I came home recently to Sue and Lauren, my future daughter-in-law, drinking cold champagne. The mood was celebratory. The relief palpable.
"We have the tables set," Sue said. "We know where everybody is going to sit."
Sam and Lauren are to be married in eight days. Dresses have been bought, tuxedos rented and soon the groom's father will have purchased a new tie that presumably will bring all the wedding colors together, including the tablecloths and the color of the night sky.
After the last RSVP has trickled in, it is time to seat the guests. The kitchen table has been covered with square blue sticky notes attached to larger pieces of blue poster paper. The poster paper represents wedding tables; the sticky notes, names of guests.
Guests have been promoted, put on probation or awarded the star of valor for duties they have yet to perform. They have been moved around like chess pieces, sometimes traveling from one end of the kitchen table to the other and then reversing course and coming back again.
There are no appeals. This is wedding justice. Best to meet your seating fate with a smile and impeccable posture.
Most tables start with an anchor. Anchors are the first ones chosen in the seating draft. When you find a legitimate anchor, you have to protect him or her in the same way that a baseball team protects its power hitter in the cleanup spot by surrounding him with dangerous batters so the opposing pitcher can't pitch around him.
Next are the role players. Role players normally won't hurt you. They can be adept at catching the waiter's eye when the table runs short of wine and making sure everybody has rice with which to pelt the bride and bridegroom at the end of the evening.
Last are the floaters. Every wedding has them; attend enough weddings and you've probably been a floater yourself and not realized it. Floaters are usually on the invitational bubble; they barely made it before the budget ballooned and veered wildly out of control. If floaters were cars, they would have been recalled when the gas pedal stuck and the car burst into flames.
"Floaters are like bench players," Sam said. "You have to pay their salaries, they take up a seat on the bus and sometimes they don't help you that much."
A floater may aspire to be an anchor, and no one would deny a floater his dreams, but making a floater an anchor, or even bumping him to a role player, is like promoting a pitcher from the Cactus League to close out the seventh game of the World Series. You risk cratering the table and making it radioactive.
A floater is like a doctor. What a host wants from a floater is to do no harm. Eat, drink and squire the older widows around on the dance floor.
A couple of days ago, Sue sent an email to me and a friend. It read:
"Would you be willing to prepare 160 corks to hold place cards? You'd need to shave off the bottom of the corks so that they stay in place (and don't roll around) and then cut a slit at the top of each cork to hold the place card. We have the corks.
"Sorry for the late request. Will you accept this assignment?
Yes, we will. Shaving 160 corks and rendering them capable of holding place cards is one way for a floater or a role player to be promoted.
Contact Californian columnist Herb Benham at 395-7279 or hbenham@ bakersfield.com. His work appears on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays; the views expressed are his own.