Puzzling out the seating chart

Maia Nolan-Partnow

Here's the good news about the week before you get married: Your car is really clean. Like, really clean. Cleaner than it's been since that first year of grad school when you had no life and spent every Saturday detailing your car and taking your dog hiking. In fact, in the process of cleaning your car, you'll break off two of the fingernails you've been carefully cultivating since May, and one of them will be on your left hand, which everyone will be looking at during the wedding weekend to see your rings, and you won't even care that much, because your car is so clean.

("Can't you get a falsie?" Seth asked when I showed him my broken thumbnail. "You're allowed to have a falsie at your wedding. I won't tell.")

Oh, and P.S., you also have about 5,000 things to do at home. But hey, guess what? Your car is clean! Also, your laundry is done and your toilet is scrubbed, and all the Wallflowers in your house have been refilled, and the whole place smells like something called White Citrus! Look how productive you are!

Yes, in the week before you get married, it will be the small victories that count. Speaking of which, do you like Tetris?

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Did you say yes? Guess what: You should totally get married.

Seth and I have both been humming the Tetris theme (above) to ourselves since yesterday afternoon, which is when we started doing all our seating arrangements all over again. Due to a mixup involving our venue, our coordinators and apparently ourselves, we found out yesterday afternoon that our table assignments, which were based on a 10-to-a-table model and were essentially complete, all had to be redone because we thought we were using six-foot tables (which seat 10 people) and everyone else thought we knew we were using five-foot tables (which seat eight people) and were just insisting on cramming our guests into very small spaces. I'm not sure how the confusion arose, but, as Richard Fish would say, bygones. It happened and we're now recovering, and by recovering I mean "spending our entire Tuesday afternoon and evening reseating 175 guests at 23 tables instead of 21."

Did I mention my Champagne consumption has gone up to about a bottle a night? Well, it has.

Here's the thing about seating your guests at your wedding: It's an art. At least, it should be. We've all been to weddings (and by "we've all" I mean "I have and I expect you'll go along with me for this ride because hey, you've come this far") at which we were seated at terrible tables with people with whom we had nothing in common, and we've all been to weddings at which we were seated with strangers who soon became friends. Like the wedding in Boston last year at which Seth and I were seated with several of his college friends (who wanted to stand at the bar with Seth and drink like they were 22 again) and a gay couple (who wanted to dance all night and were thrilled to have a couple of women to dance with). That was an absolutely brilliant seating arrangement, and Chris and Brianna, if you're reading this: Well done.

We have this sort of vast, sprawling combination of relatives and friends coming to our wedding, and we want to seat people with other guests with whom they'll be compatible. I mean, sure, it's only four hours. But we'd like them to be four really fun, memorable hours. So when we learned we had to start all over again, Seth, to his immeasurable credit, took the reins and began seating our guests at tables of eight, working to ensure each guest would be seated with someone with whom, if they aren't friends at the beginning of the night, they will be by the end. It had never occurred to me how much work goes into seating guests at a wedding. Now I find myself crossing my fingers that my grad school friends and my writer friends and my New York friends will manage to eat, drink and merrify their way to finding the connective tissue I'm sure they'll uncover if they just chat long and well enough. If they don't... well, I suppose they can always go stand at the bar for most of the night. Except for maybe the pregnant ones.

In a perhaps unrelated incident, one of the shoots in our "lucky bamboo" arrangement has slowly died over the past two weeks. The other two stalks are still standing tall. I'm not sure what to make of this, except that Seth and I both thought it seemed a little ominous; we'd selected three stems for happiness, and now we're down to two, a number which my (admittedly shallow) Internet research suggests has no meaning, making it eminently preferable to four lucky bamboo stalks, a number that's avoided since the word for "four" apparently sounds a lot like the word for "death." And we'd like to stave that off, at least for now.

Last night, after we'd gone over the seating chart and the song list and the do-not-play list and the schedule for the week, Seth suggested a slow song for the song list (which had already been sent to our deejay) and then shared some random anecdote about the song's origins. Then he said:

"See? Where would you be without me? You'd be a spinster."

When I broke down in hysterical sobs of laughter, he asked me whether I was laughing at him or with him. And I had to admit: I didn't know. What I do know is I'd rather be re-Tetrising my wedding guests and worrying over my lucky bamboo than not getting married at all. And we're now rushing headlong into a week that will be crazy, yes, but also deeply pockmarked with blessings, including the arrival of dozens of our dearest friends and most beloved relatives. And for that, I'm willing to break a thumbnail or two.

Although a falsie's not out of the question.

Maia Nolan is an Anchorage writer who once planned to be the next Martha Stewart.

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