As A Dinner Party Host, Should You Always Sit At The Head Of The Table?

Hosting an event for people you respect can be a stressful occasion. From planning the perfect menu to designing seating charts that place guests in a thoughtful arrangement, a dinner party host faces several important decisions, particularly when guests' social norms and expectations might vary.

In addition to providing tasty side dishes and delicious drinks that satiate guests throughout the evening, a host needs to consider the overall atmosphere of the dinner and ways to make guests feel comfortable and at ease over the course of the night. After setting out snacks and pouring carefully crafted cocktails, the host can join guests at the table to make introductions and facilitate conversations. But where, exactly, should a host sit? Is it necessary to take the seat at the head of a dining room table, or is this some sort of outdated social convention that no longer applies to modern-day entertaining?

Evaluate the environment

Well, it depends. As the host, you're most likely preoccupied with ensuring your guests' enjoyment, which could entail refilling drinks and making sure plates are filled with second helpings. Instead of worrying about placing yourself at the head of the table, sit in a position that helps you move about the space without causing any disruption to diners and ongoing conversations.

For a more casual dinner or cocktail party, you can allow guests to choose their own seats and take the unoccupied seat once your host duties have been fulfilled. Conversely, placing name cards can elevate an experience and remove any social pressure guests might feel before they sit down. You may also want to consider the placement of the table in the space and whether or not you'll need to answer the door if a guest shows up late to the party. Finally, the shape of the table can help you determine the best place to sit, as seating yourself at the head of a rectangular table is recognized etiquette — but don't feel tied to this expectation.