When it comes to entertaining, most of us rarely invite more people than we can comfortably seat in our homes. At my house, the limit is about 30 people; any more than that and it's time to dig out the plastic lawn chairs and tables from the barn.
Seating a large crowd for a dinner party is definitely a challenge. While ideally you'd like everyone to be close enough to talk to each other, there must also be enough space for circulating around the room. Here are three ways our family has managed to seat a crowd for large dinner parties; these ideas may work for you as well.
Use the living room as restaurant seating for formal dinner parties. For large, formal dinner parties, we will empty our living room and dining room of furniture and lease round banquet tables and chairs to create a "restaurant style" seating arrangement. I have discovered there's quite a few advantages to renting identically sized tables.
--Easier to coordinate tablecloths, napkins, and table decorations
--Creates more of a uniform appearance in the room
--Similar table styles means that more will fit in a room
--Rental costs include set up and take down
Most small living rooms can easily accommodate four 6-ft round tables, large living rooms can handle between six to eight. For larger crowds, you may have to spill over into the dining room and family rooms.
Rental costs range between $8/15 for a table and $1/1.50 per chair, and $4 per linen tablecloth.
Arrange tables "boarding house style" for casual parties . As an alternative to restaurant style seating, boarding house seating can be a fun and casual seating solution. Boarding house seating means arranging rectangular tables end to end. Most living or family rooms are large enough to handle at least two parallel rows of tables, with two or three tables in each row.
Because boarding house seating is much more casual, it is acceptable to use a mix of chairs, including those plastic resin chairs out in the garage. Some fun ways to decorate and set those tables include these three ideas:
--Use an assortment of brightly colored, disposal vinyl tablecloths with patterned or "themed" paper goods.
--Drape the tables in a solid color cloth tablecloth, and set with a hodge podge of different dish and silverware patterns. If you don't have enough matching dishes of your own, the dollar store and thrift stores are a great place to pick up a mix & match collection on the cheap.
--Use checkered red & white tablecloths and red divided plastic trays.
Plan a casual buffet. If your guest list includes 100 people or more, a casual buffet style party may be the only way to accommodate a crowd. A casual buffet is one in which all the food is placed in a central location ~ such as the kitchen counter or kitchen table ~ and guests are free to serve themselves and sit (or stand) where they want.
To seat dinner guests for this type of party, I'll press all my tables and chairs into use through the entire main floor of the house, including my lawn furniture. Some basic rules to follow:
--Tables and chairs should be set up where they are out of the traffic patterns. The main rooms of the house (dining, living, family, den, porches) are the best locations for setting up dining tables.
--Individual chairs should also be set up out of the traffic patterns. Good areas for chairs are against walls, beneath picture windows, or adjacent end tables and occasional tables.
--Clear off the end tables and set up TV trays for holding food and beverages. To protect the surfaces, a cloth place mat or small table covering will work.
--If using paper goods, select brands that are strong enough to be held with one hand without danger of collapsing.
--Sweep through the rooms often to clear away dirty plates and cups. Removing after dinner clutter promptly will keep rooms tidier and much more spacious in appearance.