At any dinner party or organized meal out, guests inevitably ask, “Where should we sit?”
It's a good question.
Today, the rules for arranging guests around the table are much more relaxed than in years past. For example, in generations past, seating was decided with more of a cookie-cutter protocol (think Emily Post) and had little to no regard for anything beyond tired convention. Guests were clumped together by title and status rather than personality, and manners came before circumstances. But while things have come a long way since then, there still remain some basic rules.
When hosting a dinner party, just as the menu is planned in advance, it is key to pay attention to guest seating and placement. While this can be a daunting task at best, particularly in the case of larger-sized parties, a seating chart can help to demystify the process by offering a literal black-and-white preview on paper, thus allowing you to visualize your plan. Also, should you have a change in invitees (cancellations, additions), a change can likewise be made to seating, long before the actual dinner itself.
At home, the seating should be decided by the host or hostess ahead of time; after all, they’ve done the inviting and should know best how their guests will likely interact. If a group is gathering at a restaurant without a host, many of the same seating principles apply and are typically sorted out just before everyone is about to be seated.
Hosting a dinner party at home? Your goal should be to ensure that everyone is comfortable and having a great time, while at the same time, avoiding having your guests form small cliques. The same is true for weddings. Remember, a successful party is as much about lively conversation and laughter as it is about the food, and while the thought of seating arrangements may seem stuffy and outdated, providing a well thought out seating plan avoids awkwardness as your guests prepare to dine and can make conversation flow smoothly.