation, see the NPR’s Weekend Edition on March 24th, 2013.
I personally think they should be used for any dinner party of over six people. Assigned seating takes the guesswork out of what can be a clumsy moment when you ask your guests to be seated. It also adds some formality to your dinner. It is also a chance to get creative –
But don’t overdo it.
Gifts or favors can also be part of each place setting. Gene Autry, when he would have a dinner party, oftentimes would include a copy of his Cowboy Code beside the place card (click on Gene Autry’s Cowboy Code).
“Your guests will take cues from you. If you’re laughing, talking to people, and having a good time, they will, too,” says Sue Fox, author of Etiquette for Dummies. I think this advice is golden.