How to choose your head table set-up for the reception

Preparing for a wedding is many couples' first foray into planning a major event. And while you may have specific ideas for theme, colors and attire, decisions on other details—such as the head table arrangement for the reception—may not be as obvious.

“It honestly depends on the couple,” says Linda Turk, director of sales at the Granville Inn. “Some people know right away what they'd like to do, and some people want to get through the planning process a little first.” Turk recommends deciding on the head table set-up about four to six weeks before the big day.

The standard is a long, linear head table to seat the couple, bridesmaids and groomsmen at the front or center of the room, facing the guests—a set-up optimal for photographs. But this tradition has its drawbacks. When seated, conversation is limited to the people sitting next to each other, and it often separates the bridal party members and their plus-ones. On the flip side, a round table opens up conversation but may not photograph as well.

For larger bridal parties, some couples choose to split up the head table into multiple, staggered long tables. This provides more flexibility but also takes up more space, so you'd want to be mindful of leaving plenty of room for the dance floor. Another option is a U-shaped table, which offers a similar look to the traditional head table but with more opportunity for conversation.

“We are finding that our biggest trend right now is a Tuscan head table, where the entire bridal party sits together,” Turk says. The bridal party sits on both sides of a rectangular table, the way you might sit down to dinner with a large group at a restaurant or at home. “I think the idea of a family-style-type table, where the couple can interact with the bridal party a little easier, is what makes it so popular.”

When it comes down to it, Turk says it's all about personal style. “We want that room to look exactly how the couples want it to look, so that when you walk in and see that first glimpse, it's exactly what you had envisioned,” she says. œ

Selective Seating

Though your big day is all about you and your partner, a jam-packed wedding-day schedule may limit the face time you get with each other. For couples who want to ensure they'll have time together at the reception, Turk recommends a sweetheart table. This arrangement consists of just the newlyweds, with any bridal party members sitting at guest tables nearby. “It's best for couples who are just excited to spend some time together and have that half hour to eat together,” she says.

Couples who are very family-oriented may also want to consider including their parents and any other honored guests at a family head table. If your families haven't spent much time together, it's a great chance for them to get to know each other and enjoy the event as one big family.