Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >
Jan 7, 2013 06:34 AM

Accommodating Large Numbers of People Several Times a Year

My dining room table seats 6 people pretty comfortably. A few years ago when my daughters got married I bought a piece of plywood that I put on top of the table and that allows me to seat 10 people pretty comfortably. Now the family is getting bigger with the addition of grandchildren, in - laws and friends. I don't think that I can actually add a bigger piece of plywood as I am bumping up against the edges of the room. This is an issue generally only about 6 times a year. How do other people handle this?
I am looking for creative solutions and would like to keep everyone together.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Make a "T".......use the same piece of ply wood but move it against the wall losing the one seat at the end of the table. On the other side where you have made more room get a 6-8 foot folding table and place it across the end of the ply wood making a "T" formation. The loss of the one seat on the other end (which is against the wall) will be made up for by the addition of the 4-6 seats at the other end of the "T".

    Hope I explained that correct.

    1. I have one f those inexpensive folding tables and I but it intothe dining room table to make a T = luckily we have an arch betwen DR & LR so the folding table goes out into the LR.

      Think about a way to make a temporary DR in another room -push back LR furniture and use that room with your dining room chairs plus others, borrowed or rented or folding or whatever. A den? I knew someone whose housekeeping was so immaculate that they used her garage and driveway for it. (Sure. Winter in....oh, Michigan, anyone?) I am often invited to an Easter dinner that's served outside at one long table cobbled together with various things and there are anywhere from 20 to 36 people attending, and it's one of the highights of the year.

      But if youre doing this 6 times a year, you're right, you need a serious game plan, and just making a children's table, as much fun as they can be with kids the right age, just isn't going to be enough, and neither is eating in shifts. (My former husband's grandparents routinely had 50 or so for Christmas Eve supper in a little house, LR, kitchen, tiny bedroom and added-on bathroom. Three shifts to feed us all at that.

      1 Reply
      1. re: lemons

        Good thought - use other spaces if available. We had T-Day dinner at SO's relatives house . . .on their basketball court. Cobbled tables put together w/ borrowed linens and guests were asked to bring their own chairs. Well over 50 people (and yes it was potluck) and more than enough food for everyone.

      2. Card tables and folding chairs and a dining room attached to a living room.

        My parents' dining room table fits 10 or 12 with the leaves in, this was ok a number of years ago, slowly we had to buy a card table and add it, then have a relative bring theirs, then we bought a second one and replaced the first with a larger. At Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving we remove the coffee table and a couple of the chairs from the living room, and now we have 3 large tables stretch between two rooms for I am not sure how many people but 20 plus anyways.

        Welcome home parties and times we have 40 plus people then we just open the house to everyone and have various rooms for eating, the kitchen, the dining room, the table outside on the deck, the family room with coffee table, etc

        3 Replies
        1. re: TeRReT

          Card tables and folding chairs are rented and set up in the basement of my DH's aunt's house for big family meals the handful of times a year we have them. It's not cheap but everyone can be together that way.

          1. re: rockandroller1

            My favourite thing when its more then 20 people is renting plates, cutlery and wine glasses, really not unreasonable expensive and no dishes or cleanup!!

            1. re: TeRReT

              I just bought it all at Ikea -- between us and our circle of friends, they get used several times a year -- they paid for themselves a couple of years ago.

        2. In my house I have no way to get more than 12 or 14 people in my dining room so once It hits that mark its impossible to "keep everyone together"

          My creative solutions are usually:

          -set up the meal as a buffet. Appetizers are placed strategically around the various rooms to encourage flow. The dining room table gets pushed in and used as the "main meal" station. The kitchen table is set up with desserts. The dining room and kitchen chairs are group together in varios rooms as well for those who do want to sit and eat.

          -create bistro seating. I will set up a folding table in the living room, pretty table cloths, candles etc and will seat 6-8 in there. Dining room table is also set with colorful table cloths etc and seats another 6-10. The kitchen table is set the same way and can hold 4-6. Depending on the occasion I will either assign seats or for more casual get together we draw table numbers

          -In warmer weather I have the ability to make a “capital I” shape with various tables and we can all sit together.

          Lastly- I have found that the kids in the 8-12 range want a kids table so for a few years we did that too. Butcher paper on the tables, mugs or markers and crayons, etc

          10 Replies
          1. re: foodieX2

            This is more or less what I do....I set up a table at the door to the kitchen with plates, napkins, and silverware....the buffet is set up along a very long cabinet in the kitchen -- then out the other door to the living and dining rooms, where I set up every garden table and card table I can find or borrow, in addition to my regular dining room table. Folding chairs from Ikea, and a willingness to be a little on the cozy side, means I can squeeze 35 in for a sit-down meal.

            Glasses, bottles of wine, and bottles of still and sparkling water go on the tables ahead of time, with sodas set up for the tables where the teenagers sit.

            1. re: sunshine842

              I do seating similar to foodieX2's explaination of her bistro set-up.

              A couple of years back, I invested in a sturdy folding table and six chairs. (From Lowes, nothing fancy or expensive)

              1. re: sunshine842

                (clarification: I should have said, in response to foodiex2's comment, "this is more or less the same as what I do" -- didn't mean to imply that my method was different....)

                1. re: sunshine842

                  when I set a buffet, napkins and silverware go at the very end. - means less in the hands while trying to juggle filling plates.

                  otherwise I've always wanted to powerwash the garage and (with space heaters) serve dinner out there.

                  1. re: hill food

                    unfortunately, the garage is detached and smaller than my living room (go figure that one...)

                    We tried putting napkins and cutlery at the end (because their hands are full), but discovered two things...first, lots of people tend to forget to pick them up at the end...and if I put them at the end, people returning to pick up anything they forgot (or that they need another napkins) then stop up the flow of people coming out of the kitchen....if they go back to the front of the line, it doesn't make a traffic jam.

                    I've toyed with/am toying with just putting flatware and napkins on the table, but haven't yet decided.

                    That's for MY particular setup in THIS house, as we have a more or less circular telling what the setup would be in another house...

                    1. re: hill food

                      unlike sunshine i find people tend to forget them at the beginning of the line, im tempted to believe they forget them no matter where they are and where to put them is dependent on your individual setup. but i agree its a few less things to try to keep track of while moving thru the line. the church I go to insists on putting the water station at the head of the buffet, talk about making it confusing, but i long ago realized i'm never going to get them to change it. apparently its too much trouble to carry the ice to the far end of the line.

                      1. re: KaimukiMan

                        I think you're probably right about just forgetting them, period.

                        At least, with my setup, putting them at the front keeps the traffic flowing -- crucial when we're really tight on space

                        1. re: sunshine842

                          I think you were right about finding the best location for each individual setup. putting them at the beginning is certainly the most common, and I have to assume that system evolved over time as the best for who knows what reasons. You may well be right about it avoiding a bottleneck at the end of the line and throwing the whole process off.

                        2. re: KaimukiMan

                          I usually put the silverware in baskets, wrapped in a napkin and held together with a decorative napkin rings, elastic or ribbon. I prefer to put them at the end for ease of carrying but occasional the need to be in the beginning. Being held together in the bundle makes it easier.

                          1. re: foodieX2

                            bundling is nice, but then I suppose one could pile the bundles strategically on the table(s)

                  2. In many american homes the largest single room in the house is adjacent to the kitchen but totally overlooked as a possible entertainment space. It's called the garage. Yes, you may need to hang drapes in front of one wall where everything is being stored, Yes, you may want to keep some lengths of carpet rolled up, yes you may want to put in some nicer lighting, and depending on the season and location you may need to find a way to insulate the garage door or the cracks around it. But depending on the house and how often you need to do this, it may be a reasonable option.