Create a no-fail seating plan in two easy steps.
Step 1: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
Even your dearest family and friends have their idiosyncrasies. Start by noting each guest’s personality traits (like the eight described in this story).
Step 2: Put Them in Their Place
So, you’ve worked out who will click and who will clash. But how do you put all the pieces―or people―together? Use the printable cards (see the link on the next page) to arrange—and rearrange—your dinner guests based on their personality types.
Consider yourself the evening's conductor. Sit close enough to the kitchen that you can clear plates, change courses, and uncork wine without disturbing people. It's also the host's job to manage problem guests.
Seat next to: the Introvert, the Diva.
Avoid: a cohost.
Tip: "Your guests will take cues from you. If you're laughing, talking to people, and having a good time, they will, too," says Sue Fox, author of Etiquette for Dummies ($22, amazon.com).
"You like lettuce? That is so weird! I love lettuce!" The Diva works well next to the Introvert―that way, the shy guy doesn't have to make uncomfortable small talk.
Seat next to: the Introvert, the Charmer.
Avoid: the Entertainer.
Tip: "Put this person at the end of the table, where she won't monopolize the entire conversation," says Marlene Holloway, a San Diego–based etiquette expert.
The Gossip Fodder
Your guests can't stop talking about this person and his scandalous divorce/court case/ dating habits. So keep him comfortable. Avoid seating him next to someone who might judge or question him.
Seat next to: the Host, the Charmer, the Outsider.
Avoid: the Politico.
Tip: "I always want a person with a juicy story to sit by me. I want to know everything!" says Nigella Lawson, host of the Food Network series Nigella Feasts.
She makes more eye contact with the whole baked red snapper than with the guy across the table. Seat her next to the Charmer. The Gossip Fodder also works well, since the Introvert is too shy to ask questions. Never seat her next to the Outsider. Bor-ing!
Seat next to: the Host, the Charmer, the Gossip Fodder.
Avoid: the Outsider, the Politico.
Tip: "If someone is unforthcoming at a dinner party, I'll feel less stressed if I sit next to him and bear the brunt of it," says Lawson.