The first thing one sees upon entering a hall is not bride, groom, nor the coat room. Front and center is a table, covered in place-cards. Those little bits of heavy-stock paper decide each guest’s situation of life for the next few hours. The couple and their families spent time – some of them the whole previous night, foregoing sleep and imbibing coffee – to find the perfect configuration of each person’s seat. Every person was selected, inspected, and elected to sit a specific table with specific people. 90% of the guests were carefully placed at tables where they would comfortably mix and mingle, enjoy good conversation and company. The other 10% did not quite fit in with any of the other guests – these are the obligatory invitees, the oddball friends, and quirky relative – the ones who really couldn’t be put with anyone else and so were lumped together. Regardless of their favor in the eyes of the table-arrangers, all guests are treated equally to a place-card, and equally they are obliged to follow its directions.
Weddings are not a round of musical chairs. Someone, after at least moderately careful consideration, placed you where they wanted you. Picking up and moving to a different table, albeit one where you’re less likely to hear a discourse on your seatmate’s medical history, is rude. It’s not just rude to your hosts, it’s rude to whoever was placed at that table. There’s a reason you weren’t put there – perhaps the hosts thought someone at your assigned table would enjoy meeting you, or perhaps they really didn’t want you mingling with the other guests. Whatever the reason, you were invited to sit in your seat, not someone else’s.
I was once displaced from my seat at a wedding. Following the place-card’s direction, I found my table, and circled it as I looked for an open chair. There were none. I gave up and sat at a table which, I was told by a bridesmaid, had room for me. Later on, I stopped by my assigned table to chat with a friend – one of many who were seated there – and her seatmate confided in us that she’d been assigned to the table where the bridesmaid had put me. With a charming smile, she told us that she hadn’t wanted to sit with her schoolmates and had opted to sit at the hipper table instead. That explained why I spent the wedding seated with people who knew each other but didn’t know me. The silence around my seat would have been deafening, if the band hadn’t been.
This is why, as I sit at another wedding listening to half of my new acquaintances discuss how much better their own weddings were, and the other half discuss their recent maladies, I grin. Truly, I find it hard to listen because I know that I was placed at this table and I can’t stop wondering why. I’m just not sure if I’m the obligatory invitee, oddball friend, or that secret quirky relative. What I do know is that Emily Post would be proud, and the bridal family relieved.