Who Should Sit at Your Wedding Head Table at Your Reception?

It's all about who you want next to you on one of the most special nights of your life.
chapelle johnson the knot associate editor
by
Chapelle Johnson
chapelle johnson the knot associate editor
Chapelle Johnson
Associate Editor
  • Chapelle writes articles for The Knot Worldwide. She covers all things wedding-related and has a personal interest in covering celebrity engagements and fashion.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Chapelle was an editorial intern for Subvrt Magazine.
  • Chapelle has a degree in English writing from Loyola University New Orleans.
Updated Jul 08, 2022

Picture this: You and your beloved are newly married at your wedding reception, sitting directly across from the dance floor (the best seat in the house) and holding hands under the table. Now think about who you want sitting next to you during this moment. Don't know how to decide? Lucky for you, you have a few options for who can sit at your wedding head table during your reception. Take a seat and check out your choices below, along with a photo roundup of our favorite sweetheart and head tables from real weddings.

FAQs About Head Table Seating Etiquette at a Wedding

Wondering how you should go about your wedding head table seating? Then check out our answers to the top wedding head table-related questions below.

What is a wedding head table?

A wedding head table is a table where the newlyweds and some of their wedding VIPs, like their wedding party and their parents, sit during the reception. The head table, also known as table #1, acts as the heart of the room, so all your guests know exactly where to look for you, your partner and all of the important people in your wedding.

Do I need to have a wedding head table?

There's no official wedding etiquette rule that requires newlyweds to have a wedding head table. If you're having an intimate wedding with 30 or fewer guests, a large feasting table for you and all your guests might be a better option for you. But if you're planning a larger wedding, having a head table or sweetheart table could be a great way for you to connect more with your wedding party, immediate family or your new spouse.

Who sits at the head table at a wedding?

Who sits at the head table is solely up to you and your partner. Depending on who you choose, there are a lot of social dynamics to consider (we'll talk about that more later). The three most popular head table seating options are you, your partner and your honor attendants (maid of honor and best man), you, your partner and your entire wedding party or you, your partner and your immediate families.

Wedding Head Tables Options to Consider for Your Reception

Now that you know it's completely up to you and your partner who sits at your wedding head table, you need to know what your table options are. Below, we explain the most popular options couples tend to have at their receptions.

A Sweetheart Table

A sweetheart table is an intimate arrangement where only you and your new spouse sit. You and your partner sit on the same side of the table, facing the rest of the room. This wedding main table option is a common choice because you get to take in all the wedding excitement together, whisper sweet nothings to each other and watch as your loved ones live it up. There are even fun sweetheart chair decorations you can add to personalize your head table's look, like bride and groom wreaths or wooden signs with your names on them.

The Two of You, Plus Your Honor Attendants

You can also choose to have a four-person table instead, with just your VIP wedding attendants (often a maid of honor and best man) on either side of you. This option allows you to stay close to your partner while having some laughs with the top members of your wedding party. Just keep in mind: If each honor attendant has a plus-one, it's proper etiquette to sit them at your wedding head table too. (You don't want to separate them from their dates.) For the rest of your wedding party, you can sit them at a table nearby.

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The Entire Wedding Party—Including Their Plus-Ones

Another popular choice is having a large table as the focal point of the room, where you and your entire wedding party sit. Traditionally with couples that have a bride and groom, newlyweds sit in the middle of the head table with the bride seated on the groom's right side. If you're a part of a same-sex couple, where you sit is your choice.

The next decision you'll have to make is where the wedding party members sit. Some couples choose to seat attendants in a gender-opposite pattern if they have a mixed-gender wedding party join their head table. Another option is seating your attendants next to the person they were paired with for the wedding processional. There are a few ways you can organize the seating, but it's ultimately up to you and what feels like the best way to celebrate your wedding VIPs.

Now, what about the wedding party's plus-ones? In the past, wedding party plus-ones were relegated to another table, but now that rule is largely ignored. (It makes things easier for everyone.) The wedding head table seating can include child attendants (flower girls and ring bearers) as well. It's a nice gesture, but if the child is younger than nine (the typical age children are mature enough to become junior attendants), talk with the child's parents about whether or not the child will be happier sitting with their parents or at a children's table.

The Knot Expert Tip: Make sure to have a table of honor for your and your partner's parents near the head table so guests know who they are and so your parents can easily see you. Your parents will love to be front and center if you're having a first dance and for all the wedding speeches.

You, Your Partner and Your Immediate Families

This can get tricky if either you or your spouse have divorced or remarried parents, so think carefully about whether or not the dynamics will work. If the divorced parents don't have the best relationship, create a table for each parent so they can host their own table, with their close loved ones seated with them. Also, make sure to put some distance between the tables so each parent can feel comfortable and enjoy themselves during the reception.

If everyone has a good relationship (divorced or not) and you and your spouse are both close with your parents and siblings, then having a head table with your immediate family can be a perfect and meaningful choice for you, your partner and your families.

Wedding Head Table Inspiration

In need of some inspiration for your head table at your wedding? Check out our roundup of gorgeous photos from real weddings. We're sure that these photos will help you get the creative juices flowing.

Sweetheart Table With Rose Garland Arch and Neon Sign

Having a custom neon sign behind your sweetheart table is a great way to show off your and your partner's personality. So start brainstorming some ideas for neon signs that will complement your sweetheart table as this couple did with their peach- and sage-toned sweetheart table.

Elegant Black-Tie Wedding Party Seated at Head Table at Wedding

Want to have your entire wedding party at your head table? Then consider setting up your table like these newlyweds did. For this classic black-tie wedding, the newlyweds sat with their wedding party at their head table and decorated it with beautiful floral arrangements and candles.

Glam Sweetheart Table With White Floral and Candle Arrangement

Just because your wedding is outdoors doesn't mean you can't make it glamorous. Take a page out of this couple's book and elevate your sweetheart seating by having a glass table, lush white floral arrangements and a dramatic candle display.

Long, Romantic Wedding Head Table With Greenery-Wrapped Candelabras

If you want to include your wedding party and their plus-ones at your head table, you'll need a long head table to fit everyone. This couple decided to have a traditional one-sided table, which is best if you want to easily look at your guests during the toast and speech moments. The draping canopies and greenery-wrapped candelabras give the head table an elegant and romantic feel.

Bohemian Sweetheart Table With Wicker Peacock Chairs

This couple shows one of the best ways to have your sweetheart table stand out. The pops of color, discos balls, island-inspired foliage and, of course, the wicker peacock chairs make the sweetheart table unique and display the couple's bohemian chic wedding theme perfectly.

Big Wedding Main Table With Floral Centerpiece

For this sophisticated wedding, the couple chose a head table with people seated all around the table, instead of on one side to encourage conversation and create more intimacy between everyone seated. This style of head table has historically been known as a king's table, but the term has fallen out of vogue in favor of more inclusive wedding terminology and is generally referred to simply as a head table these days. The main conversation starter is the table's dramatic floral centerpiece, adorned with hanging crystals, acting as the focal point of the table and the entire reception.

Small Sweetheart Table With Fern Table Garland

Don't want your sweetheart table to stand out too drastically from the rest of your decor? At this nautical- and bohemian-themed wedding, the couple had a small sweetheart table with simple yet stylish decorations. The table has a beautiful lush fern table garland and wooden "Mr. and Mrs." signs in front of the happy couple.

Traditional African Wedding Head Table With Golden Thrones

Another way to personalize your head table is by representing your cultural background. The couple behind this head table setup wanted to respect their culture but also include couture and modern aspects. For this head table structure, the couple sits in the glamorous golden thrones while their wedding party sits at the head table in front of them.

Simple Elegant and Rustic Main Table at Wedding

This head table setup is unique because the table sits on two different levels. With this setup, you and your partner can sit with your parents at the table on the bottom tier while your wedding party sits behind you at the top tier tables. This couple achieved understated elegance by decorating their head tables with eucalyptus garlands, white votives and white linen table cloths.

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