Emotional ‘Tetris’ of seat plans


HOW many times do you see a throng of guests around the seating plan at a wedding, even long after everyone has found their seat? After the guest list itself, who sits where can give couples more headaches than almost any other aspect of the planning because it is often fraught with family sensitivities.

Although tradition in the UK dictates that bride and groom sit in the centre of the wedding “top table” with the parents on either side, flanked by best man and chief bridesmaid, in South Africa 2014 where so many parents are either divorced or remarried, there is no need to stick to convention.

When Caledon Preparatory School teacher Adri van Rensburg, 22, married Ankervas Primary School teacher Dayne Jeffrey, 26, in Uitenhage this past weekend, for example, she was faced with more than one seating challenge.

Not only were her parents separated but she and Dayne also had 10 attendants between them. With Adri’s mother divorced when she was a young child, and her father remarried, the couple had three sets of parents to consider in their seating plan.

“We didn’t want anyone to feel left out, or put in front of anyone else,” said Adri yesterday so the couple resolved the issue by choosing to have a “sweetheart” table just for the two of them.

They placed the bride’s mother at one table with relatives and friends, her father was at another with his newer family, while the groom’s parents were at a table with three brothers and their wives. Adri had a generous posse of five bridesmaids and Dayne had five groomsmen to match so the table-for-two neatly avoided them having to make the tough choice of “best man” and “chief bridesmaid”.

Instead, the attendants sat at their own table, with or without partners, interspersed with other friends of a similar age.

It worked well and as the friendly couple wanted to mingle, they could freely work the room and chat to every guest without leaving a gap in the “top table”. According to at least one American study, 84% guests themselves prefer a predetermined seating plan.

After all, most guests at weddings rarely know everyone invited, or may still have to meet the new in-laws so a seating plan helps break the ice. On the other hand, you don’t necessarily want the party animal with the potty mouth from your school days seated next to the dominee from Despatch!

At least Adri and Dayne were not in the position of one bride who reputedly posted about her difficult seating chart on Facebook, as “like Tetris, but with emotions”.

– Gillian McAinsh

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