Modern Etiquette: Dinner-Party Seating

While the seating schemes of decades past have become mere suggestions, modern dinner-party etiquette still has a few tricks up its sleeve. Read on for some tips on how to seamlessly seat guests, and revive the (commonly thought “lost”) art of the dinner party.

Dinner Party Seating

It’s all about balance. When assembling your invite list, aim for an equal number of men and women. It’s not a strict rule – the more important goal is to have guests who offer lively discussion and pleasant company. As Amy Vanderbilt wrote, “It’s far better to have an extra man or woman than to ask someone on the dull side just to make the number even.” 

Divide and converse. One age-old rule still applies: separate couples. Romantically involved people may talk only to each other, get too touchy-feely, or bring at-home arguments to the table. Concerned that someone will be too shy? Listen to Miss Manners: “If they have no social interests or skills, they can always stay home.” Harsh, but true.

Lay the (place) cards. Use a chart to keep everything organized, and decide on the final seating based on everyone’s personality traits. Put a super-chatty person at the end of the table to avoid a conversation monopoly, and seat a more introverted friend near her. Offer that guy everyone likes a seat near the middle. And if you know two people disagree on a topic, don’t place them beside each other – especially if either is prone to starting arguments.

Once you’re finished with the seating chart, move on to planning your menu and setting the table. Then prepare for a lovely, stylish evening.

By Jess Huckins, Staff Writer 

Do you have any tried-and-true seating strategies? Let us know in the comments below, or tweet us at @ruelala

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February 27, 2013

How to Set a Formal Table (It’s Easy – Promise)

Throwing a dinner party? Don’t underestimate the power of a perfectly set table. Here’s how to do it right:

Table Settings

Image courtesy of Eddie Ross.

Additional tips:

  • Wineglasses. These should be arranged in the order they will be used.
  • Silverware. Work from the outside in – appetizer, entrée, then dessert (thank you, Titanic). Some believe that dessert utensils should always be above the dinner plate – this is fine, as is presenting them with the dessert course.
  • Courses. You can vary the silverware based on the courses you’re serving. If you have soup rather than a fish appetizer, for example, you would lose the leftmost fork entirely and replace the knife on the far right with a soup spoon.
  • Napkin. The napkin should be at the far left. It’s also acceptable to place it on the dinner plate (especially if you’re using napkin rings), or to style it neatly in one of the glasses.

All you really need is this advice from our Home Editorial Director, Eddie Ross – “forks are on the left, spoons and knives on the right, [with] blades facing in” – and you can modify from there to suit your tastes.

Bon appétit!

By Jess Huckins, Staff Writer

Do you prefer a different table-setting style? Share in the comments below, or tweet us at @ruelala

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January 23, 2013