As appointment season is upon us here at American Party Place, I’ve had the opportunity to work with so many lovely brides planning weddings for the upcoming season. Working a Saturday here reminds me of a dress-up party from my childhood—except here it’s tables, chairs, and venues that we get to dress up! Every bride is different, each wedding is unique, and every event has its own strengths as well as its struggles. As I’ve had this unique opportunity to go over some wedding details with brides, I’ve noticed many brides ending up asking the same question: should I do a head table* or a sweetheart table* at the reception?
*bigger table seating the bride and groom and whole bridal party **smaller table only seating the bride and groom
As I’ve considered this question for weddings of all color palettes, themes, and visions, I’ve found a few tips that may help guide this decision. So let’s talk about the big questions that’ll help you decide which option is a better fit for your wedding.
Wedding Size The first question: how big is your wedding? If you plan on inviting 40 guests, you might consider how the reception would look aesthetically with a significant portion of your guests up at a head table as the bridal party. Sometimes this can disrupt the balance of the room, so a sweetheart table may be a better fit. If, on the other hand, you’re inviting 500 guests, a head table with your bridal party may help direct everyone’s attention to where you and your newly-dubbed Most Significant Other are sitting together for the first time as a married couple. Depending on how you decorate and set it up, however, a sweetheart could still be a great option. Regardless, all eyes are going to be on you as the reason for the whole event.
Venue Space The next consideration is less of an aesthetic question and more of a spatial consideration. As my friend and I sat looking over her seating chart for her upcoming wedding, we ran into a fairly significant issue: lack of space! Although she started arranging this seating chart wanting to do a head table including her 6 bridesmaids and 6 groomsmen, we quickly realized that a 14-foot head table simply wasn’t space-effective in her venue. When space is an issue, a sweetheart table is typically a safer option. In the very rare case that you’re looking to fill a space (which, let’s be honest: whose guest count goes down instead of up as the wedding planning evolves?), then a head table may give your space a fuller look. Either way, the size of the bridal party compared to the size of the venue can often make the sweetheart / head table decision for you, as it did with my friend.
Significant Others? Lastly, we come to a social question: how many members of the bridal party have significant others? I once attended a wedding with a bridal party of twelve…and the bride and groom invited the significant others to sit with the bridal party at the head table. As the significant other of one of the groomsmen, I quickly found myself sitting at a guest table with my SO when the head table filled up before he had a chance to pick a seat! If you think members of your bridal party might want to sit with a significant other, I would likely recommend a sweetheart table as the best option. Particularly in cases where members of your bridal party may already be married or have children, it’s often easiest to opt for a sweetheart table. And if you think your sweet but unpredictable best man may bring a date that will turn into an ex-girlfriend before you even finish opening the wedding gifts, it may be best to leave the SO’s out of the head table altogether. If most of your bridal party is single, however, that’s a different story. You could end up sitting at a head table with a fun group of your best friends during the first meal of your new forever adventure.
Alternative Options? Sometimes these questions leave you still wondering what to do. Rest assured, there are alternative options. Some couples may modify the traditional head table by choosing to seat themselves and their parents at the center of attention, while the bridal party sits with the rest of the guests. Other couples choose to sit with the best man and maid of honor, along with their significant others if applicable.
While the head table and the sweetheart table are great traditional options for your wedding reception, the bottom line is that these are just guidelines. This is your day to celebrate! So feel free to sit where you want to celebrate your love for that special person in your life.