Successful Dinner Parties Start With the Table

Successful Dinner Parties Start With Table
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A dinner party for friends. A potluck with the family. A feast complete with a table for the kids. You plan your gathering, the preparations begin, and you wonder, “Do I have room for the WHOLE family around the table? Last Easter, everyone squished together and we lost track of whose silverware was whose! How can I know how many people really fit? And how can I keep my daughter’s weird new boyfriend from using my mother’s spoon?”

As these thoughts swirl, an idea appears. Maybe it’s time for a new table. Suddenly, your head fills with dreams of walnut, cherry, maple, mahogany. Round or rectangular? How large?

Round Vs. Rectangular Tables

First, the shape of the table depends on the shape of the dining area. For a rectangular room, find a rectangular or oval table. A round table fits best into a square or small area.

Round Pedestal Table Seats Eight

Do you prefer a little equitability in your seating? Round tables put everyone on an even social footing while rectangular or oval tables allow for a “head of the table.”

How Big Should My Table Be?

The size of the room or space where you’ll put your table will constrain the table size. A large room demands a generous table. A small room warrants an intimate choice. However, a smaller round table can usually host a larger number of people. For example, while you need a 96” rectangular table to seat eight people, you only need a 60” round table.

Finally, you’ll also want to consider the number of people you would like to seat. Do you usually host four people? Need eight settings for the big Thanksgiving feast? Maybe you need even more places….

The Magic Table Size Formula

Once you decide on how many people you want to seat, all you have to do is plug the figure into this formula. The standard place setting is 24” wide. This formula holds true for a round table as well. Additionally, if you want to seat people at the ends of a rectangular table, you’ll add an additional 12” at each end. 

Let’s say you want to seat eight people at a rectangular table. You’ll have three people on each long side. That means a total of 72” or 6’ to make way for those folks. With one additional person at each end, you’ll need another two feet. The total length then equals eight feet. 

Sometimes, people will try to dispute these facts with a little diagram. They will say they can fit two people on the end of the table or fit ten or even twelve people around a table sized for eight. I even found multiple diagrams on the internet which show exactly this scenario.

Table diagram showing twelve seats

Seems to make sense, doesn’t it? However, if you look closely, you’ll see that at the corner, the host is expecting two people to share the same plate.

Table diagram showing twelve seats with error

Frankly, this practice isn’t followed at the LEAST exclusive households I know.

Now, here’s what happens when you seat people using the standard formula.

Table diagram showing eight correct seats

No one is crowded out, no one is sharing a plate, and no one will be forced to be too close to Uncle John. That’s one successful dinner party!

Keeping these considerations in mind will help you find the perfect table for your home, and help you constrain your party list to those who fit comfortably around your table.

Bon appetit!

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