Deciding seating arrangement is a couples first order of business when it comes to reception table planning
Once a wedding reception venue has been secured and the expected guest is finalized, one of the first items wedding couples will need to address is the reception seating arrangement.
And this is not about who will sit with whom, or making sure a certain person doesn’t sit with another certain person. I’m speaking about where the couple will sit.
Generally speaking, there are one of three ways that wedding couples can seat themselves: sweetheart table, head table and, I’m not even sure what to call it , but let’s just say “sitting among the guests.”
As with any situation when you are faced with options, there are pros and cons to the above. Here’s my perspective on all three. And I’ll analyze both from a guest and a DJ’s perspective.
This is a small table, generally a half moon, where only the newly wedded couple are assigned to. It is usually placed in an area of the room that becomes the focal point.
Pros: You and your “sweetheart” get your own spot. It will also be much easier for guests and venue and vendor staff to access you. Without having to work around several people at a head table, bringing the couple their food, drink, taking a picture, etc. is fairly easy with this set-up.
For me, I usually need to communicate with the couple a few times during dinner, so having the easy access is nice for me.
Another advantage is that since it is a smaller table it does not take up too much space. Once the dinner is over and it’s time to party and dance, you will not have a large vacant table looking unusually bare and in the way.
Cons: Having their own spot may be uncomfortable for some, as it can feel a bit awkward to be showcased in a room. I for one am not too keen on the idea of people watching me eat. Couples may also feel a bit removed from the party, especially if it is a very large room and their table has been placed far from other tables.
This set-up assigns the wedding couple along with members of the entire wedding party. Depending on the size of the wedding party, it could be one long table, or a 8-10 person round table.
Pros: Your friends, family and whomever else you want, all hanging out around a table … what’s not to love about this? I would also imagine, from a service perspective, a long table is easier on the staff to serve those sitting at it.
The other positive element to a head table, is what decorators and florists can do. A large, long table presents an empty canvas that I have seen transformed into true works of art.
Cons: A large head table will soon be a large empty table just taking up important spac. During dinner, it’s common for the wedding couple to get up from their table and visit with the other guests. It’s also common for others at the table to get up, for whatever reason.
In some cases, if a member of the wedding party has family members sitting at another table, they may get up to visit with them, or maybe just check in with them (think of a bridesmaid who has a young child sitting with dad at another table.)
And even if everyone stays seated during dinner, nearly everyone will have vacated this table by the time the dancing gets started. What is left behind is a table with seating for 10,15, 20 etc. that is taking up prime position in the room. In many cases in an area that may have made better sense for me as the DJ and MC to be placed so I can connect better with the guests and dancers.
Couple sitting among all guests
This set-up assigns the wedding couple to a table among the “general population.” In essence, there is not a specific table designated for the couple or the wedding party.
Pros: The advantage of this seating arrangement is it eliminates all of the “cons” mentioned above. The couple will be sitting at a table with their friends or whomever else they choose. They won’t have to worried about being on display and since the table has been placed with the other tables, it’s likely not taking up space and interfering with the dance floor.
Cons: In the same way this arrangement eliminates the cons from above, it likely eliminates the “pros.” The couple will not have the own personal table or something exclusive for the wedding party. It may also feel a bit invasive and less welcoming for other guests to come up to this table and interact with you, since with a round table, you are always having to come up from behind the couple to get their attention.
Whatever you decide, be sure to consider the pros and cons presented above. My biggest suggestion would be to consider the entire evening. How easy do you want to make it for your guests to interact with you? Will an empty table be a hindrance later when the party gets going? Do you want to spend this meal time among friends and family or primarily with your new spouse?
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Justin Kanoya is a wedding DJ based in San Diego. He has served as a DJ and host of more than 300 weddings over the past decade and is a recommended vendor at some of San Diego's finest wedding venues, including the Hotel del Coronado and the Lodge at Torrey Pines.