Who sits at the Head Table?
March 27, 2015 10:07 AM   Subscribe

My wedding is coming up in September and we're kind of in the final stages of organization. I think everything is under control, but I'm very uncertain of how to format the head table..... everyone (and every website) is telling me different things :(

I think typically, it tends to be some version of the Bride, Groom, Best Man, Maid of honor, and parents. However, my father has passed away so he won't be there. I don't want my Mum to be sitting there alone and technically I guess I could ask my Brother to sit next to her, but then he won't be able to sit next to his girlfriend.....

My Fiancé's parents are quite a bit older than my own Mum, and my Mother in Law has serious Glaucoma and is legally blind. I highly doubt she'd appreciate being on the head table "on display" (She needs quite a bit of help and has serious tunnel vision so she often knocks glasses over etc etc.)

So I'm basically left with me, my Groom, the Best Man and the Maid of Honour at the head table.

Does this seem absurd? It doesn't seem to be 'enough' but no matter HOW much I think about it. I don't want anyone to feel excluded either, but I just can't figure out a better scenario.

(I'm English - he's Canadian. We're getting married in Canada, so again - customs may be different depending on which part of the world we're in!)
posted by JenThePro to Society & Culture (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If your Maid of Honour and Best Man have partners, I would strongly recommend that they get to sit at the head table as well. It suuuuuucks for the partner otherwise, especially if they don't know a lot of other people at the wedding.

Remember that there are no 'rules' for this - you don't even have to have a head table!
posted by just_ducky at 10:12 AM on March 27, 2015 [13 favorites]

I'm only used to the bride, groom, and wedding party at the head table. I've never seen parents included. If that helps.
posted by jbenben at 10:13 AM on March 27, 2015 [5 favorites]

At my cousin's wedding the head table was just the two of them. It was a bit silly since it was kind of like the king and queen sitting on their thrones, but they spent most of the night either circulating or dancing so it actually made sense. Why anchor other people to a table you're barely even going to sit at. And it worked out great for photos since no one's head or arm was in the way of the couple.

Sit with the people you'd like to sit with and don't worry too much about tradition.
posted by phunniemee at 10:13 AM on March 27, 2015 [4 favorites]

The answer is "whoever you want.". I've typically seen the whole wedding party (i.e. all bridesmaids and groomsmen) at the head table, but it's not clear if you have others. Given your situation, I would say this: Are the wedding police going to come make enforce some head table requirement? It sounds like a head table is more stress than anything in your case. How about the bride and groom and whomever they choose sit at a regular table (not "on display") near the front. This can include parents, your brother and his gf, grooms parents and whomever else you would like to have sit there.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 10:14 AM on March 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

Honestly, it's whatever arrangement works best for you.

The last wedding I was involved in, it was just the bridal party at the head table, so no parents or close relatives. But I've also been to others where there were huge head tables with all of the family.

My advice is don't make your relatives uncomfortable if they don't have to be. They'll appreciate it, and you won't be stressed worrying about how they're feeling.
posted by sardonyx at 10:14 AM on March 27, 2015

Or do sweetheart tables. A medium one for the B/G, littlttler one for MH and date and same size one for Best Man and date.

Parents each had their own regular "big" tables, near the front, with siblings and any relatives they watned there.
posted by tilde at 10:15 AM on March 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've never seen parents at the head table, either; it's usually just the bridal party. I think having the Best Man (plus date) and Maid of Honor (plus date) sounds like a nice head table.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:15 AM on March 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

We decided to not have a "head table" at all - or rather, my groom and I had a wee little two-person "Sweetheart Table", and then we sat our bridal party and parents near the front. This allowed our 8-person bridal party to sit with their partners without having a gargantuan table.

We hardly had a moment to sit down, anyway.
posted by muddgirl at 10:15 AM on March 27, 2015 [5 favorites]

You can do whatever you want. From what you're describing, I'd leave the parents to sit each at their own table with whoever they want. And if having only the maid of honor and best man there seems too small, are they bringing a +1? They can also sit with you, or you can make it a bigger table. For example one of my best friends arranged for the head table to be a BIG one (for like 8 couples) and they included most of their best friends there. Or you could do as I did, trying to avoid a "social headache" and at dinner it was just me and my new husband.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 10:16 AM on March 27, 2015

Do you feel very strongly about having a "Head Table" vs. having a sweetheart table for just the two of you? (If the latter, they can be integrated into the other tables in a variety of ways.) I admit I'm not a fan personally of head tables as being the plus-one of someone at the table means a dinner in exile sometimes, but do whatever fits what you both want and your family's needs!
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:16 AM on March 27, 2015

This kind of awkwardness was why we did a sweetheart table, not a head table. Then you can just sit family with family and attendants with friends or wherever.
posted by zennie at 10:16 AM on March 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

We didn't do one, we sat with friends. I've seen ones with: marrying couple only, bridal party only, bridal party plus their partners, marrying couple and some combo of parents/grandparents.
posted by tchemgrrl at 10:17 AM on March 27, 2015

Agreed with phunniemee; that's what we did at my first wedding. I think my parents sat with their family, and his parents sat with their family, and all of the attendants sat with whoever they wanted (they were mostly married and didn't really know each other).

It was all about making people comfortable, so we would sometimes seat people with "buddies" so they would have people they knew they could relax with or otherwise have a good conversation. My single uncle who is kind of an intellectual prig was not sitting with my mom's family; he was sitting next to an award-winning mathematician and the acting head of the US Geological Survey. Everyone had a great time.
posted by St. Hubbins at 10:17 AM on March 27, 2015

Nthing "Whoever you want," mixed with a whatever-sized dollop of "People who would be insulted not to be."

Not to go completely bonkers, but: can you ask your mum and the in-laws what they'd prefer, or are they the sorts of folks where that wouldn't generate helpful information?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:22 AM on March 27, 2015 [4 favorites]

A recent wedding I was in had the couple and their immediate families at the head table. The rest of the wedding party (just me and another guy) were sat with our groups of friends. It was kind of a cramped venue but nice wedding. I liked being able to hang out with my friends and not feel like I was "on" the entire time.
posted by kendrak at 10:25 AM on March 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think most weddings have a table just for the bride and groom, or with the Best Man and Maid of Honor. I have never heard of parents or siblings at the head table.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:33 AM on March 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm American (NYC area), so all caveats. However, I've been in the bridal party in 6 weddings, including my sister's within the last few years, as well as attending probably 2 or 3 dozen others as a guest. I've seen a variety of ways to handle this, and I don't think any single way is "correct."

1. I have never actually experienced a head table where everyone is facing the rest of the party (though I've seen it in movies, and know, from pictures, that that was done when my parents got married in the late '70s/early '80s). I think that is awkward for everyone, including any dates of the bridal party who have to sit elsewhere, potentially without anyone they know.

2. The "sweetheart" table - bride and groom only at a small table (sometimes on a dais of some sort), with parents of the couple either at a table with certain members of their respective families combined or, parents of bride at one table with close family relatives (i.e., aunts/uncles, grandparents, godparents, perhaps bride's siblings) while parents of groom at a different table with close family relatives. Bridal party could be at their own table or two, or could be mixed in with the parents' table(s), or mixed in with their own friends/relatives (i.e., where they would have sat if they weren't in the bridal party).

3. Couple + parents + maid of honor (+ date) and best man (+ date), but at a regular table, so not on display. Even if this is a regular table, if the couple is there, it will be the center of attention, but it won't be as bad as a "head table" perhaps.

4. Couple + bridal party (or some portion of it) at one table, parents at a single separate table with close family members or at two tables with close family members (similar to #2).

Agree with everyone else though that you should do what you (and your parents) are most comfortable with. Is your mom close to relatives, and would she like to sit with them? Would it be easier for your fiance's mom to sit with relatives or family friends that could assist her/look our for her? My sister hated the idea of a head table or sweetheart table, so she and her husband sat with their siblings (all in the bridal party) + a family friend couple (mostly because that's how the seating worked). My parents sat at a table with their siblings (i.e., our aunts and uncles) and our grandparents. Her husband's parents sat at a table with their siblings (i.e., his aunts and uncles). The rest of the bridal party was friends so they sat at tables with other friends. The band was in the middle of the room, so no single table was "on display."

Good luck and Congratulations!
posted by Caz721 at 10:38 AM on March 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Canadian here, and every wedding I've been to has had the wedding party (married couple, maid of honour, best man) plus the partners of the maid of honour and best man at the head table. Close relatives (parents, grandparents, other treasured people) usually sit at the closest table to the head table or split according to family between two tables close to head table.
posted by urbanlenny at 10:42 AM on March 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Thanks all! I must confess, I've never heard of this "Sweetheart Table" before..... I do think I'd still like to do some sort of a Head Table though as that's what I'm used to.

I didn't realize it was 'acceptable' to have the dates of the Best Man and Maid of Honor at the table too... so that's something to think about!!
posted by JenThePro at 10:48 AM on March 27, 2015

I have always seen parents of the couple at the head table (at weddings where there was a proper head table).
posted by w0mbat at 11:42 AM on March 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

US here, Texas (so we're usually a few years behind the coasts). I run the operations at a resort that hosts c. one hundred weddings a year.

We do significantly fewer head tables than we did five years ago; they're being replaced with sweetheart tables or incorporating the wedding party into the general seating. Regardless, there isn't a whole lot of consistency about who does or does not sit at the head table.

The most important note above is that the bride and groom rarely spend any time at their table during the course of the reception. Other than a few scheduled moments (toasts, etc.), you will likely be circulating among your guests.

Plan the layout around the comfort of the people who would be forced to sit at the table (and the look you want in your pictures).
posted by builderofscience at 12:30 PM on March 27, 2015

I like the sweetheart table because as it was explained to me once - bride and groom are running around all day and be pulled etc and dont always get to spend a lot of time together. So the sweetheart table lets you have a couple minutes just you and your groom while you eat, listen to speeches, whatever.
posted by kmr at 1:20 PM on March 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

One option that hasn't been mentioned was done by a couple that had their wedding in a restaurant. They had seats at the centre of EVERY long table and moved each course. This took planning and extra space, but they wanted to make sure to spend time with all their guests. If they had a wedding party at all, it was small.
posted by Gor-ella at 2:13 PM on March 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

Sweetheart table is the way to go, in my opinion. Mix the rest of the wedding party in with various guest tables.
posted by quince at 3:44 PM on March 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Sweetheart table seems like it could be a bit awkward (to me, I get mileage varies) but it is a good solution in some cases. We didn't do a head table. All of our tables held up to ten people so we sat with our siblings (who were also part of the bridal party), and dates of the siblings who brought them. That worked out to nine, which was perfect. The other bridal party members were seated with people they knew, my husband's parents sat with their relatives (my parents passed away before I got married), no bridal party dates had to feel awkward sitting without their SOs.

So that's one option.
posted by JenMarie at 4:54 PM on March 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm in the early stages of planning my wedding, and I'm reading this great book called A Practical Wedding that's written by the author of the blog of the same name. My biggest take-away so far is that most American wedding "traditions" are actually fairly recent. 100 years ago most people got married at home in a non-white dress, with a few family members, and ate cake and punch. So really, do what feels right to you and don't worry about "tradition."
posted by radioamy at 6:27 PM on March 27, 2015

We didn't have a head table per se as all the tables were round but the table we sat at had our parents, our best man, his SO and our maid of honor.
posted by amapolaroja at 10:16 PM on March 28, 2015

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