Where Do Both Partners' Parents Sit at the Wedding Reception?

Because if you get this one wrong, you'll definitely hear about it.
Jenn Sinrich
by Jenn Sinrich
Updated Apr 17, 2023

One of the wedding-day to-dos that many couples leave until the last minute is where their guests will sit. While this certainly isn't something you can do in the early stages of planning, seeing as it requires you to wait at least until all the RSVPs have rolled in, it shouldn't be something that you do just days shy of your big event. In fact, what few couples realize is that the immense importance of creating a calculated and smart seating arrangement that satisfies all your guests needs, especially the most important ones, such as your parents and grandparents. Figuring out where to seat parents and grandparents can be among the trickiest parts of figuring out your seating chart.

Since everyone's family is unique in their own way, it pays to be thoughtful when it comes to what setup might work the best for your respective families. "In the same way that a guest list is carefully curated to ensure that the right mix of loved ones are invited to celebrate; couples must also spend adequate time analyzing their floor plan and available seating to ensure that each guest feels well considered and catered for," says Deliece Knight, founder and CEO of Dhalia Events LLC. "Where possible, couples should aim to balance not only which tables guests are seated at, but also who is seated at those tables to avoid any obvious and potentially unwanted negative messages to guests about their relationship with the couple."

Where to Seat Parents at Wedding Reception

One of the first groups of people you will seat-plan for will be your parents. Next to you, they're truly the most important people at this big event. Here are some tips for where parents can sit at the wedding reception.

All Together at a Head Table

For a couple who's not sitting at a sweetheart table that includes just the newlyweds, a large head table can be an enticing option. This would include the wedding party (if applicable), as well as their loved ones and parents. "A head table allows the couple to also clearly recognize those who are most important to them on their big day through their floor-plan," says Knights.

A Table Near the Sweetheart Table

If you decide to sit at a sweetheart table, Renee Dalo, founder and lead planner of Moxie Bright Events, suggests seating your parents at a table to the right or left of you. If you go this route, she recommends being fair to both sides of the aisle so no parent group feels left out.

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A Table with Close Friends

Sometimes parents of the couple simply want to sit with their friends. "We will often find that the parents are flanking the bride and groom's tables with the parents of the bride on her side and the parents of the groom on his side," says Laura Maddox, Partner at Magnolia Celebrates. "They will then fill their table with the friends that they want to sit with or their family members not in the wedding party."

Where to Seat Divorced Parents at Wedding Reception

If you or your partner's parents are divorced, the seating arrangements may get a bit more tricky to figure out. Here, wedding planners share how they typically recommend seating divorced parents at a wedding reception.

At the Same Table

Many divorced parents, especially if they've been divorced for quite some time, are able to maintain an amicable relationship. If so, seating them at the same table should be fine, notes Knights.

Separate Tables Nearby

If the relationship between the divorced parents are a bit rocky, but they have an equally strong relationship with the couple, Knights suggests that the couple seats each set of parents at equivalent but separate tables. This makes each parent feel important but prevents them from having to have awkward and potentially uncomfortable conversations that could lead to increased tension.

As Far Apart as Possible

If the divorced parents do not get along, Nora Sheils, co-founder of Rock Paper Coin and founder of Bridal Bliss, recommends making sure they're placed as far apart as possible but with equal seats (i.e., not one in the back and one in the front with the perfect view).

Where Do Step Parents Sit at the Wedding Reception?

If one or more of the parents you're seating at your wedding is a step parent, you may wonder how best to seat them at your reception. Here, wedding planners give their best advice for where they suggest step parents sit at the wedding reception.

With Their Spouse

First and foremost, it's respectful to seat the step parents with their spouse. "This is a conversation we have with our couples because if there are hurt feelings in regard to step-parents, we need to know," says Renee Dalo. "We always hope that people will be on their best behavior on a wedding day, but really—people are people and they have emotions—especially on a wedding day!"

The Same Table with Other Parents

If the step parents have a strong relationship with the couple and an amicable relationship with the birth parents, Knights suggest they should aim to seat them on the same table. This can be the easiest arrangement because it keeps all of the most important wedding guests in one spot.

Where Do Grandparents Sit at the Wedding Reception?

Seating grandparents can be even trickier, as the age range of a grandparent can run a huge span, notes Sheils. Here's her best advice for where to seat them at your wedding reception.

With Your Parents

The best place to seat grandparents is with the parent that is their child. This can ensure that they are not only taken care of but also that they can share in the special moments with their offspring.

With Another Trusted Family Member

If your parents will be seated elsewhere, consider seating your grandparents near a trusted family (maybe an aunt or uncle?) or with their caretaker, Sheils suggests. "It is one less thing to worry about, knowing that your elderly grandparent is well taken care of," she says.

At Their Own Friends Table

Maddox has worked with families where the grandparents have enough friends at the wedding that they get their own friend's table. "Just make sure this table is in close proximity to the bride and groom while also trying to keep it further away from the dance floor if you're not having them sit with the parents of the couple," she says. "Generally speaking, we find the older the person, the farther away they want to be from the speakers for the band or DJ."

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