What to Know When Planning Your Reception Tables

When it comes to planning your reception tables, there are lots of logistical questions to consider. How many tables can you fit into the space? How many people will sit at each table? Will there be a head table for the wedding party or a sweetheart table for the newlyweds? What’s the best way to decorate the tables? The good news is that there’s a reception layout and table décor style perfect for every kind of wedding. You just have to find it! The tips below will help you do just that, with minimum stress. Here are 5 things you need to know when planning your reception tables.

Know your wedding table options. Before you can even consider the tablescapes and centerpieces, you’ll need to determine the types of tables you’ll have at your reception. There are generally four types:

  • Round tables: The most popular table type. Circular tables are versatile enough to work for just about any reception style and provide great conversational benefits. The standard sizes are 60-inches and 72-inches, which seat 8-10 or 10-12 guests respectively.
  • Square tables: Square tables seat from 4-8 people. They can be used in almost any reception space, arranged at different angles, to create a dynamic flow. They also provide lots of surface space for larger centerpieces. The main disadvantage of square tables is that they’re not as readily available as more popular shapes.
  • Rectangular tables: For larger groups of up to 10 guests, individual rectangular tables are a good choice as they promote lots of interaction between guests and create a pleasing sense of symmetry in a room. This is particularly useful for less structured spaces like a tent.
  • Banquet tables: An increasingly popular option for both intimate and larger weddings. Banquet tables are formed by pushing rectangular tables together end-to-end. You can either have one long table (great for micro-weddings), more than one row, or something custom like a horseshoe shape.

Of course, you don’t have to stick to a single table type. You can also mix up different shapes to create the ideal set-up for your reception space. Another unique option is serpentine tables. These function similarly to banquet tables but use a series of curved tables for a winding, snake-like effect. They can be used to make a big statement in a unique outdoor setting, such as a vineyard.

Decide where the couple will sit. There’s no rule that says where the newlyweds have to sit at their reception, but two of the most popular options are sweetheart tables and king’s tables. Sweetheart tables are just for the two of them, creating a little island for two in the middle of the reception. Some couples really enjoy spending that extra time together. However, other couples feel disconnected from the action. A king’s table has the opposite effect, placing the couple in amongst their nearest and dearest (i.e. close family and wedding party). It’s similar to a banquet table except that all occupants are seated on one side of the table, facing out onto the reception.

Choose your centerpiece style. The centerpieces you choose will have a dramatic impact on the overall look of your tables and your reception as a whole. In general, it’s best to choose to go very high or stay low (below 12 inches). Bear in mind whether your guests will be able to see and talk to each other. You can alternate centerpiece height to create visual interest and you could also opt for hanging décor instead of tall centerpieces. Talk to your florist and they will be able to help you work out the best options for your reception space, table shape, and budget.

Use your table décor to create depth and interest. There are lots of beautiful details to choose from as you design your tables, including linens, china, glassware, flatware, napkins, table numbers, stationery, and unique elements. The secret to a beautiful tablescape is to use layering, mixing different textures and materials, as well as different heights. Don’t be afraid to get creative or personal and really make the table décor your own!

Try it out ahead of time. When you work with a wedding planner, we will always create a table mock-up for clients to experience. It’s a great way of working out whether you are using the space available in the best way, and if tables are too sparse or too crowded.

Whichever style or type you choose when planning your reception tables, be sure that the décor feels like ‘you’! So if you have a creative idea, don’t be afraid to try it out – it may be the thing that adds that real wow factor!


Image by John and Joseph Photography Inc.