The Seating Plan.
Unless you are forced into working out who sits where for the hour that it takes to listen to a few speeches, gulp down a couple of glasses of fizz and toy with some sandwiches, you will never truly realise how complicated the most seemingly-benign group of family and friends can be.
Working out who can and can't sit next to each other is like playing a massive game of Sudoku, but with people instead of numbers.
So, in the spirit of helping engaged couples everywhere, I have used my experience to compile the definitive How-To Guide To Doing A Seating Plan:
- Put it off for as long as possible. There is always something less hideous but still important that you can do instead. Like buying bunting on ebay. Or playing with hair clips. Or looking at your wedding shoes and making sure they are still happy in their box. Only when this stage has been thoroughly completed can you move on to stage 2.
- Open wine. (If you can justify this further with "We need to test this one. We might buy it for the reception", you get extra points. Even if that statement is not true). Pour wine.
- Get massive piece of paper.
- Remove cat from massive piece of paper.
- Write the names of all the guests on another piece of paper, then cut them all out individually, as if you were going to put them all in a hat and pull them out one by one. (Come to think of it, that would actually be a really good tactic. Do that).
- (Assuming you didn't do the hat thing). Have small argument with fiance where he insists that the whole thing can be done better on an Excel spreadsheet whilst you brandish scissors and wine and exclaim that you have to do it this way because "otherwise it won't work IN MY HEAD".
- Divide the names into family and friends piles.
- Take out all the family and friends who should be on the 'top table'.
- Realise this is nearly everyone. And that you don't really want to sit next to your parents anyway.
- Get momentarily distracted by 'The Great British Bake Off'.
- Pour more wine.
- Decide that the whole top table idea is far too complicated and that in fact the answer is to have one table that just has the two of you on it and a huge bottle of wine.
- Argue about whether you can therefore be called "The King And Queen Of Weddingland" when sitting at the special table.
- Plump for "The Table Of Excellence and Power" instead, even though this name will not actually be used. (It blatantly will.)
- Attempt to divide up the rest of the family tables.
- Realise family are far too complicated and move on to friends.
- Create tables based on groups that might like to sit together. Feel quite proud to have achieved something until you realise that this gives you three tables of 7, one of 14 and another of 3.
- Accuse fiance of drinking your wine as it has all disappeared very quickly.
- Pick up Doug the cat and ask his opinion. He is non-committal. Announce bright idea of dropping Doug on the table, letting him roll around in the names "and where they end up, there shall they be seated".
- Receive sigh and disappointed look from fiance.
- Throw all bits of paper back into one big pile.
- Deal them all out into sets of 8 (agreed table size).
- Move on to allocation of table names according to theme of "Big Damn Heroes".
- Have minor argument about which table deserves to be the Fox Mulder table.
- Sit in stony silence for a while.
- Allocate Fox Mulder to a random family table because "they will have heard of him". Secretly vow to self that a large proportion of the actual reception will be spent visiting all the tables and explaining exactly who their 'hero' is and delivering potted history of the character whether the guests like it or not.
- Loudly declare "I just don't WANT Al Swearengen*. I want The Awesome Table Of Excellence And Power to be the Gene Hunt table."
- Allocate Al Swearengen to another table.
- Remove Al Swearengen from that table as there is a 4 year old seated at it and somehow this seems inappropriate. Give them Benton Fraser instead.
- Allocate all other tables at random as it is now time for bed.
- Let fiance type the resulting lists into Excel.
And there you have it. 31 easy steps towards a harmonious wedding reception.
PS I am aware that I have missed off the acute accent on 'fiance'. Believe me, this is annoying me just as much as you. I can't work out how to make blogger do it. Presumably French people don't use blogger. Merde.
*Ian McShane's character in Deadwood. All kinds of sweary Western goodness. You'll never look at Lovejoy in the same way again.