If the title doesn’t give it away, I’ll say this much … Just when you think that seating everyone is a minor task, you soon run into uncertainty, doubt and a touch of fear as you decide where to seat your guests. Uncle John might be easy, he’ll sit with the kids, he tells great jokes and loves the patter of tiny little feet but what if we don’t have the perfect family? What if Mum and Dad are no longer together, what if Auntie Joan fell out with Auntie Margaret ten years ago, what if your Brother and Sister haven’t spoken in years and so on? I may be painting what appears to be an episode of Jeremy Kyle here but facts are facts, not everyone gets on, people do fall out and guess what? As much as it’s your special day and everyone should love you enough to get on, the world isn’t that simple and there’s no point kidding ourselves that these things don’t need to be considered when arranging your seating plan.
The most important thing to do is not to stress over this. You should have everyone you want there to witness your big day regardless of their differences, you just need to be tactful about how you organise where you put everyone. The biggest issue may be Mums and Dads. If they have an amicable relationship and are no longer together, great! If not, some decisions need to be made. Can they swallow their differences enough and appease each other to sit with you at the head table? You will only know this by consulting both and explaining how important it is that they share a table with you in harmony, putting differences aside for your big day. If it can’t be done, then do you sit with Mum and put Dad into the crowd? Do you sit with Dad and put Mum in the crowd? My answer? If they can’t settle their differences for one day, seriously consider whether they should both be dispersed amongst the guests. Explain your decision to them and explain that they do have a choice and leave it to them to decide. So what about everyone else? List your guests, assess the conflicting relationships and put each of your hot spots on separate tables. Now we don’t want to isolate them and highlight their conflicts so surround each hot spot with family and friends who they enjoy the company of… in essence, water down the hot spots and all should go well.
Ensure that each table has a good conversationalist, ensure there is someone who is able to maintain control of any children who might be present and ensure that each table has someone who is well placed to ensure that equilibrium is maintained throughout the day. So you’ve separated the conflicts, you’ve balanced the personalities on the tables and surrounded everyone with friends and family whose company they enjoy … All is well right? Oh, hold on, Cousin Reggie hates everyone, he’ll likely offend most people with his inappropriate jokes! I don’t care if you’re the queen, Prince Phillip still causes offence almost everywhere he goes and your family will have one … My advice? If there’s a hot spot that can’t be cooled, it’s time to be ruthless with the guest list and decide whether Cousin Reggie is better placed being invited to the evening party instead. That’s right, if you have real concerns about any guest, you don’t want to be sitting there worrying about what might happen next, this is your big day and your time to relax and enjoy. Your evening party where everyone is more relaxed and there’s entertainment to deflect conflict is your back up. You need not exclude anyone, just be tactful in your approach and all will be well.