Unless you are only having 6 to 8 guests at your party and your table size is appropriate for
them to chat freely, your guests will most likely converse primarily with those seated beside them. When left up to them, they usually take a seat next to a friend or a significant other. The very best parties occur when we get out of our comfort zone and get acquainted with someone new. After all, countless romances and friendships have developed at dinner parties! By creating a seating arrangement, you’ll have more control over how the conversation flows.
A few rules to help facilitate the art of conversation:
Start With Yourself...
If there is a head seat at the table, you should assume this position. If you are hosting the party with someone else, the two of you should anchor the table at opposite ends. Not only because that's traditional, but also because you know all the guests and should be spread out in order to keep the conversation going. If there is no head or foot to the table, place yourself at a central position. If you will need to leave the table several times to cook and serve, take that into consideration and take a seat that allows for smooth exits. If there's a guest of honor, he or she should be seated next to one of the hosts.
It's not always necessary or possible to evenly integrate the sexes, but it is a good idea to avoid a cluster of men or women. Consider separating couples as it gently forces people to talk to someone new. It is a particularly good idea when you are mixing couples with single friends so the singles
do not feel like a third wheel. There are exceptions to the rule, though, and you'll have to judge for yourself when it is best to skip it. As in the case of good friend bringing her boyfriend who doesn't know anyone else and might be shy or even a couple who's been together forever but will be really annoyed to be separated, it just might not be worth the discomfort that is caused. Use your best judgement and knowledge of the individuals that will be attending.
Tables Versus Chairs...
When planning a large gathering like a wedding or bar mitzvah, I strongly suggest table
assignments. In this case, I don't think it's as necessary to tell them at what seat to sit, but at least
what table. Let them choose which seat and with whom they would enjoy socializing with during
dinner. When I find myself having difficulty convincing my client it would be best to have table
assignments, I try to remind them of the dozens of chairs at their beautifully designed tablescapes
that will end up saved by frantic guests afraid they won't have a seat by tilting their chair onto the
table as if to say “I'm taken.” I remind my client not only is it unsightly, it's not safe when
hundreds of guests and sta are trying to snake through the tables. That picture in their mind
usually convinces them that table assignments are a good idea.
How to Let Guests Know Where to Sit...
If you decide to use a specific seating arrangement, think of it as another opportunity for decorating the table. Pretty cards with your guest’s names written in your best hand are always lovely. A at card can be propped up between the tines of a dessert fork.
For a summer time party at a beach house, or simply because you feel like serving clam chowder, write each guest's name on a shell or stone using a permanent marker. Seasonal fruit makes a great place card. Buy gift tags, or make them by punching holes in them and running a ribbon through, and hang them on the stems of pears or apples. Name cards can also be incorporated into something edible such as chocolates in a pouch or small box presented as a favor to take home. You needn't be exceedingly crafty to put together something cute, just keep an open mind and look for opportunities for personalizing the table.