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An invaluable guide to the top table at your wedding

An invaluable guide to the top table at your wedding <i>(Image: Getty Images)</i>
An invaluable guide to the top table at your wedding (Image: Getty Images)

When you're working on your wedding seating plan, you may find that things easily fall into place or, conversely, do not. That's why it's important to consider all options when making table arrangements, and that includes your top table.  

Positioned at the head of the wedding reception room, the top table requires some careful thought when making the choices to not only reflect your style of wedding – but create an inviting atmosphere that is inclusive of everyone in attendance.  

Work through the options for your top table as a couple and be prepared to make compromises where necessary. A lot will ride on your families' dynamic, so keep this in mind at every stage and you won't go far wrong. To get you started, take a look at this helpful guide which details the traditional choices and alternatives available to every couple.  

Who sits at the top table? 

The traditional top table includes the happy couple, parents of the bride and groom, the maid of honour or chief bridesmaid and best man. The couple sit front and centre of the table, with parents either side – although the father of the bride sits to the bride's left and is seated next to the mother of the groom, and the mother of the bride sits to the groom's right and is seated next to the father of the groom. The maid of honour and best man then book-end the top table. 

However, with families come complexities and this top table arrangement doesn't work for everyone. You may choose to have siblings or children on the top table as well, or you may wish to forgo all family members and just have the bridal party and groom's party – leaving parents and step-parents to sit among your wedding guests.  

Whatever you choose, your top table should best reflect your wishes as a couple and should also ensure the comfort of your guests at all times. 

What top table should I choose? 

Again, this is up to you and can sometimes be determined by the area in which you're holding your wedding reception. Wide rooms usually accommodate a long top table well, with the key members of the wedding party viewable to all guests. Long guest tables can then run at right angles to the top table. 

For more intimate weddings comprising smaller guest lists, you may wish to join three tables to make a square shape that is left open on one side. Or, forgo a top table completely if the size of your guest list allows and use one long table with the couple seated at the head of the table. Long tables are also the perfect choice should you wish to allow guests to sit where they want. 

Smaller rooms or outdoor spaces may better accommodate round tables, which can allow guests to more freely roam the room or surrounding area. By creating a more universal seating plan with no obvious top table, it can create a more inclusive feel among guests. Alternatively, choose a mixture of rectangular and round tables to make the most of the reception space.   

Sweetheart top tables are another option to consider, seating only the couple. This is an ideal option to avoid family feuds or fall-outs as there are seemingly no other 'VIPs' than the bride and groom – and if they wish, their children. 

Guests can freely approach the sweetheart table to speak with the couple during the wedding breakfast, and speech-givers can stand beside the table during the wedding speeches. A sweetheart table also allows the couple some precious, private moments alone and time to absorb the glory of their special day. 

How should I dress the top table? 

Taking all factors into account, such as the shape of the table, number of place settings and whether you want your table to stand out or not, speak with your suppliers to make the right décor choices for you. 

Bold floral centrepieces may look out of place at a small venue where space is tight, while dainty, meadow flower displays may get lost in a large venue with space to fill. Speak to the experts about how you can make the most of the wedding reception area.  

Also consider details such as tableware, name cards, table names/numbers and chair sashes. Chair décor, including signs that state 'Mr' & 'Mrs' or 'Bride' and 'Groom', are a great way of giving the couple's seats the special treatment – and make for a picture perfect photo opportunity, too. 


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