Quote: I don’t care where I sit, as long as I get fed. – Calvin Trillin
Who To Invite
“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.
Where To Start
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.
More Strategies Involving Seating Arrangements
I decided to weigh in on this with a few ideas of my own:
- Try to compose your guest list so it’s gender balanced. Having an equal number of men and women is not a strict rule. It’s more important for the conversations to be lively and to flow. As Amy Vanderbilt wrote, “It’s far better to have an extra man or woman than to ask someone on the dull side just to make the number even.”
- Never seat a couple next to each other, especially husbands and wives. This is the main rule involving seating arrangements. Also, romantically involved people may get too “into” each other, or bring their problems to your table. Seat them across from each other. One partner can support the other and also be available if one partner wants to bring the other into a conversation they’re having.
- According to Alice B. Toklas, Gertrude Stein would seat her artist friends so they would be facing their own creations. It was a guarantee at least the artists would enjoy the dinner. If an artist is on your guest list, keep this in mind.
- Seat people with common interests together. It should also stand to reason, if there are two guests who aren’t getting along, don’t seat them together.
- And the last piece of advice comes from George Carlin: “At a formal dinner party, the person nearest death should always be seated closest to the bathroom.”
To Use Place Cards Or Not To Use Place Cards
I personally think they should be used for any dinner party 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’s also a chance to get creative –
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).
Enjoy Your Own Dinner Party
“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.