Every host knows that the secret to a successful event is strategically fusing the energy of the guests. If it is a seated affair, it’s even more important that the mix around the table is fun, festive and even, educational, according to our entertaining expert, Jay Remer.
Enjoying the camaraderie of one’s friends and family around a dinner table is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Dinner parties serve many purposes, and their success hinges on the guests as much as anything. Once the cocktail hour has concluded, where people sit for dinner depends on the occasion. However, when the question arises, Where shall I sit? it is the host, through his or her seating acumen, who can make or break the brilliance of the party.
At a private home, club, or restaurant, the host can solve this seating puzzle ahead of time. After all, they’ve invited the guests and know best how they will interact. Planning where people will sit requires skill, which, if not learned during cotillion days, will come with experience. Place cards are always helpful. For a large dinner where multiple tables will be used, a dining chart placed strategically near the entrance to the dining room will allow guests to find their seats more efficiently. I find this useful as it also gives them a glimpse into whom their dinner partners will be. Once I know who I am sitting beside, I can focus on chatting with others during cocktails because there will be plenty of time to converse with my tablemates when seated.
Begin with the principle of alternating sexes around the table (woman/man/woman/man) when possible. With a single table, the host and co-host are seated opposite one another at the ends of the table. If there are unequal numbers of each sex, seating two of the same sex together is unavoidable and perfectly acceptable.
When more than one table is used, be sure there is a ‘host’ for each table whenever possible. This role includes the host, co-host, guests of honor, and family members. Avoid seating alpha personalities at the same table. In fact, I avoid inviting too many of these socially assertive guests to any party as they have a tendency to dominate events they attend, which can upend the most carefully planned party.