When it comes to seating protocol, to sit or not to sit is an excellent question. I typically receive seating questions “after” a person has attended a function only to find out they had no idea they had a designated seat until someone asked them to move – how embarrassing! Let’s break it down, so you will not find yourself in a precarious predicament.
First Tip: Ask the host, hostess or event planner if you are in question of where to sit.
Most events will have a seating chart or even your name on a card at your table. Any event planner will tell you that one of the most essential steps in a successful event is the seating arrangement. A seasoned planner will assure you will not have a surprise evening spent seated beside your ex-fiancée and his bride. However, it could make for an exhilarating story at the next dinner party.
Note about place cards: They are extremely helpful and demonstrate organization on the hosts’ behalf. The name of the guest can be printed on each side of the card so the person sitting across the table can see and remember the guests name and use it in conversation. The cards are used to identify the places where each guest should sit. Never shift the cards around. If there are no place cards, the hostess shows each guest which seat to take or can even suggest they determine their own places at a very informal setting.
At a Dinner Party: The host and hostess will place themselves at separate ends of the table. The guest of honor if a woman is seated to the right of the host, while the guest of honors spouse or date is seated to the right of the hostess and vice versa.
And please remember; do not take your seat until the host or hostess says to do so. The man should assist his date, entering from the left side of her chair if possible and exiting from the right side of her chair.
Guests are seated male, female around the table and hopefully personalities will be considered as placements are defined.
Extroverts you will be placed among introverts. If you are a raconteur you will likely find yourself at the end of the table that needs the most assistance keeping the conversation lively.
At a Restaurant:
The woman takes the wall seat when you have the choice of the chair or the wall. Reason is most likely the wall seat is more comfortable and provides a better view. The man is seated facing the woman –we all know, he has the best view.
A savvy maître d’ will seat a man facing the front of the restaurant and if the table is a four top his date will be seated to his right, not across the table.
Best seating practices in a business lunch is not always across the table, but when seated at a four top, sit with a corner of the table between you.
When Going to a Wedding: The early person determines the seat of their choice, whether at the end of the row or the middle. If you are already seated on the isle seat let no one insist you scoot over, they can excuse themselves to sit in your row.
The bride’s friends and family sit on the left side, the groom’s friends and family on the right. If one side fills up, it is acceptable to seat people on the other side.
To seat a couple: The usher extends his right arm to escort the woman down the aisle - her male guest will follow. To seat a group of women the usher escorts the older woman and the younger women will follow behind. To seat a man: The usher does not extend his arm but walks beside him to his seat.
Tip to Remember: When entering into a row, walk in facing the row, never with your backside to those sitting down.
There is much to know about the protocol of seating, especially when it pertains to dignitaries, government officials and ambassadors – it can get complicated.
The information above will assist you in how to be socially savvy in everyday seating situations.
Joy Weaver is a renowned etiquette expert and author of “Just Ask Joy… How to Be Socially Savvy in All Situations”—a book highly endorsed by Jean and Zig Ziglar. Joy represents designer Joseph Ribkoff and is a regular guest on ABC’s Good Morning Texas. She is nationally published and has been featured on ABC’s The View, in the Associated Press, New York Times, USA Today, Southern Living Magazine, Dallas Morning News, and The Dallas Business Journal. Protocol Enterprises/Just Ask Joy is based in Dallas and has served clients across the country since 2000. To join the Socially Savvy conversation – visit www.sociallysavvy.org. You can learn more at www.justaskjoy.com, or follow her at Socially Savvy on Facebook or Twitter.