Seating Arrangements



Where to put guests at the reception can be as daunting as creating the guest list itself. The Essex Room’s manager of catering sales & operations, Faye Broderick, offers her expert opinions on seating arrangements.

John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher. Today, I’m here with Faye Broderick, Senior Consultant at the Essex Room, a wedding venue on the North Shore of Massachusetts. Today, we’re here to talk about seating arrangements. Welcome, Faye.

Faye Broderick: Good morning, John.

John: Faye, at my wedding, should I have a head table or a sweetheart table? Maybe we should start with what’s the difference between a head table and a sweetheart table.

Faye: Absolutely. The head table, in years past, is the traditional, formal long…Seat the bride, the groom, all the bridesmaids, all the groomsmen, maybe the parents. That’s typically going to be placed against a wall, a backdrop, usually something pretty, and might be raised. That’s that.

In current years, we have seen that tradition fall by the wayside in favor of a sweetheart table, which is a table, traditionally, for just the bride and groom.

John: You said that, these days, most people are going with a sweetheart table. Is that true, or are there reasons that you might do one or the other?

Faye: There are reasons that you might do one or the other. In some cases, if you have a smaller bridal party and everyone is interchangeable, all of your attendants are coupled up maybe, you might have a formal, long head table.

You also might have a formal, long head table if you’re more traditional and that’s what you’re going for, staying close to the older years and maybe what your parents had or what your grandparents had at their weddings.

In terms of the sweetheart table, a lot of brides and grooms like that because it’s more intimate. They get to spend more time together, as opposed to being distracted, maybe by their maid of honor, their best man, whoever’s seated closest to them.

The other thing that they like about a sweetheart table is that, in most cases, they can look at their entire space, look at their guests, see how their guests are enjoying the party. Or they can be surrounded by their guests, should they choose to put their sweetheart table in the middle of the space.

John: They could actually put the table right in the middle of the room and just have all of the guest tables around them. That would even maybe give some of the guests a nicer view of the couple as well.

Faye: It does. I like that in most cases, especially if it’s a larger party, because none of your guests feel like they got a bad view. They don’t feel like they didn’t get to see you on your wedding day.

John: Who sits where in this sort of scenario?

Faye: In that sort of scenario, with a sweetheart table, usually you would put your bridal party and your parents closest to you. Say you’re in the middle of the room.

You might put your bridal party at tables on either side of you and your parents to the front and the back. You could also swap that and have your parents closest to you on either side and just put your bridal party around you in other places.

John: What about awkward family situations? I know there are a lot of, if you will, modern families these days, with maybe divorced parents or things like that. How do you handle those types of situations?

Faye: All of those situations can be dicey, in general, at a wedding, let alone where everybody gets to sit. The parent that you’re closest to is going to want to sit closest to you. Whether that’s mom, whether that’s dad, it really doesn’t matter.

The thing of it is, as much as you have to try and please that person, you also have to please yourself. It isn’t about mom. It isn’t about dad. You need to keep the peace.

In that case, again, with the sweetheart table as an example, if you’re in the center of the room and you’ve got that little bit of tension between mom and dad, maybe mom sits on one side of the room, and dad sits on the other.

John: All right. Faye Broderick, thanks very much for speaking with me.

Faye: Thank you.

John: For more information and helpful tips on wedding planning, visit the Essex Room at, or call 978‑768‑7335.

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