The idea of assigned seating may seem stiff and formal, but it is actually an effective way to put dinner guests at ease. Pre-designated seating minimizes the awkwardness that comes with first-time meetings. This is true for a room full of strangers or when you’re introducing new friends to a particular group.
Nobody wants to elbow or trip over a person she just met, so let’s start with some dining room logistics.
One of the most considerate things you can do for the lefties in your life is provide them with elbow room at the dinner table. Give left-handed eaters an end seat where they will be free to eat without engaging their right-handed neighbor in a duel of elbows.
Speaking of elbow room, go ahead and give the gift of space to all your guests. Your dining table might claim to seat 12, but it doesn’t claim to do so comfortably. The standard amount of space recommended between chairs is 24 inches. I say 24 inches per side is the minimum amount needed to allow each diner room to maneuver while seated as well as adequate space to get in and out of his seat.
Your priorities when assigning seats should be ordered as follows: hostess (that’s you), the guest of honor, everyone else.
This is perhaps the only time you’ll be encouraged to think of yourself first when party planning, but it is important for you to secure the seat that will best allow you to be a good hostess: the spot with the best access to the kitchen and/or beverage station. The guest of honor gets prime real estate at the table, be it the spot with the best view or the one situated between your two most congenial guests.
Your other guests might be your third priority, but don’t think that means you can plunk their name cards onto the table willy nilly. You need a few guidelines. First, don’t sit couples together. They talk to each other all the time; a party is the time to talk to other people. Second, arrange guests around the table based on their commonalities.
Plum Deluxe creator Andy Hayes invites his guests to figure out the reason he chose to seat them next to the persons nearest them. A love of music? Compatible astrological signs? Thrift store treasure hunters? Even if he appointed seats based on a hunch, Andy’s guests always come up with some link and are grateful he saw fit to introduce them.
It really is amazing the amount of stress that can be avoided by writing a few names on pretty pieces of cardstock. So brush up on your calligraphy, get in touch with your inner debutante, and assign away.
Photo credits: Fokuscreative0, vivienviv0, and Eliens.