Real Simple etiquette expert, Catherine Newman on whether or not you need to make accommodations for overweight guests.

  Hallie Burton

Q. Recently I hosted some people at my home who happen to be obese. One man sat on a delicate chair, which splintered. Another lady sat on the couch and could not get up without assistance. How do I accommodate larger guests in the future? Do I ask thinner guests to avoid sturdy seats so heavier folks can use them? Should I speak with obese guests before they arrive and ask what they would prefer to sit on? Should I put away my fragile furniture? Help!

Name withheld by request

A. Despite your recent experiences, I wouldn’t be overly worried that you’ll be continually faced with this problem in the future: Larger people tend to be aware of their girth and are even more eager than you to avoid an embarrassing situation. In other words, they’re generally unlikely to gravitate toward your daintiest antiques, and trying to preempt such a scenario is apt to cause more discomfort than it prevents. So don’t speak with obese guests before the event or force your thin guests to exchange chairs with them. However, if you are worried about some fragile furniture, by all means stow it before folks arrive. And if it seems natural, feel free to usher a heavy friend to a big, comfy armchair. (“I think you’ll be cozy here. It’s my favorite!”) Just be sure that your main concern is respect for your friend—not your furniture.

Catherine Newman

More Q&As 


Want to Ask Your Own Etiquette Question? 

Submit your social conundrums to Catherine at Selected letters will be featured on the website each month.