Who Sits at the Head Table During the Wedding Reception?

Our experts break it down

Updated 10/30/19

Photo by Olivia Rae James

We hate to break it to you, but seating assignments are one of the least fun parts of planning a wedding. In addition to figuring out which combination of cousins, coworkers, and childhood friends will be the best dining companions, you’ve got to determine who gets to dine with the guests of honor (ya know—you). If you’re skipping the sweetheart table and placing yourselves front and center at a head table, we’ve got a few ideas for who you might want to invite to sit by your side.

Before you decide who will sit at the head table, it’s important to make sure you place it in the optimal location in your reception space. If your tables will be arranged around the dance floor, the head table should be directly opposite the band or DJ, closest to the dance floor, and with the newlyweds seated so they’re facing into the room (for the best toast-watching view). If dinner and dancing will be in separate spaces, consider putting the head table right in the middle of the room, with guests all around you. The head table should be centrally located, a focal point, and arranged so the happy couple can look out to see their family and friends.

So who sits where? Traditionally, the newlyweds sit in the middle of the table, with the bride seated to the groom’s right. Same-sex couples can feel free to seat themselves as they'd like. For a male/female pattern around the table, seat the best man next to the bride and the maid of honor next to the groom. Of course, since they are each of your closest friends or siblings, feel free to swap that so the maid of honor is next to the bride and the best man is next to the groom. Depending on the size of your wedding party, this table could be exclusively bridesmaids and groomsmen (who should alternate around the table to keep that male/female pattern going) or, for a smaller wedding party or a larger table, could include each member of the wedding party’s date seated next to them. If you have the space, the latter option is preferable—that way you’re not relegating your sister’s husband to a different table.

If you’d rather dine with your families, scrap the wedding party seating and instead invite your parents and siblings to join you at the head table. Seat the bride’s parents next to the bride, the groom’s parents next to the groom, the siblings in the remaining seats, and enjoy your first meal as one big, happy family. In this instance, you can either have a second table designated for your wedding party, or seat them as you will the rest of your guests, alongside any close friends or people you think they’ll love meeting.

When it comes to child attendants (flower girls and ring bearers), take their age and relation to you into consideration. If they’re old enough to dine with adults who aren’t their parents without feeling uncomfortable, give them a seat at the head table. It’s a fun honor and will definitely make them feel special. If they’re younger, but their parents are members of the wedding party, do the same. For young children whose parents will be seated elsewhere at the reception, they’ll probably be happier sitting with mom and dad.

If only the wedding party will be seated at the head table, make sure to give your parents seats of honor at nearby tables, where they can see you and your new spouse, as well as be seen by the other guests. Trust us—your parents will want a front row seat to those speeches and the first dance.

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