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10 easy tips for seating guests at a dinner party

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Are you reluctant to hold a dinner party, whether formal or very casual? Don’t be reluctant — here’s a few simple tips for seating guests that will help you as a host/hostess and will also have your guests feeling relaxed and welcome. I love dinner parties because it’s a great way to get to know acquaintances better and to form new and interesting relationships.

Don’t let the photos of the 50th anniversary dinner party table setting scare you away either. The place settings may have been a tad more formal because of the occasion but the entire evening and seating arrangement was definitely relaxed and easy going. So whether you already have a dining table or if you need to set out a card table or two (or borrow them) to seat your guests, pick out the suggestion or suggestions that will help you with your next dinner party. The key is to bury the stress and amp up the good times.

  • First I decide where I am going to sit (usually at one end of the table, so that I can easily slip into the kitchen).
  • I seat two people on either side of me who I’m fairly confident can carry on a conversation together (since I will be up and down a bit they can carry on uninterrupted).
  • Host and hostess always sit apart, usually at opposite ends of the table to ensure guests are looked after.
  • I seldom worry about alternating men and women, though I do tend to break couples up, simply to mix things up.
  • Avoid seating good friends together; that way new connections are made and everyone feels included.
  • Whenever possible, I try to seat people with similar interests (bridge, biking, music, art, business, hobbies, etc.) either across from or next to one another.
  • People who would fall into the “silent type” may benefit by being seated between two talkers.
  • Be prepared with a few conversation starters in case there is a lull in the chat. Utilize your knowledge of your guests for this one. For example, “Darla, did you know that Gerry is also taking painting lessons?” or, {for example} “The person to your left volunteered for ______ with me. Ask her to tell you a story about how we _________.”
  • I often use place cards so there is no confusion when everyone is asked to come to the table for dinner. I usually keep it informal, however, by how the table is set and sometimes by having a meaningful quote on the reverse of the place card — this also gets people sharing their quotes, thus prompting further conversation and makes each person feel comfortable.
  • If one of your dinner guests happens to have beautiful handwriting or perhaps an artistic way, ask your friend to make the place cards (always done in advance, of course). When everyone is at the table, casually let everyone know who made the beautiful cards — again, another point of conversation can spring from showcasing the talent or gifts of your guests.

setting table for dinner party www.dianeschuller.com

Of course, it goes without saying, if you’re having two or three couples over who all know one another really well, place cards certainly aren’t necessary. Let people sit where they may. You can simply suggest that a certain place might be best to leave open for you since you’ll be up and down during the meal.

Cool eh? Easy peasy, really. Just invite some friends over and have a really great time.

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dinahmow - November 15, 2015 - 11:20 am

I’m afraid meals Chez Dinahmow must, of necessity, be casual-cafe style.We don’t have the space for 10 seater table!Come to think of it, my cutlery and crockery is now a very mixed bag!
But I could do jolly conversations and good food. Oh, excuse -don’t sit there, a cat has been on that cushion-here, this one is fur-free!

Diane - November 15, 2015 - 12:04 pm

Diane, so cute about the cats — we used to do that too! (The photos shown were for a formal 50th anniversary dinner!)
A person can simply have two couples over and set up a card table — I think it’s more a matter of having people over, enjoying good conversation over a simple meal, and making due with what a person has. I’ve been to many a home where a card table served as the dining table and to friends who simply pulled out the collapsible TV tables for each of us. Whatever works!

Candace - November 29, 2015 - 6:16 pm

You have so many talents and interests, it’s amazing.