How to Seat the Engaged

Dear Sensible Midwesterner,

What is the correct way of seating at a formal dinner for a couple who are not married? They are engaged. Should they be seated together or separately?

Yours Truly,
Wondering How to Seat the Engaged

Dear Wondering How to Seat the Engaged,

People don’t tend to like the answer to this question. Well, they’ll like the answer to your specific question, but they don’t like that it’s the exception to the rule.

Engaged couples are, traditionally, seated together. Newlyweds, too. Old married folks, however, are, again traditionally, seated apart. The theory is that if you’ve been married awhile, you actually see a fair amount of one another and have plenty of opportunities to chat, so when you’re at a party you might enjoy talking to someone else. Not that you don’t enjoy your spouse, mind you, just that if you were going to talk to them all night you might as well have stayed home.

Personally, I’m a fan of this practice. I like the fresh audience for my most amusing anecdotes, if nothing else. And what’s more fun than the ride home exchanging highlights from separate conversations you were able to have?

Experience in voicing this point of etiquette and personal preference, however, tells me that people will argue quite vehemently against this practice. They want nothing more in the whole wide world than to spend even more time with their spouse. If everyone at the party wants to sit in pairs, that’s exactly what they should do. When they come to my house, though, I’m going to gently encourage them to sit four feet apart and see how things go.

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