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The Seating Chart

A bride-to-be finds out there's more to finding the rhythm of a seating chart.

Doing the seating chart for my wedding shouldn't have felt like an impossible task. Somehow, though, it did. The idea of having all the people I loved sit down together-joined, of course, by the near-strangers my fiancé loved put me into a cold sweat. The math worked out to eight guests per table, with 12 tables. Maybe trying to keep the numbers straight is what made it feel like an endless algebra equation.

I stayed up late into the night, scribbling and re-scribbling names around the circles that represented the tables. I asked my fiancé's opinions only to argue his points. So far as I could see, this was not a case where one plus one equaled two. It equaled either bliss or disaster. Put the right friends or family members together and they'd delight in each other's company. Make the wrong choice and they'd be miserable on the happiest day of my life.

Finally, my fiancé and I completed the chart to our satisfaction, seating couples together who shared some thread of connection or who, at the very least, might hit it off.

The work was worth it: At the wedding, the guests seemed to enjoy themselves, in their seats and out of them. The other shoe dropped nine months later. I was talking to an old friend who'd recently attended the nuptials of an acquaintance. In telling me about it, she casually said, "We had better seats than at your wedding. Why did you sit us in the nosebleed section as far away from you guys as possible? And who was that sullen couple you put us next to?"

In response, I felt a little defensive, a little sorry, and then, I found my sense of humor. There was something funny in hearing my own secret fears be voiced so succinctly. "OK, so you hated your seat, but I know you had fun on the dance floor," I said. She laughed.

We immediately began to reminisce about who had the best moves, and ended the phone call on a happy note. Later, I couldn't help but realize that my worst fear coming true wasn't nearly as bad as the worry that had preceded it.

So maybe I hadn't gotten the equation exactly right. But with a beautiful wedding day behind me and fabulous memories to go with it, I certainly hadn't gotten it wrong either.

Kate Chynoweth is the author of The Bridesmaid Guide: Etiquette, Parties and Being Fabulous and the creator of The Bachelorette Party Kit (both from Chronicle Books).

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