wedding tips

Sweetheart Table vs. Head Table ... or Something Else

Just the two of us ... the sweetheart table only has room for two!

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.

Sweetheart Table
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.

Head Table
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.

A long head table provides a canvas to create dramatic floral and decorative table art.

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.

Having the wedding party sitting among the guests is the best of both the sweetheart and head table worlds. 

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. 

Five Tips To Ensure You Give The Perfect Wedding Toast

The wedding couple will be intently listening, so be prepared to give the perfect wedding toast.

As a wedding DJ in San Diego I have served as the master of ceremonies at more than 300 weddings since 2002. Generally speaking, every wedding has at least two toasts, one from the best man and one from the maid of honor. Add in a parent speech or two, and it’s not too far off of an estimate that I have sat through nearly 1,000 speeches.

If I had to assess a movie title to the type of wedding toasts and speeches I’ve heard, it would most certainly be, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”

If you’ve been asked to speak at a wedding -- such as being the best man or maid/matron of honor -- the purpose of this article is to provide a few tips to make that process a little easier. Because after sitting through 1,000 wedding toasts, I’m hoping I can help your speech end up in the “good” category  and stay clear of the “bad” and most certainly “ugly.”

1. Familiarize yourself with where you will be speaking, as in the actual location where you will be standing
If you’ve never spoken to a group of 100-plus people -- and that’s the majority of people I’ve come across -- it’s always good to get a sense of what your vantage point is going to be before the room is dead quiet and 100 pairs of eyes are staring at you.

Find out ahead of time where you will be standing for the toast, so you're not caught off guard when it's "go time."

As the primary MC, I am addressing the audience in various locations throughout the night. But as a general rule, for the actual “champagne toast,” “best man toast,” “maid of honor toast,” etc., I make sure to place the speaker near the couple.

This placement will depend on the type of seating arrangement too.

  • Couple sitting at “sweetheart table”: This type of seating, where only the newly wedded couple are seated, tends to be the focal point of the room. Standing near the table, on the side of the person you are toasting (i.e. best man toasting the groom) is recommended.
  • Couple sitting in the middle of a large “head table”: This set-up can be difficult if the table is real long (wide). Most of the time, the toaster is usually right next to the couple, so it’s easy to stand up from the table and speak. If the toaster is not sitting with or near them, then I recommend taking a similar position next to them.

    Avoid standing on the opposite side of the table, because this will likely result in having your back to the guests or the couple.
  • Couple sitting among all guests: This seating arrangement is becoming more common because it allows the couple to sit with everyone and not be showcased at a single table. The table they are sitting at will likely be near the dance floor. This makes the dance floor a natural place to stand since you can face both the couple and the guests.

Understandably it can also be one of the most nerve wracking positions because you’ll have that “I’m on stage and everyone is staring at me feeling.”

Yes, you will have nerves, but keep reading for some tips to help alleviate some of them.

2. Understand proper microphone technique: 
Grab a microphone, speak. Seems pretty easy right? Technically, yes, it’s easy. But there are a few things to keep in mind.

Project your voice. Just because you are speaking into a microphone does not mean you should speak softer. In fact, you should speak a little louder since a large group of people are listening to what you are saying. Think of it as an amplified conversation. My suggestion is to assume you don’t have a mic, speak at that volume (without yelling) and project your voice.

Perfect microphone technique shown here. Hold it right in the middle and place it close to the mouth.

Kiss the mic. When speaking, place the microphone almost to the point that you are about to kiss it. Do not hold it down by your waist or at your chest. Lift and place it near your mouth.

Yes, it’s on. Any seasoned professional MC, DJ, sound guy should be handing you a “hot mic.” You should not have to worry about turning it on or off, or asking “is this thing on,” and please do not slap the top of the mic. I will never understand why people do this.

I always mute the microphone before I had hand it to the person about to speak (unless they are immediately going to speak). I control “on/off” from my mixing board so it’s on when it needs to be, and most importantly, off when it needs to be.

3. Spend time before the wedding preparing your speech:
Remarkably, I’ve handed a microphone off to people that have literally asked, “what am I supposed to say.” You’ve just been given the honor to say a few words and toast a newly wedded couple … and unless they have just asked you prior to having a microphone handed to you, you owe them a little investment in your time in preparing a speech.

Preparation will be different for everyone. It could be some scribbled notes, or full on speech writer, rehearsing in front of a mock audience. Either way, you know what you will need to do, just be sure to do it.

Speaking of the speech ... 

4. Keep it brief and have a beginning, middle and end: 
You know what happens when you do not prepare and just “wing it?” You end up with a speech that just rambles, lacks cohesion and ensures that the people listening will stop listening.

The foundation of a good speech is always having a beginning, middle and end. An ideal template would go like this:


  • Introduce who you are and your relation to the couple
  • Acknowledge those in attendance, particularly family members of the couple


  • Go into an anecdote about the person in the couple you are closest too. This would likely be the person who asked you to speak, i.e. bride if you are the maid of honor.
  • Start wrapping up this section by sharing something about the couple. This provides a segue to your conclusion.


  • Acknowledge how happy you are for them, this day and being given the honor of delivering this speech.

Which brings me to my last tip. You’re almost done you just need to ….

5. Always end by congratulating the couple and asking everyone to raise their glass: 
I can’t believe how many people finish their speech, exchange hugs with the couple and just sit down? I know, there is a relief to finally be “done,” but don’t forget the most important part of the toast … THE ACTUAL TOAST.

Don’t forget to say those words … “If you would all please raise your glasses …”

Don't forget at the end of the speech to do as Pink says, "raise your glass."

You’re done. Follow these tips and be firmly planted in the “good” wedding speech file.

And best of all ... now you can go have a drink.

Note: Thank you for Cate Batchelor Photography for the awesome toasting photos shown in this article. 

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What Size Dance Floor Should Be At Your Wedding Reception

The dance floor should not be too big nor too small

The size of the dance floor plays an important role in how the energy level will sustain during the wedding reception.

Dance floors can be customized to the size you need as well as the style you want it too look.

Coming from a DJ, I fully admit this statement I am about to make is completely biased, but I gotta say it.

The size of the dance floor is the most important factor to consider when planning the room layout for a wedding a reception.

The dance floor has a Goldilocks personality. It can be too big. It can be too small. What it needs to be is “juuuuuussstttt right.”

I’ve seen dance floors that had the majority of guests dancing on it, but because it was too big, felt empty and therefore negatively affected the energy level. On the opposite end, a dance floor that is too small gets packed too easily and will cause people to retreat because they’ll feel like they are getting a little bump and grind from every angle.  

Research shows that at a typical wedding reception, no more than 50% of the invited guests will be dancing at the same time. In fact, a better estimate is, on average, the dance floor will consistently have 30% of the guest count “on the floor.”

Given this information, it is best to size a dance floor based on that 30-50% maximum number.

The other number to keep in mind, is how much comfortable space a couple needs when dancing. Again, as a general rule, experts say nine square feet of dance space is about right.

So let’s do some math and for ease of computing use 50% of a final guest count of 100.

  • Final guest count: 100
  • Number of couples: 50
  • Maximum number of couples/people on the dance floor: 25 couples (50 people)
  • Square footage needed: 225 (25 couples * 9 square feet)

Of course, wedding couples planning their party know their crowd and can adjust this percentage accordingly. But from me, the most important takeaway from this article is to consider the importance of dance floor size. Do not just order a generic size and stuff it in “wherever it fits.”

Here’s a handy dance floor sizing chart, courtesy of Raphael’s Party Rentals. It shows the appropriate size based on couple count and square footage

Also, if you’re looking for a custom dance floor as shown in the photos throughout this post, contact Platinum Pro.

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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.

Last Dance Songs: Wedding Song Ideas

Make the closing moments of your wedding reception memorable with one great final song

Your last dance should be punctuated by moments like this, your friends and family all surrounding you and your new bride/groom in one big group hug.

I always believe couples will remember two things from their reception:

  • The moment they see their reception room for the first time. All of the visions, ideas, Pintrest board pins, have come to life and it’s better than they imagined.
  • And the final moments with friends and family … the last dance.

I take a lot of pride in building up energy and emotion leading up to the last dance. Since it’s the final moments of an emotional day, a day that has been a long time coming, I feel as the DJ I owe one last amazing moment to the couple and their guests.

In my mind, that means the last dance needs to be soundtracked by a fun, upbeat and familiar song to everyone. Think about a concert you’ve been to. The artist always keeps their biggest and most popular hits for the end. This isn’t the time to break out new material.

It’s also not the time for sappy and sentimental, unless the moment calls for it. And that is going to be a very rare instance.

Here’s a look at the last dance songs I have played.

  • Aerosmith - Angel
  • Edwin McCain - I’ll Be
  • Michael Jackson - Thriller
  • Bill Medley/Jennifer Warnes - I’ve Had the Time of My Life
  • Bon Jovi - Livin' On A Prayer
  • Clean Bandit f./Jess Glynne - Rather Be
  • Donna Summer - Last Dance
  • Eagle Eye Cherry - Save Tonight
  • Enrique Iglesias, Jr. - Escape
  • Jason Mraz - I’m Yours
  • Jay Sean - Do You Remember
  • Journey - Don’t Stop Believing
  • Lady Gaga - The Edge of Glory
  • Lady Gaga - You and I
  • Maroon 5 - Sunday Morning
  • Michael Buble - Everything
  • Omi - Cheerleader
  • Sara Bareilles - Many the Miles
  • Train - Hey Soul Sister
  • UB40 - Can’t Help Falling in Love
  • Walk The Moon - Shut Up And Dance

Each year Mobile Beat Magazine releases a comprehensive list of popular songs that are being played at weddings throughout the United States. Here is a copy of that guide for you to download for free.

And here is a collection of last dance song lists from various websites:

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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. 

Cake Cutting Songs: Wedding Song Ideas

A few suggestions for songs to play during your cake cutting

A great song playing in the background during cake cutting is the key aspect in setting the mood.

“Huh? Really?”

That tends to be the response 87.6%** of the time I ask couples “what song would you like me to play during the cake cutting?”

You really do not need anything specific. I always suggest that this is a good time to play a song that didn’t make the other important moments (i.e. recessional/processional, first dance, parents dance, etc.). But a good song helps set the mood in the room. 

I typically schedule cake cuttings as a break during open dancing, so it's nice to have the music act as a buffer between all of the dance music that has been playing up until that point.

If you do not have anything in mind, here’s a look at what I’ve played in the past.

  • Colbie Callait - I Do
  • Def Leppard - Pour Some Sugar On Me
  • Dixie Cups - Going to the Chapel
  • Jagged Edge - Let’s Get Married
  • James Taylor - How Sweet It Is
  • John Legend - All of Me
  • Joe Satriani - Always With Me, Always With You
  • Louis Armstrong - Cheek to Cheek
  • Marvin Gaye - How Sweet It Is
  • Ronnie Liang - Ngiti
  • Sarah McLachlan - Ice Cream
  • She & Him - I Was Made for You
  • The Foundations - Build Me Up Buttercup
  • Train - Marry Me
  • U2 - Sweetest Thing

Each year Mobile Beat Magazine releases a comprehensive list of popular songs that are being played at weddings throughout the United States. Here is a copy of that guide for you to download for free.

I’ve also collected lists from a few websites:

**This is a made up number.

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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.