THE youngfella with the gong looked mortified, but it was his job and if didn’t do it there were plenty of other gangly youths who would.

“Dinner is served,” he croaked, grinning nervously around at the assembled guests, making a shoo-ing motion with his hand, indicating the way to the ballroom.

Glasses were drained, hats were picked up and slowly but surely we started trickling towards the reception room, ready for the wedding breakfast, chattering happily.

A queue formed at the door, as it usually does, as people strained to find out what table they were sitting at hoping they’d be near their friends and not saddled with the priest.

Sorry Father.

On this occasion however, they were left wondering. There was no table plan. No nice printed lists mounted on coloured card matching the bridesmaid dresses, no pithy table names, nothing.

Word spread from the front of the queue, to us at the back. No table plan. Gotta find your own seat. Might not be enough seats. Run, save yourselves!

And run we did. Inside was a scene not unlike what you’d expect to find in some war-torn country somewhere, when the UN rolls in with food-parcels. In other words, it was mayhem.

Nobody noticed the beautiful fairy-light backdrop. Not a word passed about the stunning floral centrepieces. Chaircovers went un-noticed, everything the bride had put her heart and soul into for the best part of a year was lost, forgotten in the scrum to find a seat.

Coats were thrown over chairs as triumphant aunties breathlessly shouted  ‘sorry this table is taken’. Elderly relatives lost canes and artificial hips in the race, while bewildered work colleagues stood awkwardly on the dance-floor, wanting to sit together but slowly realising they were going to be split up and would inevitably find themselves sitting beside the priest.

Again, sorry Father.

It was a disaster. Families were spread raggedly over half a dozen tables, mixed in with neighbours, work colleagues and a random two-some who may well have been at the wrong wedding. It took easily 30 minutes for everyone to find a seat and even then, the hotel had to scramble a table and eight chairs out of thin air to accommodate a party who simply could find no room at any inn.

Yer Man and I looked at each other (from opposite ends of the room where we’d ended up sitting) and mouthed – “we’re definitely doing a table plan.”

Which leads me to the point of this post – table plans, yay or nay?

For me, it has to be a yay. While the scenario mentioned above has to be the worst case, of course, the fact is if you don’t tell people where to sit at a wedding, it just gets messy. Human beings are creatures of habit, they love boundaries, they need to be told what to do. You would think 100 adults in a room with 100 seats would simply sit down and stay quiet, but unfortunately in most cases, that’s not how it works.

You need a list outside the door saying these ten people should sit at table one, the next ten at table two and so on. This is your wedding we’re talking about here, not a cheap package holiday flight to an airport 50 miles from the city you’re actually going to visit.

Where people sit at those tables should be up to them, they can figure that much out, but you need to give them a nudge in the right direction.

Of course doing a table plan brings its own set of problems – who sits with who? Will Auntie Mary be offended if she’s at the back? Where should work colleagues sit? What about those two mates from college who don’t know anybody else? And of course, who’s going to sit beside the priest?

Once again, sorry Father.

This is a part of the wedding planning where you’re better off not to ask anybody else’s opinion. Sit down, just the two of you, and decide who’s sitting where. You’ll know your family and who’s not talking to who and he’ll know his. You’ll both know your friends and can match people in there. If you even hint to anyone that you’re doing up the table plan, they’ll be straight in with the texts ‘oh don’t sit me beside X, I get on better with Y’. If you get these texts, calls, or emails, ignore them. It’s your wedding day, people will just sit where they’re told to and even if they don’t get a prime seat, they should be able to suck it up for two hours.

Although our wedding isn’t for another six months we have a draft table plan drawn up, should all of our 179 guests show up on the day. (Hey, I’m unemployed, sue me!) It took a while, there was much crumpled paper and gnashing of teeth and of course it’ll have to be redone when we get the RSVPs but at the very least we know all of our guests will have a seat and no-one will be left standing on the dance-floor.