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Dinner party seating conundrum

Tonight I'm having a few friends over for a dinner party. We're all good friends (plus one good friend's mom) and so it's quite casual.

So here's my problem - there are 9 people coming over, and I have two seating options in my small-ish apartment. I can put my computer table up against the kitchen table and use all kind of mis-matched chairs to seat everyone. I've done this before with the same amount of people, and while it's certainly nice to eat on a table, it's very cramped and there's not a lot of elbow room. Plus usually I run out of tall-enough chairs and someone has to sit on a stool and be shorter than everyone else.

Option 2 is to just have everyone eat in my living room on the floor or on the couch. I have a large coffee table that 5 or 6 people could eat at comfortably, plus a couch for two.

We're having chicken parmesan, so it's not exactly a finger food. Since we're all friends it's not a big deal, and it doesn't have to be fancy at all, but I'd love to hear any opinions on which is preferable - cramped seating at a table or relaxed seating on the floor?

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  1. You'll probably all end up in the living room for desserts/coffee/nightcaps, so why not give just a touch of formal and have the main at the table? I say this, even though we tend to have holiday get -togethers in the living room, but sometimes I miss the big table.

    No one minds the mismatched chairs, and find a couple of seat cushions for the stoolpidgeon. :)

    1. I think if you decide to have it in your livingroom tht you should change your menu. I can't think of a single thing that would be harder to eat with one hand than chicken parm.

      3 Replies
      1. re: runwestierun

        Chicken parm on a stick. I agree that it would be very difficult to eat chicken parm with it balanced on my lap while I sat on a couch. Cramped seating would be fine and if you want to spread out, have an easy to eat dessert in the living room.

        1. re: chowser

          I've done dinner parties around my coffe table with pillows, the couch, etc.. I loved it because I do not mind sitting on a pillow but I had a few friends who were uncomfortable on the pillows, could not get up...

          1. re: Alica

            I love sitting around on the floor but not if I have to eat a meal that requires a knife and fork. I think of sitting around a table with cushions and finger foods, or at least bite sized foods. Although, when we host my inlaws for formal meals, some have picked up their plates and plopped themselves down on the couch in front of the TV so it probably doesn't bother them. If they got stuck on the floor, I'd most likely leave them there floundering.

      2. Chicken Parm would be a nightmare to eat without a table. I am more prone to enjoy sitting at a table to eat even if cramed. I am a taller person and sitting indian style on a pillow on the floor is not a fun activity for me.

        Now you know this group more than us, but like suggested if you want to sit in living room change menu

        1. It sounds like you already had your party. In the future, let your surroundings dictate the kind of party you'll have and the kind of food you'll serve. If you only have dining space for 6, invite 6 for a sit-down party.If you want to invite more, have a cocktail party with a buffet of finger foods. If you want to do the whole pillow-and-coffee table thing, make the party a Middle Eastern or Japanese theme so at least people feel like the food is dictating the atmosphere, not the lack of dining chairs.

          1. At the table or elsewhere? I have been trying hard to understand why people would choose a couch/coffee table over sitting at a real table after my 60+ sister told me they always eat in front of the TV with trays or coffee table or lap. The TV part if fine, we do the same, but why you wouldn't set things up so you can sit at an actual dining table is beyond me. The same with parties. If you're serving knife and fork food, please give me a table and chair. Otherwise, make it finger food please. If you have to squeeze folks into a table, that's ok, it generally makes for a livelier evening.

            1 Reply
            1. re: escondido123

              As a guest trying to eat in a living room situation, I'm quite likely to ask the host if I can drag a straight chair from the dining room into the living room. It is difficult to eat while sitting / slumping on a soft couch; I always prefer a straight-backed chair, even if my plate is in my lap.

              1. It's too late for you (hope your party was a success wherever you had it!), but for everyone else, please, please serve at a table. People are generally game about eating wherever the host seats them, but I'd be willing to bet that the vast majority prefer to be at a table, unless they are at a cocktail party with tidy finger foods.

                1. If you like to entertain, it probably makes sense to buy a folding table and chairs. If you're not ready to commit you can rent a table and chairs for this event and even get the right sized table linens and chair covers from any party rental place. I think your guests will be much more comfortable and you will feel more confident as a hostess.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Kater

                    For a casual meal, I don't think one should be renting anything. I think that would make the guests more uncomfortable.

                    1. re: escondido123

                      Well apparently it is too late for this particular individual but your guests would have no way of knowing that you had rented a table. Taking care of seating in a comfortable and organized way takes a lot of stress off the hostess and ensures that guests can eat and converse comfortably.

                  2. Well, of course you can all feel free to keep discussing, but the dinner party was a success and great fun.
                    Although I live in Japan (in a safe area far from the quakes and tsunamis) we had a nice evening, reveling in friends and food and simply being able to enjoy these things when we could have easily been in a very different situation.

                    I had a couple of people who RSVP'd no who showed up anyway, so fitting everyone at the table wasn't even an option. I put two tables together with all the chairs I had, then had a group sit around the coffee table in the adjoining living room. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, the conversation moved easily between the two rooms, and there were no spills or food disasters.

                    Thanks for all the advice, I'll certainly keep it in mind for future get-togethers!

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Japanecdote

                      Glad you and your guests had fun and you all are fine. Take care.

                      1. re: Japanecdote

                        > Japan

                        Funny you didn't mention that. Isn't it customary to sit at low tables and cushions on the floor?

                        1. re: GraydonCarter

                          I suppose it is at Japanese-style restaurants and the like. Most homes have a kitchen table and chairs. Plus, all of my guests were American/Australian.