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Author Topic: Couples Sitting Next to Eachother vs. Across the Table  (Read 6811 times)

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MissBrit

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Couples Sitting Next to Eachother vs. Across the Table
« on: February 23, 2016, 12:08:40 PM »
I attended my Aunt's wedding back in November that was in a private room off of the back of a really neat, rustic restaurant.  My Aunt is the middle of three children with my mom being the oldest and my Uncle being the youngest. At the reception my Aunt had a head table and then two long tables going the opposite direction down the room. My mom, my Uncle, my Uncle's fiancee, Nancy, and myself all sat together right up next to the head table. In order for everyone to answer my question I will have to describe who was sitting where in my area of the table. On one side was my mom, my Uncle, and a friend of my Aunt's named Walter. On the other side of the table was me, Nancy, and Walter's date Anastasia. There were more people further down the table. The table on the other side was similar but had my Aunt's husband's family up near the head table. Everyone seemed to have a great time at the wedding and the food was awesome!

The next time I talked to my mom she told me that Nancy and my Uncle had gotten into a fight after the wedding because Nancy was offended that she was seated across the table from my Uncle rather than right next to him. My Uncle didn't seem to understand what the big deal was. I have read that that at seated dinners that you (general you) are supposed to seat married couples appart to encourage more inclusive conversations. I also just read recently that this custom comes from the Victorian Era. Do people still practice this custom? Was Nancy being oversensitive about where she was seated? Thanks.
« Last Edit: February 23, 2016, 12:10:37 PM by MissBrit »

Mustard

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Re: Couples Sitting Next to Eachother vs. Across the Table
« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2016, 12:14:19 PM »
Yes, Nancy was being over-sensitive. I'm assuming that the table wasn't so wide that conversation across it was impossible.

camlan

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Re: Couples Sitting Next to Eachother vs. Across the Table
« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2016, 12:31:00 PM »
Nancy can be as offended as she wants, but there is no rule in etiquette that requires couples to be seated next to each other.

At a formal dinner in a private home, the rule is that couples are not seated together.

I am unaware of seating rules for a large event held outside the home, but in my area, it is customary to seat couples at the same table. Usually, individual seats aren't assigned, but just tables, so couples can sit together or not as they chose.

But if someone did a seating chart and put Nancy across the table from her husband--they did nothing wrong.

Now that I'm thinking about it, there is no guarantee, at least no etiquette-based guarantee, about who you will be sitting next to, at an event with assigned seating. A good host will avoid putting sworn enemies together. But the rules are all about putting compatible people together--a good listener with someone who likes to talk, two people who both enjoy the same sport or hobby. Nothing about couples sitting next to each other.
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mandycorn

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Re: Couples Sitting Next to Eachother vs. Across the Table
« Reply #3 on: February 23, 2016, 12:37:17 PM »
I actually love the idea of couples across the table from each other. They're still near enough to each other to converse (and as somebody with anti-social tendencies, I fully appreciate that option), but it's usually easier to hear and talk to the people sitting on either side of you on the same side of the table, so that allows for more mixing things up between guests.
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Peppergirl

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Re: Couples Sitting Next to Eachother vs. Across the Table
« Reply #4 on: February 23, 2016, 01:55:06 PM »
My goodness. Definitely over sensitive and a bit petty. Also, why was she mad at her husband? Surely he didn't arrange the seating chart?

I'm visualizing my ex-DH's face if I had picked a fight with him over seating at a wedding.  ;D >:D

TTasha

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Re: Couples Sitting Next to Eachother vs. Across the Table
« Reply #5 on: May 06, 2016, 11:37:07 AM »
Wow...hopefully Uncle sees this as the red flag that it is. Nancy could have seen this as a great opportunity to get to know her new family better, instead she chose to find offense and start a fight over it? We are having round tables at our reception but if we were doing long tables, I'd seat couples across the table too. I don't even expect everyone to stay seated in their seats after dinner anyway.

GreenEyedHawk

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Re: Couples Sitting Next to Eachother vs. Across the Table
« Reply #6 on: May 06, 2016, 11:39:30 AM »
I have always thought that actually the "proper" way to seat couples at a dinner party is across from each other, not beside.  It's so they aren't separated but it encourages conversation with the people on either side of you.
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Venus193

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Re: Couples Sitting Next to Eachother vs. Across the Table
« Reply #7 on: May 06, 2016, 01:35:31 PM »
I have always thought that actually the "proper" way to seat couples at a dinner party is across from each other, not beside.  It's so they aren't separated but it encourages conversation with the people on either side of you.

That's what I've always understood and I understand the reason for it.  Nancy is being insecure.





mime

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Re: Couples Sitting Next to Eachother vs. Across the Table
« Reply #8 on: May 06, 2016, 05:02:49 PM »
IME: it is most common to seat couples next to each other, but looking back to the old etiquette books it is not by-the-book-proper to do that.

I believe a host can do either one successfully, but I prefer to be seated by my DH (and I think of "across from" as being close enough).

Nancy was seated right across from her SO, and not treated differently from anyone else (ie: she wasn't the only guest separated from her date while everyone else was put together, as if there were some weird PA statement being made). Maybe the host didn't fit Nancy's expectations or norms, but she really can't argue that the host was rude.




camlan

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Re: Couples Sitting Next to Eachother vs. Across the Table
« Reply #9 on: May 06, 2016, 08:02:59 PM »
In the past, the proper way to seat couples at a formal dinner was by rank. The most important man was seated to the hostess's right, the lady of highest rank would be seated to the host's right. The man of "second rank" would be to the hostess's left, and the lady of "second rank" would be to the host's left. And so on down the table, alternating men and women guests.  So married couples would normally be separated to some extent, with the hosts and the most "important" couple (as wives would share their husband's rank, usually the most important woman would be the wife of the most important man) separated by the length of the table.

So while Nancy may not have liked where she was seated, there is nothing in etiquette that would require a host to seat married couples together. In fact, etiquette prefers they be seated separately.

There were also rules about talking to the other guests. The hostess would start talking to the gentleman on one side of her, usually her left, and all the other women at the table would talk to the gentleman on *their* left. About half-way through the meal, the hostess would wind up her conversation and turn to the man on her right to converse with him, and the rest of the table would follow suit. This was known as "turning the table."

Old etiquette books are full of hints of what to talk about, if you weren't a naturally chatty kind of person. And hostesses would deliberately put a quiet, good listener next to a very talkative person--the quiet one wouldn't have to say very much and the talkative one would have an audience.

Which isn't to say that a conversation couldn't be between three or more people, or table-wide, if everyone was interested in the speaker or the subject.
Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, “I’m possible!” –Audrey Hepburn