First and foremost, you want to avoid awkward situations; so politics always play a role in who goes where. Although this can cause some I-want-to-pull-my-hair-out moments; it's easier to work with it than fight it.
I like to plan seating assignments by creating an Excel spreadsheet like the one below. The spreadsheet makes it easy to move names around and can be broken down to give you a better visual.
List all of your guests in the first column and head the other columns with your tables. Start by filling in your hosts and special guests. Then, highlight the guests with "special requirements" (like not sitting next to other certain guests) and place those first.
But how do you mix in the rest of your guests? The always helpful, RealSimple.com, has a great article that breaks down personality types like The Diva, The Introvert, The Gossip Fodder and The Charmer and how they mix at the dinner table. This is a great tool to help you get started. Add a column to your spreadsheet and assign personalities to as many guests as possible (don't forget to assign them to your special guests, even if their seats are determined - this will help you fill in their tables).
Assigned seating isn't just for formal dinners either. If you're holding a more relaxed event, Preston Bailey has a few ideas to keep dinner seating fun and fresh:
- Leave a chair open at each table for the host (and/or hostess) to visit with their guests (This works best for smaller events. If the event involves over 200 guests, 20 tables is a lot to visit.)
- Try having guests move to different tables for dessert and coffee to encourage mixing groups.
- I also prefer to assign tables not seats. I find this to be more organic (and less controlling).