Figuring Out the Seating Arrangement

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Yesterday, Adrienne rounded up some fun and fresh place card holders. But, before you can set up the place card holders, you’ve got to figure out where your guests are going to sit. Here are some basic guidelines for creating a lively table.

  • Look for connections between guests: They both work in film; they’re both passionate vegetarians; one has an amazing new product, the other’s a consummate salesman; they both graduated from the same college — though years apart. This is when your intimate knowledge of the guests comes in handy.
  • Although it’s common to alternate guests by gender, it’s not mandatory.
  • Guests of honor, if there are any, should be seated by the host or hostess who can make sure that they are comfortable.
  • Try spreading people out so that everyone’s near someone they don’t know. As people are getting seated, you can move around the table, introducing people with little tidbits to get the conversation rolling. (Laure, this is Nina, Nina is a great baker, if anyone can solve the mystery of your falling buttercream, she can. Alice, Laure has spent a lot of time in France, I bet she can give you pointers on that trip you’re thinking of taking)
  • Start with a conversational tidbit: Some people like to get the ball rolling with something that lets them talk about someone they both have in common, the host. (Rose and I have know each other for years, ask her about what happened the night we ran into Matthew Perry, who I was sure I went to high school with). I have a friend who used to put questions to get the ball rolling on stickers on the bottom of the dinner plate plate. There were some funny pictures of guests with full plates of food over their heads; there were also a lot of accidents. If you go with this tack, a better solution might be to weave a card with the questions through the tines of a fork.
  • Mix introverts with extroverts.
  • Consider breaking up couples: Suddenly the shy husband can have the spotlight when his funny wife is seated at the other end of the table. But if a relationship is new or this person is the lone outsider, seat them next to the person who brought them.
  • Place elderly people near a bathroom or door so they can get up if they need to. Smokers should also be placed near a door so that if they have to get up to go outside, they won’t disturb everyone else. Same with new parents whose children might be sleeping in a nearby room.
  • If you don’t have a separate kids table, where you place kids will depend on how old they are. Small children should be placed near their parents, older children seated next to those who are close to them in age. If you do have a separate children’s table, exceptions should be made for children who can contribute to an adult conversation.