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The Holiday Survival Guide

Dinner Party Seating Strategies

Follow these simple rules for placing different personality types around your table.

By Genevieve Roth
Table set for a dinner partyTara Donne


The Charmer

The Charmer could make delightful conversation with an ice sculpture. He will eat―and adore―everything you put in front of him. In a crisis, he will help you remove the steak sauce from your mother-in-law's silk blouse or put out a kitchen fire.
Seat next to: Anyone.
Avoid: the Host.
Tip: "If you don't have friends like this, make them," says Ted Allen, host of Food Network's Chopped.

The Politico

The more controversial the topic, the more this guest wants to talk about it. Debating stem-cell research and national security can be tricky, but a good Politico keeps things lively. Just rein him in if he veers toward dangerous territory.
Seat next to: the Diva, the Entertainer, the Host.
Avoid: the Introvert, the Gossip Fodder.
Tip: "Be alert enough to keep the conversation topics moving. It's OK to interrupt this person time and time again to change the subject,"  says cookbook author Nathalie Dupree.

The Entertainer

He always has something to offer a crowd. Maybe it's a talent or an interesting job. ("Tell me about your work as a rodeo clown, Tom.") He's great at commanding a room, but he's not overbearing like the Diva. Pair him with the Gossip Fodder, who can let the Entertainer take center stage.
Seat next to: the Gossip Fodder, the Introvert.
Avoid: the Diva, the Host.
Tip: "If the stories are good and everyone else is interested, let him talk," says Dupree

The Outsider

This could be the new love interest of another guest or an unexpected tagalong. The honest truth? You’d prefer she wasn’t there. Break the traditional rules and seat her next to the person who brought her.
Seat next to: the Charmer, the Host, the person’s companion.
Avoid: the Introvert.
Tip: “Probably the most nervous guest at your party. Seat him next to someone warm and nice, like the Charmer,” says Holloway.

Plan a Perfect Seating Arrangement

Use the Seating Card Worksheet to arrange (and rearrange) your dinner guests based on their personality types.

Read More About:Etiquette

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Quick Tip

Blue ice cube tray

A few days before a party, start making ice and storing it in baggies in the freezer.