Social Question

JLeslie's avatar

Have you ever been to a party where the dinner seating assignments separated couples?

Asked by JLeslie (47278 points ) August 27th, 2012

From what I understand this is not uncoomon among the higher social classes, to give seat assignments to guests that purposely separate a couple so each person is seated between people other than their date/SO. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen at all levels of the socioeconomic spectrum, just I have only heard of it among the upper classes.

Do you like the idea? Have you attended parties like this? Do you think it matters if the party has a large number of guests or not?

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22 Answers

DigitalBlue's avatar

I’ve never heard of this, and I don’t even like the idea of assigned seating at a party, period. I’m not in first grade.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I have and it was really fun. There were no seating cards. The host just said couple should spread out and people did.
There was much more interaction around the table. Instead of just talking to your partner you quickly learned about the other people at the table.
There were about 25 people and this was a dinner for a charitable organization.

cookieman's avatar

I’ve never seen this practice.

My wife and I have a fair amount of dinner parties with between 8 and 25 people. We just had a small one last night with 11 folks. I said what I always say – “Sit wherever you want”.

Seek's avatar

Most etiquette books I’ve read recommend the practice of seating people in order to facilitate conversation. The thought being: everyone at the party knows the host and their date, and likely doesn’t know anyone else there. Since the host knows who has what in common, or might stir up a lively debate, they can put such people together.

The seating traditionally remains man/woman/man/woman, with the guest of honour seated to the right of the hostess, unless the guest of honour is a woman, in which case she is seated at the opposite end of the table from the hostess.

This is all from memory, since I don’t have my books with me at work ^_^. If I’m mistaken at all, please correct me.

serenade's avatar

My stupid boss from an old job tried this with our state governor’s prayer breakfast, because that’s how they do the national prayer breakfast in D.C. She obviously forgot that all politics is local. Our lobbyist was completely mortified and unglued that spouses were asked to sit in a separate room with a TV screen, especially since there were plenty of extra seats in the main room due to no shows.

jca's avatar

Yes, my cousin and her husband do it. Her husband is “of the higher social class” (your words) from England, and they have planned seating arrangements, man woman man woman and each course, it changes. So you’ll be next to someone different for the dinner, the dessert and the appertif.

Shippy's avatar

Yes I have been to a few and at first I hated it, but ended the evening having enjoyed myself. I met new people, that normally I would never have even talked to.

wildpotato's avatar

I’ve been to a few functions that do this, and I can’t stand it. I keep half my head, and maybe a bit more, in my partner’s brain, and he in mine – like many long-term couples, we rely heavily on transactive memory – and he knows what I mean when I get tongue-tied and can often articulate it better than me. I become a terrible conversationalist when he’s not around.

JLeslie's avatar

@serenade I think in DC it is more common, it is done at the white house a lot from what I understand. Large official dinners with over 100 in attendance, not just smaller functions as many have mentioned above. Barbara Walters once talked about it on The View just having attended a White House function, but she implied other parties she goes to are the same.

wonderingwhy's avatar

I’ve been to a lot of “official” dinners like that. In my experience, it works well there as it gets people (often strangers, or amounting to as much) mingling and ensures the right connections have a greater chance of being made. I’ve only participated in that a handful of times socially and those were more of what I’ll call extended social events where the host is essentially putting together disparate groups of friends/acquaintances and trying to get the most interaction out of it. With that, I’d say it’s less effective (more so with copious amounts of alcohol) but can definitely help beat the alternative cliquishness that can easily crop up in those settings, particularly if there’s no real opportunity to mingle prior to seating. Still, I can’t say I’m a fan of it, just give people a chance to chat before hand and ask couples to mix up their seating and people will sort themselves out just fine – but I won’t turn down an invite just because of it.

Coloma's avatar

Oh dear god, my ex mother-in-law was little miss socialite and was forever pulling this seating protocol. Yes, she was from and remained in an affluent family and her control freakery at parties and events was unsurpassed. Every 5 minutes she was re-arranging people, insisting everyone move from one room to another, mixing up the place settings to put strangers next to each other, and so much more. I could write volumes on her social control freakery. Gah!

Being an extroverted and open personality I had no problem making conversation with the unknown parties I was seated with, but, to this day, she drives everyone insane with her social mandates.
It is impossible for her to just let her guests follow their own lead, she is the social micro-manager from hell! lol

Sunny2's avatar

If it’s only a group that’s conversational sized so everyone at the table can be in the conversation, it doesn’t matter. Larger than that, it helps to break up couples and alternate men and women. Parts of the larger group break into several conversational groups with different people getting to talk about different things and getting to know one another. I haven’t been to a party that changed seating with each course. How does that work. Are there servants who take away the used plates and replace the silverware? Do the guests stand away from the table while this is done? Do they take their wine glasses with them? I can’t picture it.

bkcunningham's avatar

Of course. That way you are actually getting to know other people.

@Seek_Kolinahr, the female guest of honor is seated to the right of the host and the male guest of honor is seated to the left of the host. The male, female seating isn’t the norm anymore. You seat people who you think might have things in common and will enjoy getting to know each other.

A few years ago, my husband and I attended a dance class. We didn’t get to dance with each other until months into the class. The instructors wanted us to learn how to dance with any partner and not just our mate.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@jca that just sounds annoying. You play musical chairs all night?

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

I’ve only attended one “fancy schmancy” dinner party that was like that. I have high anxiety and it gets worse if I’m separated from the people I’m comfortable with. That party sucked.

augustlan's avatar

I don’t think I’ve ever been to one, but I’m familiar with the practice. In some cases, I think it makes a lot of sense. I guess it just depends on the size of the gathering, and the purpose of it.

jca's avatar

@uberbatman: Yes. It’s actually kind of fun, as instead of sitting next to someone you know, you sit next to someone you don’t know. With wine as a social lubricant, everyone is happy and chatty and it works out.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

As a kid, that’s how I was taught you should set up a table for better conversation but I’ve never been to a party like that or set one up on purpose for my guests.

What @jca wrote about different seating assignments for different courses of a meal, that sounds like fun!

JLeslie's avatar

As I think about it I can understand why DC would be ok with it. Politicians and diplomats meet people for a living practically, so that is their element. I think I remember seeing once that the first lady and President also are often seated not next to each other at parties, so it applies to everyonenif it is being applied. Moreover, if someone comes as a single, it would feel less intimidating I would think if basically everyone is a “single” at the table.

If I went to a party with amazingly interesting people I would be happy to have two new people on either side of me at a round table. What if I am seated next to someone who I probably would not otherwise had the opportunity to meet? Generally my husband and I kind of separate during social gatherings anyway. Mingle along with various people. It depends on tne occassion I guess. I prefer to sit at a rectangular table and be able to speak to people next to me and across from me.

I can see hpw the practice would freak some people out though. If they tend to be shy or have difficulty in social situations to begin with, not being able to sit next to their guest/SO would be upsetting for them I’m sure.

@Coloma Now that definitely sounds overboard. LOL.

Seek's avatar

@bkcunningham Thanks, I knew I was getting something wrong. Glad to know the m/f/m/f seating has gone the way of the Dodo. ^_^

jca's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr: But it hasn’t gone the way of the Dodo! It’s still around and it can be fun if you try it.

RareDenver's avatar

From my experience when seating is planned that’s the normal way it’s done, man, woman, man, woman etc and not next to or opposite your partner.

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