Jennifer Yin via Flickr Creative Commons
How do you handle a seating chart with multiple family situations and conflicts making it mind numbingly hard!?
You have two main strategies here: (1) Seat people wherever the hell you want and assume that they are grown-ups and can handle themselves for a single day; (2) Knock yourself out and do your absolute best to cope with various family drama. I will warn you right now: No matter which strategy you choose, you will piss someone off. The key: Don’t let this bother you. Weddings breed craziness. Don’t get sucked into it.
Since you’ve written to me, I’m assuming you’ve decided to not go with Option 1. My suggestion: Post-It notes in many different colors. Use one color for the drama-free folks. Use different colors for each “warring faction.” Seat like with like and use the non-drama folks as buffers. Do a sweetheart table so you don’t have to deal with offending folks who aren’t seated at the head table. Put as many tables equidistant from the sweetheart table as possible, so you don’t have to deal with Uncle Jack complaining about how Aunt Jane was seated closer to you than he was. And use table names rather than numbers, so Phyllis can’t throw a fit that Margaret’s table number was lower, and therefore better, than hers.
Again, you’ll likely make someone angry. Know that you did the best you could and if they can’t put their differences aside for one meaningful day in your life, they can suck it. So neener.
My ceremony and reception are both at the same garden, and I only have three hours to do everything. We’re doing a buffet, and this amount of time doesn’t include set-up or clean-up. How do I fit it all into a few hours?
That’s a fairly tight amount of time, which will make sticking to a timeline absolutely critical. First off: Make sure you start your ceremony when you’re scheduled to start it. Brace yourself, though, as guests will inevitably be late. Unfortunately, those folks will just end up missing part of the ceremony. I’d also suggest doing a first look, so you can get most (if not all) of the posed pictures out of the way prior to everything starting. This will obviously need to be done offsite, but this isn’t the end of the world. You’ll get plenty of non-posed onsite shots during your shindig.
Twenty to 30 minutes is probably a fair amount of time for a garden ceremony, assuming you aren’t doing a bunch of readings or an elaborate unity ceremony. You’ll likely need to cut the cocktail hour down to a cocktail half-hour. This leaves you with about two hours to go. Appoint someone to emphatically shepherd guests from the cocktail area to the reception, and have your wedding party announced as soon as possible. Trust me: Once you start entering, people will get their butts into their seats. If you can skip toasts, that’s great. Otherwise, do them while folks are in line for the buffet. Ideally, guests would be seated for toasts. Realistically, you’re on a timeline here!
Obviously, you and your spouse should be first in line for the buffet, or someone should have already put your food-laden plates where you’ll be sitting. If you can, have multiple buffet stations, since this will cut down on waiting time for your guests. As soon as you and your spouse are done eating, segue into the cake cutting. Yes, some folks will still be eating while you’re cutting your cake. That’s okay. Right after cutting the cake, move into your first dance and parent dances. After a couple of songs where the dance floor is open, do your bouquet and garter tosses. This will hopefully leave about a half-hour of dancing after the official traditions are done.
I’d also suggest doing some sort of no-host party after the reception is over. My husband and I went to a local bar after our reception had ended, and there’s nothing quite like walking into a bar wearing a wedding dress. This also has the advantage of continuing the party without you having to pay for it. Our guests were thrilled to have somewhere “official” to go, and my husband and I were happy to have somewhere we could go, have one drink, then head back to our hotel and collapse.
How about you? Did you struggle with your seating chart? How did you eventually make it work? And what sort of timeline would you use if you only had your venue for three hours? Let us know in the comments below!