As we approach the holidays, many hosts are faced with the delicate dance and duty of orchestrating the seating arrangements. Some approach this with the fine precision of a surgeon (leaving nothing to chance), and others have a much more relaxed attitude, assuming all will work itself out organically. It depends largely on the guest list.
Unlike most dinner party situation where the guest list is carefully created by the host, a holiday party may be comprised of mostly family members–some of whom we feel obligated to extend an invitation. Designating just the right spot at the table for certain individuals may be just as crucial as the actual meal that is served. After all, the primary purpose of coming together on such occasions is to hopefully enjoy the company of others while engaging in interesting conversation over a good meal. The successful marriage of these elements ensures that everyone included leaves with a warm, fuzzy feeling inside and looks forward to getting together again the following year.
Here are some guidelines to make sure your table will be pleasant and fun for all:
The Balancing Act
When planning the seating, it is wise to consider balance first. Sit great conversationalists with good listeners, gregarious personalities amongst more quiet types, and the highly dramatic with the harmonious. Avoid sitting known rivals, or those with a strong difference of opinion, anywhere near one another. The same rule applies to ex-spouses and ex-business partners, unless you have confirmed a complete reconciliation.
Honored Guests, Grumpy Guests & Elders
The first to be seated are the honored guests or elderly guests which are always placed to the immediate right of the host and hostess. Anyone considered crotchety or difficult should be placed to the host or hostess’ immediate left to receive additional handholding and care.
As much as women love to chat amongst themselves, it is suggested that formal dinner parties alternate men and women alike.
Split Two of a Kind
Married couples should be separated to encourage conversation with others, as well as to dissuade public displays of affection or arguments that may have arisen previously. Best friends should also be separated to encourage them to make new connections.
Loud Mouths & Quiet Types
Those with the biggest personalities should be placed at the ends of the table and on opposite sides. Introverts should be seated towards the center of the table where they are sure to be included in the conversation. If there is more than one table, scatter the two groups of people among each so that every table is considered a great one.
Be a Connector & a Matchmaker
The main duty of the hostess is to use her female intuition and sound judgment to connect her guests. If an entrepreneurial guest has a terrific idea for a new App, seat them next to another guest who is in venture capital in Silicon Valley. A guest with a wonderful family recipe in need of a kitchen should be seated next to a guest who happens to distribute kitchen equipment for restaurants. Singles always appreciate a friendly matchmaker who knows exactly what each party is looking for in a lifelong mate and has the perfect person to suggest.
Host & Hostess
The host and hostess are always positioned at the head and the foot of the table and are typically seated in the more comfortable chairs to provide a more majestic appearance. The hostess is always closest to the kitchen to avoid as little disruption to the table as possible.
Very young children who need special attention should be seated beside their mothers at the table. Older children desire to be seated near their peers and preferably at their own table. This is often suggested since children tend to dine more quickly and wish to be excused well before their parents conclude their conversation or their meal.