A table manners friend asks,
“Dear Addy, we are having four couples over for dinner next month, and including us that makes dinner for ten. I am organizing it from top to bottom, and am having quite a bit of fun with it. I was wondering about the seating, and read online that it’s proper to separate couples so as to create a more dynamic evening of conversation. I am making up lovely place cards so everyone will know where to sit. What do you think of this, splitting up couples at a formal dinner?”
Traditionally, this is thought to be a good way to stimulate conversation between couples who spend most of their time together, and allows each person to act individually throughout the dinner. Many formal dinners are arranged in this way, however, not all guests are comfortable with this form of segregation.
What is of utmost importance when entertaining guests in your home is their level of comfort and enjoyment of the evening. A good host goes the extra yard to make certain that their guests feel at ease without any rules or regulations.
I am not fond of this type of seating as I find it can create more anxiety than it does dynamics in conversation. I prefer to allow my guests to seat themselves, as they wish. One cannot know the private marital situation of their coupled guests, and if there has been any form of marital distress, like infidelity, it would be completely remiss to seat, for example, a cheating spouse, next to the group flirt of the opposite sex, resulting in a very uncomfortable guest, and the host wondering why they haven’t touched their boeuf bourguignon. No thank you.
If you prefer to separate couples, then the recommendation is to seat them across from one another, alternating males and females, so you don’t have all the females on one side, and the males on the other.