The top table at a wedding usually runs as follows:
Groom’s Mother > Bride’s Father > Bride > Groom > Bride’s Mother > Groom’s Father > Chief Bridesmaid > Best Man
However if you wish to be seated in the centre the best man will sit on the other end of the table next to the groom’s mother. The other option is as follows:
Best Man > Groom’s Mother > Groom’s Father > Bride > Groom > Bride’s Mother > Bride’s Father > Chief Bridesmaid
This is only a guideline and is open to change, and since many couples now opt for a round table as the top table, this plan may appear obsolete. Generally speaking, the top table, and indeed all of the other tables, are seated in alternating sexes ‘boy-girl-boy-girl’ where possible. For single sex marriages there is no set etiquette, therefore your clients may adopt any of the arrangements above.
If you have any children from their relationship or a previous relationship in the wedding party, a lone child may be seated at top table in the place of the chief bridesmaid or next to the groom’s mother. If there are many children, it is advisable to put them on a separate table close to the top table, where they can be supervised by other close family members.
It is customary to number the tables so that guests can easily find their seat, however modern etiquette suggests that tables are not numbered at all, in case of offending those on the high-number tables. Instead choose names for the tables along a tasteful theme. Places should be labelled clearly with the full name and title of the guest.
When deciding who should sit together at a wedding some couples choose to put people who don’t know each other together so that everybody has a chance to get to know one another. This is risky territory as people will not be fully relaxed if they are with strangers. It is best to leave families to their own devices, if they want to mingle and introduce themselves they have plenty of opportunity. For some family and friends this may be a precious opportunity to spend time together, and not being seated together is one of the most common complaints from wedding guests. It is also best to seat people together based on their age. Seat twenty and thirty-somethings together and much older guests together, they are more likely to share views on table manners and appropriate conversation topics! Children under 11 really need to be seated with their parents or grandparents.
Divorced parents-of-the-bride or groom always create tension for the couple, especially if one has remarried and wants to bring their partner. And who do you seat on the top table, especially if step-parents are also chipping into the wedding fund? The best thing to do is just to ask your parents what would make them most comfortable and to make it clear that while you would like to be able to seat everyone to their own preference, it could get out of hand numbers-wise, so what you say is final.
One option is to deny bickering parents access to the top table at all, just seat them nearby on a table of their own family and friends. If they are willing to sit together you could put them on the top table but if they insist on having their partners with them you will run out of room so it is best to put them on a separate table (nearest the top table) and just save the top table for you and your new husband or wife, the best man and bridesmaids.
Leave the table plans to the last couple of weeks though as inevitably people will drop out and you don’t want to have to keep juggling your layout repeatedly!
©2011 The Wedding Planner School™