11/07/2011 02:26 am ET Updated Jan 06, 2012

Table Number Trouble

"Hey, why am I at Table 4 when they're at Table 3?"

Any guest who complains about which table number they 'made' has issues you can't do anything about. Table numbers aren't rankings of importance ... they're there so that the servers know which entrees to bring where, and which guest ordered the chicken vs. the surf and turf.

The great table number debate brings up a big complaint that banquet servers have brought to my attention. When a bride and groom plan to avoid table number politics by naming their tables instead -- such as having the Joy table, the Bliss table, the Happily Ever After table, or the Paris, London, Milan tables, whatever their plan may be -- the servers experience chaos. Is the Milan table on the right side of the room or the left side? With no sense of order, that flawless serving style you want for your wedding gets slowed-down as wait staff has to look at a chart to find out where Bliss is in your reception layout.

"I worked a wedding where the couple named the tables after types of wines," says one anonymous server. "Which was confusing enough, but they made it even more complicated by having the Pinot Grigio table and the Pinot Gris table. I know my wines, but every server had to really work to get the right entrees to the right guests. And the bride and groom had the nerve to complain that dinners weren't served quickly enough."

If you're in love with the idea of having creative table names, save them for a bridal shower or for the morning-after breakfast, where guests seat themselves without table assignments. Restaurant servers say, "It doesn't matter to me what you name the table. I know that the third booth is #3, and I can serve everyone at that table exactly what they ordered, how they ordered it."

Why doesn't it work that same way at a banquet hall? Because in many cases, the site arranges the tables according to different layouts for each wedding. There may be 24 round tables arranged on both sides of the dance floor at one wedding, and there may be ten long tables and four rounds at another. The 'map' of the room changes from event to event, and they count on an organized system of numbers to get their serving straight.

Talk to your site manager about your 'I still want it' wish for named tables. He or she will likely be able to solve the problem with a very clear map of table names that their trained servers can use, or your decorative table name card might have Bliss printed on the front and 4 on the back for the servers' use. This hybrid plan could make everyone happy.

Sharon Naylor is the author of over 35 wedding books, including 1001 Ways to Save Money and Still Have a Dazzling Wedding,

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