I’m a big fan of assigned seating at anything other than a very casual meal. Not as necessary when you have old friends gathering together, but essential when you’ve got a mult-generational, multi-background, mult-point-of-view group. First, what’s worse than that moment of hesitation when dinner is called and no one knows what to do – as a guest you want to run to the seat that’s closest to the bar and grab your best friend to sit next to you (yes, I’m inside your head right now). Give yourself ten minutes extra prep time and you can make things flow much more smoothly.
If you’ve been a good host, you’ve invited an interesting mix of people with interesting cross ties. How are they to know that your barista who you invited this morning because he had no place to go collects the same porcelain figurines as your great Aunt Molly. Seat them next to each other and drop the word Hummel during the salad course.
There are a couple of hard rules I follow. If we are hosting as a couple, we sit at opposite ends of the table. If there is a guest of honor or someone who knows absolutely no one, we sit each of them at our right and I always split up couples. Other than that, it’s free reign to create a dynamic evening. Put the shy ones next to the nosey ones, put the singles next to at least one prospective mate (and keep their wine glasses full), put the antique collector next to the thrift store junkie – you get the idea.