I am often asked, “What are the best seats in the house”. Meaning, where should I put my family and friends in the ballroom, backyard, banquet hall so they have the best view of the festivities and the most honored position. There is a fast answer and a long answer. First the fast one, closest to the bride and groom. The long answer it depends on family politics and cultural heritage. I’ve seen a lot of families over the years sweat over where to seat their family and friends, trying to please everyone and to make the most judicial decisions as if the future of the family and social register depends on this one event seating plan. It may sound harsh at first, but you need to give yourselves a little slack here. This is not the united nations general assembly dinner where the state of the world is at stake. If you had the time and the inclination to ask each guest to write whom would they like to sit with, once they had seen the entire guest list, you might be surprised to hear that they really would like to sit next to an old friend or cousin they haven’t seen in years, or that funny neighborhood friend you shared rides with when your kids were in grade school, rather than Uncle Sal from Brooklyn who can’t hear and only wants to talk about fly fishing.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe in protocol and etiquette as a means to settle queries about proper behavior and common courtesy situations. When it comes to these delicate matters of protocol, sometimes it’s best to pick up the phone, not email, text, or fax, but actually pick up the phone and ask someone where would they rather sit; with Uncle Sal or your older cousin Louis who let you win at Clue when you were 10 years old. Honestly, most people know you have the best intentions possible when it comes to seating guests at dinner tables. You have shown over the years your kindness and dedication to your family and friends. They know you well enough to know your character and level of caring. Individually you are bond to have someone say among 200+ guests, “Why did they feel they had to put all the single ladies at one table, even if it meant breaking up some of the couples tables”. Ugh!
When you are faced with family rituals and long honored traditions like head tables, the etiquette books are full of placement information. What I want you to remember is your intentions are the most important thing to remember and if someone’s nose is out of joint because they feel slighted about their assigned seat, when you have done your best to make them happy, have that second martini and forget about it, until the next episode of seating drama. Heck, next time why not try musical chairs and see what happens!