HOW TO SEAT GUESTS THE FRENCH WAY?

At an upper crust dinner, how does one seat guests, in a way that shows respect for everyone and hurts no one’s feelings? Seating protocol is a conundrum for many a host and hostess.

The first thing to do is to draw up a guest list in order of social status and age. This will determine the order in which people are seated relative to the hosts of the table.

Generally, the host and hostess sit across from each other, either at the center of the table (so-called “French seating”) or with a host at each end of the table (so-called “English seating”). The advantage of the “English” seating plan is that nobody is relegated to the end of the table, the furthest from the hosts and the guests of honor. Of course, if the table is round, this problem is pretty much averted, and protocol is less important. This is why we, when we think of King Arthur, we think of the Knights of the Round Table, where each peer was seated with equal importance.

Getting back to our carefully sorted guest list. 

The first man on the list will be seated to the hostess’s right, the second to her left, and so on. The same goes for the list of women.

The special case of the clergy. In case you guest list happens to include a cardinal, you should know that religious authorities have precedence over all other guests and will preside over the table with the hostess. Other leaders will be seated in order of their rank and responsibilities.

You should study your seating plan carefully. In high French society, it would be considered embarrassing for you or your guests, if there were any doubt about who should sit where.

© Picture homepage Istock, Text : Antoine Soulié « 250 réponses aux questions sur les arts et plaisirs de la table »

 

Isabelle - Spotlight

Bonjour, my name is Isabelle. At my parent’s, a week didn’t go by without a social gathering. It may have been a garden-party, a bridge party or a diner dance. No caterers, of course, everything was homemade! With my sisters, we learned how to put different spreads on toast, the right way of course, arrange the flowers for the tables or decorate the buffet, to say the right thing to each guest or organize an elegant picnic. As appropriate, I learned etiquette during these receptions and also had “savoir-vivre” lessons. Today, I work in public relations in Paris and the education that I received is of great use. I’ll give you several very Parisian tips…

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