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Close Up The Great Debate: Should couples be split at dinner parties?

The Great Debate: Should couples be split at dinner parties?

The Great Debate: Should couples be split at dinner parties?
By Malaysia Tatler
March 12, 2014

Lai Voon Hon and Dato' Kok Yui Shin debates if the age-old question of whether couples should be split at dinner parties proves a valid one.


Illustration by Kitty N. Wong

How your guests are seated at dinner parties plays an important role in deciding if the event turns out successful. To encourage mingling and conversation, should couples be split at these parties so they are more likely to get to know the person next to them? Lai Voon Hon and Dato' Kok Yui Shin shares with us what they think.

Lai Voon Hon, executive director of Ireka Corporation Berhad


To be honest, as far as seating a couple in a party is concerned, I do not have a hard and fast rule. If I were to organise an informal party where a number of my guests know each other, I would split the couple up. I find that this is the most ideal setting for lively interaction. This arrangement also allows my guests to catch up with people they know or to get to know new friends. Furthermore, this seating arrangement is more interesting for the guests as it is likely to yield new viewpoints for them. To the more adventurous guests, this offers them more fun for the evening! After all, a couple would already know everything about each other, right? 

Of course there are instances where the pairings are not so perfect and my guests end up very quiet as they are unable to converse with the person next to them. However, this rarely happens, as very often people will find someone seating to the right, left or in front of them to strike up a good conversation with. There are certain occasions, where almost all my guests know each other and if it’s in the context of Malaysia or Asia, I may not only split the couple but also by gender. While it might be perceived as sexist by Westerners, my guests are often much more relaxed with this arrangement.

Dato' Kok Yui Shin, regional director of McMillan Woods


Personally, as a host, I would look into seating couples together. In London, couples sitting apart were unheard of. I think social gatherings and sit-down dinners are good opportunities for couples to spend time together. These types of occasions allow couples to expand their social network as a husband-and-wife unit, as opposed to a ladies’ lunch or business lunch. It would be pleasant if they could actually do so by being seated together so they are able to enjoy the evening.

If couples are split up in formal occasions, there have been cases where the men felt awkward as they were seated next to a woman that is not their wife or partner. It is difficult for them to strike up a conversation if there are no similar topics of interests. What happens if the two tablemates do hit it off? Then there is also the possibility of the wife feeling jealous if the husband is chatting too much with the strange woman next to him! I have been personally informed by some of my guests that sitting apart from his or her partner is a ‘no-no’ for them. 

Of course, to ensure there is enough socialising on a personal basis to balance it out for an interesting gathering or dinner, I will make sure there is adequate time for mingling to take place, pre-dinner. 

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Close Up Malaysia Tatler Lai Voon Hon executive director McMillan Woods Ireka Corporation Berhad regional director Should couples be split at din The Great Debate Dato' Kok Yui Shin


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